|London (United Kingdom)
Jane Lead was born into an affluent family. Her father, a landowner and magistrate, provided her with a good education at home. In 1638, Lead began to study the Bible by herself, starting her spiritual exploration. In 1642, in a six-month visit to her brother in London, she furthered her spiritual education by frequently attending religious meetings and listening to various preachers, including Tobias Crisp. In 1644, she married William Lead, a distant relative and wealthy merchant, with whom she had four daughters. After her husband died in 1670, Lead was left destitute, as she was excluded from any inheritance by her husband’s executor. In 1674, Lead joined the household of John Pordage, a mystic who led a small English Behmenist (followers of Jakob Böhme) group. Lead remained there until Pordage’s death in 1681, at which point she assumed leadership of the group, known as the Philadelphian Society. The Society was meant to be an alternative to an institutional church, though not a church itself. Philosophically, the Society endorsed pantheism. Around this time Lead also proclaimed herself to be a “Bride of Christ” and had her first vision of the ‘Virgin Sophia’, which can be described as a feminine aspect of divine wisdom. Lead’s works include treatises, diaries and manuscripts. Her most influential book was a three-volume spiritual diary, Fountain of Gardens, which presented her readers with a method for entering into the wisdom of ‘Virgin Sophia’. Her works attracted a number of devoted followers, including Francis Lee, the Reverend Richard Roach and Baron Kniphausen. Her work is sometimes thought to be aligned with that of earlier female mystics like Julian of Norwich and Margery Kemp.