Elizabeth Lucar (1510-1537) was born in London in 1510. She was the daughter of Paul Withypoll, who afforded her a liberal education. She was schooled in needlework, mathematics, music, language (including Latin, Italian, and Spanish) and, most importantly, calligraphy. She is credited with writing the first English essay on the subject of calligraphy, A Beautiful and Curious Calligraphy, published in 1525.
Lucar believed that women should — and should be expected to — contribute to the family well-being, not only by using the practical skills which she had mastered, but also by practicing godly virtues. She considered writing and calligraphy a visual art form on par with other arts, and she was known for producing verbal and visual texts.
Lucar died in 1537 at the age of twenty-seven, having birthed five children: Emanuel, Henry, Mary and Jane, and another daughter who did not survive childhood. Her many accomplishments are celebrated in the inscription that was placed on her tomb at St. Michael, Crooked Lane Church, in London. The inscription was written by her husband, Emanuel Lucar, and reads:
Every Christian heart seeketh to extoll The glory of the Lord, our onely Redeemer: Wherefore Dame Fame must needs inroll Paul Withypoll his childe, by love and Nature, Elizabeth, the wife of Emmanuel Lucar, In whom was declared the goodnesse of the Lord, With many high vertues, which truely I will record. She wrought all Needle workes that women exercise, With Pen, Frame, or Stoole, all Pictures artificiall, Curious Knots or Trailes, what fancy would devise, Beasts, Brids, or Flowers, even as things naturall: Three manner hands could she write, them faire all. To speake of Algorisme, or accounts, in every fashion, Of women, few like (I thinke) in all this Nation. Dame Cunning her gave a gift right excellent, The goodly practice of her Science Musicall, In divers tongues to sing, and play with Instrument, Both Viall and Lute, and also Virginall; Not onely upon one, but excellent in all. Foe all other vertues belonging to Nature, God her appointed a very perfect creature. Latine and Spanish, and also Italian, She spake, writ, and read, with perfect utterance; And for the English, she the Garland wan, In Dame Prudence Schoole, by Graces purveyance, Which cloathed her with Vertues, from naked Ignorance: Reading the Scriptures, to judge light from darke, Directing her faith to Christ, the onely Marke.
George Ballard, Ruth Perry, ed. and intro. Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1985).
Melissa Elmes, “Elizabeth Lucar,” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803). Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II (Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013), vol. X, pp. xxx, editorial notes pp. xxx.
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Elizabeth Lucar