In 16th century Europe, three Catholic queens ruled Scotland and the British Empire. John
Knox, the great Scottish Reformer, saw these Catholic women as despotic oppressors
particularly hostile to Protestants of all kinds. In 1558, Knox anonymously published
a polemical treatise against not only the female sovereigns and their policies, but
also against female rule over men generally. He used the three Catholic queens, first,
as examples of women’s fundamental incompetency, and second, as evidence that
God would never call women to leadership roles over men, especially in the church.
Ironically, Knox’s diatribe against female rulers did not serve him well when Elizabeth
I, a Protestant, ascended to the throne. Today, the role of women in leadership and the
church remains a hotly debated issue within Christianity.