In Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures edited by Paul Foster the chapter on Perpetua is written by Sara Parvis.

Perpetua was a prophetess and a martyr or as Parvis writes, “…she is a woman in an age in which women are very seldom heard from directly (p. 100).” Some people attach her to the Montanist movement because of her charismatic tendencies, but there does seem to be much doubt about this. While Augustine is the first person to write a full length biographical sketch of his life and faith Perpetua’s prison diary is a similar document and it comes long before Augustine.

You can read a translation of Perpetua’s diary here. Parvis discusses the debate over whether this document was originally composed in Greek or Latin along with a short biographical sketch regarding his heritage, upbringing, and education (pp. 100-102). Perpetua died a martyr at the young age of twenty while her infant was still at the breast feeding age. She was one of several catechumens to be arrested. Rome thought that striking fear into the not-fully integrated Christians was the best way to harm the movement. Under Perpetua’s leadership her group proved Rome wrong and shamed them through her bold martyrdom (pp. 102-103).

The theology that emerges from Perpetua’s diary is very charismatic. She sees God and the church in familial terms. She speaks of having great intimacy with Christ, even speaking to him.  To get a first hand glimpse use the above link.

I appreciated Parvis’ chapter on Perpetua for three reasons: (1) It is the only chapter on a woman, so it was unique in that regard. (2) It was good to see that even though the charismatic spirit of the early church was rarely represented by those who were most literate we see that it did survive in some parts of Christianity. (3) The theology is from an approach that is different than some of the early Christian thinkers highlighted in this book. She was a thinker in the heat of the battle for her faith, not one who could comfortably study and write in leisure.