Anne Atkins has often figured in these pages for her Thoughts for the Day. In her latest offering she was talking about female role models; she mentioned several, concluding with the Virgin Mary. She poured scorn on the sentimental representation of Mary we find in school Nativity plays and then went on to produce her own version of Mary that was equally remote from the facts. Mary, we were told, was "a girl of extraordinary learning ... profoundly versed in the history of her race and faith." I can't imagine how Ms Atkins arrived at this remarkable estimate of Mary's educational attainments, for which there is no evidence in the canonical literature. We know, in fact, almost nothing about the historical Mary, but we can hardly suppose that this peasant girl became a bluestocking.