The Women's Petition of 5 May 1649: Anon., The humble Petition of divers wel-affected Women


This Leveller Tract is part of a larger collection of Leveller Agreements of the People, Petitions, Remonstrances, and Declarations (1646-1659) which are some of the earliest attempts to draw up proto-constitutions to limit the power of government and defend the liberties of the people. They are available in an iFrame format or as individual pamphlets which can be viewed or downloaded separately.


Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.175 [1649.05.05] (6.27) Anon., The humble Petition of divers wel-affected Women (5 May, 1649).

Full title

Anon., To the Supream authority of this Nation, the Commons assembled in Parliament: The humble Petition of divers wel-affected Women inhabiting the Cities of London, Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamblets, and Places adjacent; (Affecters and Approvers of the late large Petition) of the Eleventh of September, 1648. In behalf of Lieutenant Col. John Lilburn, Mr. William Walwyn, Mr. Thomas Prince, and Mr. Richard Overton, (now Prisoners in the Tower of London) and Captain William Bray, Close-prisoner in Windsor-Castle; and Mr. William Sawyer, Prisoner at White-Hall,
Imprinted at London, 1649.

Estimated date of publication

5 May 1649.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

TT1, p. 741; Thomason 669. f. 14. (27.)

Editor’s Introduction

(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)

Text of Pamphlet

TO THE Supreme Authority of this Nation, the Commons assembled in PARLIAMENT.

The humble Petition of divers well-affected Women inhabiting the City of London, Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamblets, and places adjacent, In behalf of Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburn, Mr. William Walwyn, Mr. Thomas Prince, and Mr. Richard Overton, now Prisoners in the Tower; and Captain William Bray close Prisoner in Windsor-Castle; and Mr. William Sawyer prisoner in White-hall, Affecters and Approvers of the late large Petition of the 11. of September, 1648.


THat so great is our particular sorrow and affliction under the grievous weight of the publick Calamity and distress, that with longer patience we are not able to undergo the woe and misery thereof, or longer to sit in silence; for our oppressions are too many and great for us, we are not able to bear them and live; we are even distracted in our selves, we know not which way to turn us; and if oppression make a wise man mad, how is it better to be expected from us that are the weaker vessel?

We are so over-prest, so over-whelmed in affliction, that we are not able to keep in our compass, to be bounded in the custom of our sex; for indeed we confess it is not our custom to address our selves to this House in the Publick behalf, yet considering, That we have an equal share and interest with men in the Common-wealth, and it cannot be laid waste, (as now it is) and not we be the greatest & most helpless sufferers therein; and considering that poverty, misery, and famine, like a mighty torrent, is breaking in upon us, divers already dying weekly of Famine about the City; and we are not able to see our children hang upon us, and cry out for bread, and not have wherewithall to feed them, we had rather dye then see that day; And considering that for the prevention of the publicke calamity, our husbands, our children brethren and servants, have uncessantly waited upon this House with Petitions and addresses (while we in silence have sate at home) and instead of your good acceptance thereof, their Petitions have been sleighted and rejected, some burnt by the hand of the Common Hangman, others voted treasonable and seditious, and the Authors and Promoters guilty of high Treason, and to be proceeded against as Traytors, and upon that account severall have bin fetched from their Houses in a warlick manner and imprisoned: So that our hearts are in continuall fear of our husbands, our sons or servants, while they are promoting any thing in the behalf of the Comon-wealth, or waiting upon you with petitions, that we can neither eat, nor drink in peace, or sleep in quiet, so mightily are we terrified at the hostile violence now exercised; which hath so exasperated and stird up our spirits within us, that if our husbands, sons or servants must be imprisoned and suffer as traytors for upholding the Cause of the people in their native freedom and right, we are resolved in our weak endeavours for the same ends to suffer and perish with them, not knowing what good issue God may bring out of the same: this we know that for our encouragement and example, God hath wrought many deliverances for severall Nations, from age to age by the weake-hand of women: By the counsell and presence of Deborah, and the hand of Jaell, Israell was delivered from the King of Canaan, Sisera and his mighty Host, Iudges 4. and by the British women this land was delivered from the tyranny of the Danes (who then held the same under the sword, as now is endeavoured by some Officers of the Army) and the overthrow of Episcopall tyranny in Scotland was first begun by the women of that Nation. And therefore we shall take the boldnesse to remember you;

That our Husbands, our selves and friends have done their parts for you, and thought nothing too deare and pretious in your behalf, our mony, our plate, jewels, rings, bodkins, &c. have bin offered at your feet: And God Almighty hath blest the hearty and well meant endeavours of those that have assisted you with answerable success, so that no impediment remaines but that you may remove every yoake, and make good those promises of freedom and prosperity to the Nation, by which good men were invited to your service.

Yet not withstanding we know not yet what oppression is removed, we know many that are brought upon us, yea those very particulars of tyranny that were complained of in former Rulers, and were the just cause of Gods displeasure against them, and so of their destruction; are yet practised by your selves in the Case of Lievtenant Colonel Iohn Lilburne, Master William Walwyn, Master Thomas Prince, and Master Richard Overton, as if God Almighty had now relinquished you, and did permit you to doe those things that not only contradict your selves, but pronounce your own condemnation out of your or own mouthes.

And forasmuch as the violent force and illegall proceedings upon them is every mans case, and that souldiers by the same rule may be sent we know not how soon to our own houses, to fetch our Husbands children or servants from us to the like affrightment of us and ours, as sadly befell unto these; and seeing that to this condition all are subjected by the perfect force and terror of the sword, we are even startled and stand amazed at your defection, that your hearts should be so hardened, as to justifie what the Counsel of State have done in commitment of those men who are persons that have ever manifested a most hearty affection to the peace and prosperity of the Common-wealth, and most compassionately tender and sensible of others sufferings; and this dealing with good men is but a bad requitall for the blood and treasure of the people. We have had many good words, promises and declarations from you, but where are your works? it is not your words, your declarations and acts of Parliament (as you call them) will feed or cloath us or our children, while our husbands, servants and best friends are imprisoned by your Arbitrary Warrants, while Trading is utterly driven away, all kinds of Provision for Food at a most excessive rate, multiudes ready to starve and perish for want of work, employment necessaries, and subsistance; Tythes, Excise, Monopoiles continued, to the extreme disheartning of Tillage and Trade, Taxes more and more then ever, and those rigorously executed, the Souldiers being put upon Streining for goods in case of default of paiment, that truly the lives of our selves and families are full of troubles, fear, grief, repining and anguish of Spirit; and all those our greivances we must impute to the evill use that is made of your Authority, for it is all acted upon us in your name; so that till you vindicate your selves by your good works to the People, from those ourages and cruelty of the Sword upon us, we cannot see how you can pass innocent and free from the vilest guilt.

And therefore by all the obligations that lie upon you from God, your Country, those good men that have lost or ventured their lives for you; for your own sakes and posterities, we beseech you.

That laying all self-respect and vain affectations of wealth or Greanesse aside, (wherein true happinesse indeed consists not) you would be pleased to set your selves cordially and sensibly to remove the burthens of the people, and settle this common-wealth upon foundations of true freedom, and for a present testimony of your sencere intentions therein,

That Lieut. Col. John Lilburn, M. William Wallin, M. Thomas Prince, and Mr. Richard Overton, now prisoners in the Tower, and Captain William Bray close Prisoner in Windsor Castle, and Mr. William Sawyer prisoner in White-hal, may be forthwith released, with reparation from those that have done them so much injury and damage, and in such sort as others may be careful how they exceed the bounds of Law and Reason. Also, that the Souldiers may never be authorise to intermedle in the Civill Authority, or be used but in cases of War, and forcible resistance.

And then, if any person have ought against them, we intreat they may (from first to last) be proceeded against as by the Law of the Land is already provided, and not otherwise in a tittle: Our said Friends, in our esteem, and in the apprehensions of all unbyassed men we have heard of, being so far from being guilty of Treason, that we are fully perswaded it will never go well with this Nation, either in its Peace, Freedom, or prosperity, so long as such men are so ill requited for all their pains, costs, labours and hazards in behalf of the Common wealth; nor untill their motions, counsels and propositions are better regarded; there never having been desired or offered to this House things for common good, so essentially necessary in their several seasons: as, that Petition that was burnt by the Hangman, that of the 11. of Septemb. and the Agreement of the People; the last whereof, as the finall result of the rest, we intreat may finde large encouragement from this Honourable House; that so we may speedily have a new and equall Representative.

We also intreat, that you will be pleased to declare particularly wherein the said Book laid unto their charge, tendeth to the hindrance of the relief of Ireland, or the continuance of free-quarter, or is treasonable in it self, because you have by your Declaration made the same, and the abetting thereof in any person to be no less then Treason. For our selves, not being satisfied of any such thing in the Book, and no particulars being mentioned by you, how or wherein it is treasonable, your Declaration is no other then a snare to us, our Husbands, Children and Servants, whereby unawares we may be entrapt in our discourses about any thing contained in the said Book.

Also, that you will be very wary in making any thing to be treasonable, or a capital offence, that is not essentially destructive to civil Societie: then which we know nothing more, then the exercise of an arbitrary Power, or continuance of Authoritie Civil or Military, beyond the time limited by Trust or Commission, or the perverting of either to unjust, bloudy, or ambitions ends; things which our said Friends, with others, have much complained of and for which principally we beleeve their lives are (by those that are guilty) so violently pursued, that it appeareth, there was an intent by sudden surprize in the said-night to fetch them from the Tower to White-hall there to murther them, if by the pretence of Law they could not destroy them.

So that their condition is very sad and desperate, their enemies being absolute Judges over them, masters of all power, answerers hitherto of all petitions, and directors of all things concerning their tryall, so as we are amazed to consider, which way their deliverance should come, and should despaire but but that we trust God will be pleased to raise up deliverance from amongst you, in preserving of whom you will preserve your selves, your wives, children and the whole Nation from bondage and misery, and thereby discharge a good conscience in the trust you have undertaken, and become the joy and rejoycing of your Petitioners and all well-minded people, who otherwise are like to spend their dayes in nothing but misery, bewailings and lamentations.

All those Women that are Approvers hereof, are desired to subscribe it, and to deliver in their Subscriptions to the women which will be appointed in every Ward and Division to receive the same, and to meet at Westminster Hall upon Munday the 23 of this instant April 1649, betwixt 8 and 9 of clock in the fore noon.