Joanna Southcott, Prophetess

Charles Williams (active 1797-1850), Spirits at work- Joanna conceiving- ie- blowing up Shiloh, 1814. Etching. Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process. Published as the frontispiece for Scourge v.8 (July 1814). Note the book Joanna has been reading is The Art of Humbugging, chapter one. Above her head is a bag labeled: Passports to Heaven, five shillings each or two for Seven.

Joanna Southcott (or Southcote) (1750-1814), wrote prophecies “at the command of the spirit of God.” From 1792 to her death, Southcott attracted many followers as well as skeptics. Her most important prophecy came in 1813 when she announced that she would give birth to a messiah, called The Shiloh. Southcott was sixty-four years old but spent the last year of her life expecting a child by “the power of the Most High,” who was to “rule the nations with a rod of iron.”

Throughout the year, caricatures and cartoons were published ridiculing her. Here are two examples from July and November 1814. A baby was supposedly born in December and Southcott died soon after.

Charles Williams (active 1797-1850), Delivering a Prophetess, 1814. Etching. Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process. Published in Scourge v.8 (November 1814). Joanna’s water has broken and four doctors prepare for the birth of The Shiloh. A ‘Preacher to the Virgin Johanna’ is bottling her water for later sale. Quotes come from Macbeth and the three midwives are reminiscent of the three witches who made prophecies in that play.

Rare Books and Special Collections holds over 100 books and pamphlets concerning Southcott. A favorite: Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), Prophecies Announcing the Birth of the Prince of Peace: Extracted from the Works of Joanna Southcott (London: W. Marchant, printer, Ingram-Court, [1814]). (Ex) BF1815.S7 S68 v. 5