Women and Theological Writing During the Reformation

From Study of Lives to Study of Theologies
[1] In comparison to the volumes of religious writing by medieval (often visionary) women and the booming scholarly work around them in the last three or so decades, the sixteenth century Protestant women have generated significantly less interest. There are reasons for that: First of all, so few women of the period have been remembered even by their name or for their lifetime of achievements that the very idea of studying Reformation women’s theologies has seemed futile or impossible. Second, so few theological texts from the Protestant women have been recognized as of value or been available that it has generated an impression that the mothers of the Protestant faith either did not write theology or were not interested in it.

Women and Theological Writing During the Reformation by Kirsi Stjerna

[2] Thanks to the innovative, pioneering work of an international group of scholars stubbornly perusing the archives, while envisioning perspectives that allow unfolding of theological voices from unexpected places, scholarship has finally come to a place where it is possible to lift up the theological work of the first generation Protestant women and begin conversations on women’s theological contributions.1 Before we reached this point, the Reformation story had to be complemented through lifting up the many roles of women in the different stages of proclaiming, embracing, developing, implementing, and living out the “new” theologies. With the help of gender studies perspectives, the entire outlook on the Reformation and its impact in church and in society had to be re-evaluated from the vantage point of women, on the one hand, and in light of the predominant gender ideologies and norms, on the other hand.2 Through this critical work, we have been able to identify the parameters within which women in actuality could respond and contribute to the Reformation. It is from this realistic place that we may most constructively appraise women’s contributions as theological writers.3

[3] The information unfurled by social historians in this regard has been invaluable, as has been the work of scholars working with women’s texts and reproducing them in critical editions and translations. What has been lagging behind is the bridging of theological concerns and issues involving social history and textual studies.4 The time has come to ask certain questions with a theological intent: What observations can we make about the kind of religious texts the Reformation era women wrote? How can we assess those works as theological sources, in light of the dominant Reformation theologies and the extent to which they shaped, enhanced or limited women’s theological visioning? What can we make of women’s theological responses, where can we find them? Last but not least, what were the central theological principles women embraced and reflected upon and interpreted further, and what were some of the their unique theological insights and contributions? After deliberating on these questions, we will be better equipped to conclude where the women theologians of the sixteenth century stand in the overall theological map. (Here an attempt is made to make general conclusions on some of these questions. No analysis of specific women’s theologies is intended in this essay, the primary purpose of which is to stimulate conversation.)5

Did the Reformation Women Write Systematic Theology?
[4] Did or did not the Reformation women write systematic theology? Carol Thysell, in her study of Marguerite de Navarre as a theologian, asks: “Why did women of the sixteenth century not write systematic theology? ‘I am puzzled to account for this phenomenon,’ wrote Roland Bainton in 1973. ‘Have women refrained from theology because they were not supposed to exceed their sphere or because they were not interested?'”6

[5] Of course women were interested in theology and in living out the Protestant faith. Women’s religious zeal did not evaporate with the Reformation. On the contrary, they responded to the new theology with the same eagerness as men, within the conditions under which they were exposed to it. The changes in religious practices and the shifts in theological emphases involved women as well as men. The reformers’ teaching reached men and women via worship, sermons and hymns in particular, and through art and renewed religious practices, as well as books and pamphlets, personal contacts and “conversations at the table or by the well.” In all the communication, however, the vision about the options for women’s participation remained limited. Most importantly, women were not encouraged to participate in public conversation, church leadership or theological work. Women’s participation in religious life and their spiritual development were to be channeled mainly through their homes and domestic vocations. The pastors’ wives were to become the embodiments of women’s domestic vocations as their husbands’ domestic associates; their calls often included expanded responsibilities as managers of the first parsonages that became centers of cultural life, as well as gathering places for many a religious (or social) occasion. Even pastors’ wives were excluded from the pulpit, however.

[6] In the Reformation, thus, Protestants gained clergy marriage and presence of women in that important dimension of church life. What was lost were “other” options for women interested in serving their church in ways other than through domestic relations. Greta Jacobsen’s point about the Nordic women’s situation can be generalized: “Thus, by the Reformation women gained a visible and socially acceptable role in the institutional church. The new role was, however, an extension of the domestic aspect of their role in society at large. They were not given a voice in the affairs of the church or in the discussion of faith. That remained a male prerogative. In the long run, this visibility and the emphasis on the domestic role of the minister’s wife as a model for other women may have helped undermine the acceptability of women’s public role and work outside the family.”7

[7] Similarly Lyndal Roper has pointed out that as marriage became the centerpiece of Protestant society and church, “the institutionalized Reformation was most successful when it most insisted on a vision of women’s incorporation within the household under the leadership of their husbands.” Furthermore, “In a real sense, therefore, as the Reformation was domesticated, as it closed convents and encouraged nuns to marry, as it lauded the married state exemplified by the craft couple, and as it execrated the prostitute — so it was accomplished through a politics of reinscribing women within the family.”8 For many of the convent women the Protestant faith failed to offer an appealing option but was rather a cause to be rejected, as many convents did, before facing eventual closing (that is, in Protestant lands).9 With the fading of the nuns and other related, traditionally important religious roles for women (such as the mystics and visionaries), which coincided with the theologically argued women’s domestication, women’s spiritual presence and theological voice in the church at large seemed to radically diminish.

[8] Given the exclusive expectation for women to marry and bring up children as their most important, holiest call, without any public speculation about women’s abilities (not to mention rights) to enter the teaching and preaching roles, and given the lack of stimulus for women to advance beyond elementary learning and the lack of supportive institutional networks or forums for deepened learning and self-confidence, it is hardly a surprise that so few women were inspired or managed to grab a pen to write treatises easily recognized for their theological value.10 As a matter in fact, in comparison to medieval writing women, only a few Protestant women seemed apt or interested in articulating their theological views or in entering the public dominion of theological discourse, and even fewer were in positions to do so realistically. This is how it seems from the surface, but of course it is not the whole story. In any event, the apparent diminishing of women’s religious vocations outside home should not be considered a reflection of women’s own preferences or actual ambitions (or lack of them), but rather a reflection of the preferences imposed on them, and indicative of the weight of the obstacles for women’s theological writing.11

Educational Impediments and Gender Obstacles to Overcome
[9] There were some obvious impediments for women’s public theological participation, in addition to the re-iterated Pauline imperative for women’s silent place in the church and subjected role in religious affairs. First of all, the reformers’ visions for enhanced basic lay education for the sake of enabling laity to read their vernacular bibles did not really open doors for women in higher education. Even the basic education maintained a distinction between the sexes as girls’ curricula tended to be less demanding, with shorter school days than boys’ schooling. Higher education continued to be a privilege of men and of a relatively small group of wealthy and culturally well-connected women. Nothing even remotely equivalent in terms of educational opportunities for women replaced the convents in Protestant towns. In other words, women lacked the appropriate preparation for conventional theological writing.12

[10] Not welcomed in the universities or in academic debates, women were neither expected to write neither in scholarly circles, nor for public religious purposes and settings; that would have indicated a certain teaching authority or a religious leadership role, both deemed unacceptable for women. Regardless of the humanists’ passion for cultivating the individual, women were not envisioned as participants in activities that were about naming reality, interpreting human experience, naming God and speculating on ways of knowing God, and teaching others about the principles of life in the face of God and other beings. In other words, theology, just as public ministry, remained a male prerogative — in theory.13

[11] Regardless of all these serious obstacles for women’s theological participation beyond their private religious life, several Protestant women succeeded in establishing for themselves a theological voice. The numbers are small but the individuals making the numbers were quite formidable. They had to be “cut of different wood.” Abiding by the ideals of meekness and obedience and satisfaction in domestic bliss would not lead a Protestant woman to the pulpit or the publishing market. She had to have a different ambition, supporters, and a right context, and she had to be fairly well educated and empowered by her knowledge, status, and self-awareness. She had to be empowered by her religious passion. She needed to be bold, persistent, and creative. In other words, an “Amazon,” an actual word at times used for learned women.

[12] Women who did succeed in gaining remarkable levels of sophistication and who manifested exceptional aptitude and ambition in theological dialogue were vulnerable to being considered as anomalies and disorderly women. In a culture that imposed silence on women, “speaking out” (or “writing out”) was discouraged as “a form of unchastity.”14 Furthermore, there were other obstacles: “The few women who did write rarely published their works as publishing required money, connections and a sense that what one was writing merited publication. Women’s unpublished works, such as letters and diaries, were rarely saved, for they were not regarded as valuable.” When published, says Merry Wiesner-Hanks, they were “always judged first on the basis of gender.”15 Always judged primarily through the lens of gender, a woman’s religious writing would necessarily be considered less valuable, just as her contributions would be assessed unreasonably critically by her male critics.

[13] As cases in point serve four of the most important Protestant female writers, Olimpia Morata, Argula von Grumbach, Katharina Schütz Zell and Marie Dentière, who provided a variety of texts and in them a clearly — and creatively — articulated theologies, while being ridiculed or dismissed because of their gender.

Women with a Theological Vision and Concern for the Word
[14] The case of Olimpia Morata (1526/27–1555), an Italian classicist and a confessing Protestant, is poignant: “A study companion” to Duchess Renée de Ferrara’s daughter and the daughter of a well-known humanist Fulvio Peregrino Morato, Olimpia astonished audiences with her intellect and exceptional Latin and Greek skills — in her early youth. The applause stopped as she matured, and as she turned Protestant. She spent her brief adult years in Germany where she moved with her Lutheran husband, Dr. Andreas Grunthler. Tragedies of war and illness there ended her life early and most of her mature writings have been lost. Has she been a man, this scholar whose passion was learning most probably would have served in a university teaching Greek and Latin; as a scholarly woman, she could tutor only in private, and she could write only “privately.” Her writings consist of letters and dialogues and verses in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and translations of the classical authors and the Psalms.16

[15] Her writing record is amazing for a woman of the time. Remarkable is also her explicit passion for learning. In her adulthood she attributed this to God: “He gave me the mind and talent to be so on fire with love for learning that no one could keep me from it….”17 Confident in her understanding of the Word and in her theology, she pursued her “religious duty” to encourage and teach other women “to right living, the spreading of the ‘true’ Christianity, and the defense of its martyrs.”18 She creatively used the “safe” writing forums for her purposes of discussing theology and teaching her female friends and sisters, with confidence about her understanding of the Word. Aware of the gender expectations, in her self-reflection she made a point about herself having set aside womanly activities and pursued study and writing instead: “Never did the same thing please the hearts of all, And never did Zeus grant the same mind to all…. And I, though born female, have left feminine things, yarn, shuttle, loom-threads, and work-baskets. I admire the flowery meadow of the Muses and the pleasant choruses of twin-peaked Parnassus. Other women perhaps delight in other things. These are my glory, these my delight.”19

[16] In her lifetime, her writings beautified mainly the lives of her close associates, family and friends. Most of what she wrote was destroyed in a war scene in Germany. Thanks to the loyalty of a learned, life-long male friend, Celio Secundo Curione, the selection of Olimpia’s texts that survived were published posthumously in four editions between 1558–1580.20 Her poetry and dialogues rivaling with the masters of the antiquity, her eloquent first-hand translations of the Psalms and her contribution to the discourse over the sacraments in her correspondence, among other things, and her unique first-person description of the effects of war and pestilence and religious persecution in Europe did not prevent her from becoming forgotten for centuries, until her recent re-discovery.21

[17] Another Protestant woman writer who knowingly broke the gender expectations and felt the sting for it is Argula von Grumbach (1492?–1563?): This noble woman and a mother of small children from Bavaria challenged the University of Ingolstadt to a theological debate in defense of a Lutheran student.22 The arguments of “a desperado” and a “bitch,” as she was called, were dismissed by the university men, warranting only an anonymous, misogynistic poem from a student, and leading Argula and her family be banned from Dietfurt. Argula’s published letters from 1523–152423 to the University, to her town and to noble men in positions of authority made her the best-known female Lutheran and a best-selling pamphleteer.24 If she had been a man writing with such exceptional biblical erudition, passion and forceful argumentation, this personal associate of Luther would have earned respect beyond the Wittenberg reformers’ inner circle.25

[18] As a Protestant, Argula laid her hope on the Word. Her arguments certainly echoed those of the Protestant reformers. She wrote: “What do Luther or Melanchthon teach you but the word of God? You condemn them without having refuted them…. For my part, I have to confess, in the name of God and my soul’s salvation, that if I were to deny Luther and Melanchthon’s writing I would be denying God and his word…”26 Argula’s confessing was rooted on the principle of “sola scriptura,” and her thorough knowledge of the Scripture boosted her with confidence to make “truth” statements. With an authority she derived from the scripture, she wrote to the University of Ingolstadt: “I beseech you for the sake of God, and exhort you by God’s judgment and righteousness, to tell me in writing which of the articles written by Martin or Melanchthon you consider heretical. In German not a single one seems heretical to me. And the fact is that a great deal has been published in German, and I’ve read it all…. I have always wanted to find out the truth…. I don’t intend to bury my talent, if the Lord gives me grace.”27

[19] The lay pamphleteer never doubted her right or ability to address theological issues, or the validity of her arguments. She applied in her life two of the central Protestant principles: the priesthood of all believers and the primacy of the Scripture as the sole authority, which empowered her to compose her letters (as did her “von Stauff” status). “What I have written to you is no woman’s chit-chat, but the word of God; and (I write) as a member of the Christian Church, against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail…. God give us his grace, that we all may be saved, and may (God) rule us according to his will. Now may his grace carry the day.”28 She wrote as a confessor, and she indicated that there were many more women like her to come and confess likewise: “Yes, and whereas I have written on my own, a hundred women would emerge to write against them. For there are many who are able and better read than I am; as a result they might well come to be called ‘a school for women….’ We have to confess publicly….”29 To Luther, Argula was a special disciple and instrument of Christ, a most exemplary pious woman and a confessor.30 Neither Luther, or other male reformers, however, gave Argula public credit for her theological participation. Behind Argula’s courage and deliberate vocalizing of her concerns, however, was a synthesis of theological convictions that not only shaped her own life but also called her to action.

[20] Another example of an enduring faith commitment, tireless action, and theological clarity comes from Katharina Schütz Zell (1498–62), a powerful writer and a voice in her context in Strasbourg, yet belittled because of her gender: During her long career, pastor Mathew Zell’s wife Katharina wrote several treatises.31 For decades she served the church in Strasbourg and her fellow-Christians across the confessional lines with her charitable acts, as well as her many pastoral writings, including a hymnbook for catechetical and lay proclamation purposes.32 She defended and visited the outcast and interpreted Scripture for the purposes of offering consolation, pastoral care, and eradicating suffering of many kind. She was committed to ecumenical fellowship, hosting conversations between leading theologians of the time towards that purpose. The Protestant matriarch received no official appreciation of her ministry and was rather accused by a newcomer of unnecessary and harmful mingling in church affairs. As she reflected: “Since then the Lord drew me from my mother’s womb and taught me from my youth, I have diligently busied myself with His church and its household affairs, working gladly and constantly. I have dealt faithfully according to the measure of my understanding and the graces given to me, without deception…. So, constantly, joyously, and strongly, with all good will have I given my body, strength, honor, and goods for you, dear Strasbourg; I have made them a footstool for you…. My devout husband too was very heartily glad to allow this; and he also loved me very much for it…. And I also have loved and served you, Strasbourg, from my youth, as I still also do in my old age and almost sixty years….”33

[21] That her life was marked by one controversy after another characterizes her writings, and determined the choice of her topics and genres.34 For instance, her first writing (not the first published, though) began as a defense of her own marriage against the Catholic opposition of clergy marriage (and stinging personal attacks on her) but developed into a general argumentation for the goodness of marriage in general and clergy marriage in particular. From that location she developed for herself a call other women could relate to, the call of a church mother who without a university degree or ordination could participate in the many dimensions of church life — at their own risk, of course.35 Late in her life she felt compelled to respond to criticism addressed to her person and to the new wave of rigid confessionalism in town. She did so in assertive letters in which she — through self-reflection and reminiscing on the labors of the first generation reformers, such as her husband — offered her vision for the peaceful nature of the gospel, her interpretation on the Scripture in general and on conflicted theological issues (such as the Lord’s Supper), and her ecumenical vision about the inclusivity of Christian love and fellowship that should overcome doctrinal and personal disputes. The theological value of her writings has not been recognized as widely as would be the case had her husband been the author; not interested in hiding behind anybody’s name, she used her own names.36

[22] Similarly boldly, Marie Dentière (1495–1561) from Geneva signed her own name: An ex-nun who became Calvin’s un-recognized fellow-Reformer in Geneva, she devoted much of her time to converting resilient nuns in town and writing down her first-hand observations of the reforms during Calvin’s leadership.37 A feminist and openly Protestant writer, Marie has left three texts attributed to her: an account on the events in Geneva between 1532–36,38 a letter to Marguerite de Navarre, including a “Defense of Women,”39 and a Preface to Calvin’s Sermon on Female Apparel.40 The last text, addressing the issue of women’s sins of vanity, as well as Calvin’s silence about Marie’s contribution in town, is indicative of her dismissal as a theologian because of her gender. Fully aware of the gender boundaries and ideals, Marie had earlier written an explicit defense of women’s public teaching voice. Before too long, the publication of her works was stopped by the penalties imposed on her printer.

[23] In her Epistle, written in her own name, she had called her presumably female audience to act, wishing to empower her readers with her feminist reading of the Scripture and strong women’s examples there. The turbulent situation and men’s failure to act necessitated that women claim the Word for themselves and defend the gospel and needs for justice, participating in God’s saving work in the world.42 She wrote, “For what God has given you and revealed to us women, no more than men should we hide it and bury it in the earth. And even though we are not permitted to preach in public in congregations and churches, we are not forbidden to write and admonish one another in all charity. Not only for you, my Lady, did I wish to write this letter, but also to give courage to other women detained in captivity, so that they might not fear being expelled from their homelands, away from their relatives and friends, as I was, for the word of God. And principally for the poor little women [femmelettes] wanting to know and understand the truth, who do not know what path, what way to take, in order that from now on they be not internally tormented and afflicted, but rather that they be joyful, consoled, and led to follow the truth, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” She was hopeful that “women will not be so scorned as in the past.”43

[24] Marie was the first French woman to articulate Reformed theology. Fully employing her sense of Christian freedom and her “evangelical” identity, she assumed the role of a preacher (“prescher”, “prescheresse”) to proclaim the “truth,” challenging people to “read and then judge.”44 Such words coming from a woman were justified because of her claim for truth: “Some might be upset because this is said by a woman, believing that this is not appropriate for her, since woman is made for pleasure. But I pray you to be not offended; you must not think that I do this from hatred or from rancor. I do this only to edify my neighbor, seeing him in such great, horrible darkness, more palpable than the darkness of Egypt…. No man could be able to expose it enough. How, therefore, will a woman do it? In spite of that, be diligent in examining carefully the texts and the consequence of what they say, and you will see that I speak the truth.”45

[25] It was because of their gender that Katharina’s, Argula’s and Olimpia’s and Marie’s contributions as Protestant writers failed to receive the appreciation they deserve for their evident, self-taught biblical knowledge, literary merit, pastoral instincts, and unique theological forte. Some observations can be made:

[26] First, as Protestant lay theologians, each of them clearly uplifted (and took advantage of) the Reformation principle about the priority of Scripture.46 For instance, from her emancipating scriptural knowledge, Argula could remind Duke Wilhelm: “The word of God alone should — and must — rule all tings. They call it Luther’s word; yet the words are not Luther’s but God’s.”47 Women in general wrote as “biblically oriented and based” theologians.

[27] Second, the women zeroed in on the centrality of the redeeming work of Christ, and underscored their notion of the justification by grace and by faith alone. For instance, Katharina Schütz Zell, in her explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, concludes that “the basic source of consolation for sick souls is true teaching; that Christians are made right with God solely by Christ’s grace.”48 Or Lady Ursula von Münsterberg, in her explanation for leaving her order because of her Lutheran faith: “You see that our salvation rests only on faith…. We are married to Christ and to seek to be saved through another is adultery.”49

[28] Third, they acted from the place of priesthood of all believers and as baptized Christians with a call to defend the values the Word “spoke” to them — or made them suffer for. Marie Dentière’s letter the Marguerite de Navarre, quoted above in paragraph 23, illustrates this.

[29] Fourth, independently from each other, they developed a theological lens that was inclusive, compassionate and addressed issues of justice. Argula was was compelled to action by God’s Word and by the injustice she witnessed. She spoke with authority drawn from her understanding of the Scripture and its primacy: “How in God’s name can you and your university expect to prevail, when you deploy such foolish violence against the word of God…. I am compelled as a Christian to write to you.”50 Katharina Schütz Zell wrote: “Thus I cannot excuse myself and persuade my conscience that I should be silent about these very great devilish lies that have been said and published about me, as I have been silent until now. Yes, just as the commandment to love my neighbor does not allow me to excuse myself from acting, so also I cannot excuse myself for the following reason. That is, it is proper to (and part of) being a Christian to suffer, but it is not at all proper for him to be silent, for that silence is half a confession that the lies are true.” She wished to live by the principle of forgiveness: “I forgive all people as I believe God also forgives me.”51

[30] Similarly, Olimpia Morata wrote to her childhood friend, Anne d’Este de Guise, pleading for her intervention in the persecution of the Huguenots in France: “Therefore, my sweetest lady, since God has blessed you with such kindness in order to open His truth to you, and since you know that all the men who are being burned there are innocent and are undergoing so many tortures for the sake of the gospel of Christ, it is your clear duty to show how you feel, either by pleading for them to the king or by praying for them. If you are silent or connive, allow your people to be tortured and let them be burned, and fail to show at least with words that this displeases you, you will seem by our silence to conspire in their slaughter and to agree with the enemies of Christ.” She reminded her to “Think that it is better to be hated by men than by God, Who is able to torture not just the body but also the soul in perpetual fire. But if you have Him as a friend, no one will be able to harm you, unless He permits it, in whose hands all things are. See to it that you think on these things.”

[31] The women discussed here acted on the basis of a theology that inspired them to care for persons and issues around them. With an expansive view of what it meant to be a Christian in the first place, and a Lutheran or a Protestant secondarily, they pursued the proclamation of the Word inclusively and compassionately. They lifted up the different dimensions of Christian love for one’s neighbor and thereby built their theology around principles of compassion and, as a source of that, their notion of God: God as a loving omnipotent God who justifies by grace without discrimination and who is present in all human experience in Christ, whose example calls for acts of love. Action inspired by the gospel was an essential dimension of the women’s theologies.

[32] Their basic act of transgression, their “mingling with the Word,” and their presumed “deficiency,” being women, overshadowed their gifts in interpreting the Word and the meaning of the gospel effectively and compassionately “in situ” and with different theological languages and models with shifted emphases. While they were clearly exceptional women in their tenacity and success in gaining a public voice to begin with, their examples facilitate some conclusions about the issue of women and word, and women and theological writing.

Women and the Word — Mothers with the Word
[33] Since women and the written word — or the public word — did simply not seem to belong together, and since women’s legitimate place was at home, any writing cause women might engage themselves with would need to happen in a domestic context and/or to a fitting audience. If the main theological expectation for women was to excel in the roles of a wife and a spouse, then the only way to write with any legitimacy would be in that role, as mothers for their children and dependents, or as friends for other women.

[34] As mothers, Protestant women had a specific role and a vocation in their homes as well as in the society and the church. We may consider it an “office,” especially in the case of women like Katharina Schütz Zell or Katharina von Bora Luther,52 who found creative ways to employ that position for the benefit of their church and clearly had a sense of a duty to do so. A majority of the women, it seems, followed the example of Katharina von Bora Luther (1499–1552), a mother of six, who, among many other new pastors’ wives, developed her domestic calling — that is, she did not include into her many responsibilities the acts of preaching or writing or teaching in public.53 Her namesake in Strasbourg had a different vision about her motherhood: having buried her two infants, she developed a particular calling as a Church Mother whose many duties included caring for those in the church and society at large. In that role in particular she pursued writing and public teaching and preaching. “Since I was ten years old I have been a church mother, a nurturer of the pulpit and school.” To her, motherhood was an expansive office of ministry of the Word and a podium for public theological speech, as well as a means for ecumenical ministry.54

[35] In another setting, Duchess Elisabeth von Braunschweig (1510–1558) underscored her maternal duty — and her widow’s status — that called her to care for her subjects’ religious well being.55 As a mother of her children and as a spiritual mother of her subjects, she could write words of advice, consolation, and “the law” — texts ranging from manuals for marital advice to her daughter to instruction on governance and Christian life (“mirror”) to her son, and a book for widows.56 Using her own name, and referring to her maternal “Amt,” she wrote in her “Regierungsbuch” for her son Erich, the elector of Braunschweig, “I have written this book for you myself with my own hand, from the beginning to the end…. I have written this for your benefit, out of motherly love and good intentions…. Do not scorn what I have said here, for to scorn your mother … is your own shame.57 Similarly she also addressed her subjects as a “Landesmutter” in a “Sendbrief”, with which she introduced new legislation and reforms in her land, as decreed in a church order crafted under her authority. Her “confession” of faith and theology can be read in this letter, and also in her vast correspondence and hymns.58

[36] At least in theory, thus, Protestant women could name it as their maternal call to care for the well-being of their children and their dependents (both broadly conceived) and “mother” through their word as well.59 Motherhood replaced experiences of supernatural nature, such as visions, as the form of authorization for women writers. The visions that had empowered so many of the medieval writers would not work in favor of the Protestant women’s activity, whereas maternal duty could — even for those with no children of their own.

[37] In addition to their maternal vocation, other reasons that “compelled” women to write could be a particular situation that would call any Christian to drastic measures, on the one hand, and simply their Christian faith and calling, on the other. Women like Argula von Grumbach could make a convincing case that they were “only” acting as any Christians should, doing what had to be done, responding to a situation that demanded action from women, especially since men seemed to fail to act. If the cause and situation were grave enough, a woman could decide to risk her life and wellbeing. For instance Argula von Grumbach’s passion about the implications of Christian faith on justice made her willing to take considerable risks: “I am prepared to lose everything — even life and limb. May God stand by me! Of myself I can do nothing but sin.” Furthermore, she says, “I had intended to keep my writing private; now I see that God wishes to have it made public. That I am now abused for this is a good indication that it is of God….”60 As in the medieval world, Protestant women, who were fueled by their passion for what they considered to be God’s will and truth and an expectation of God’s word, would take risks and break the explicit and implicit rules of silence. The testimonies of the martyred women are the epitome of this kind of Christian courage.61

[38] The form of religious writing within the reach of most literate women was the art of letter writing. The letter writing served political, theological and pastoral purposes, as well as providing means for personal communication. The Protestant women we know as writers were typically engaged in active correspondence. This is to be expected, as that was the most widely used and safest forum of theological or any written discourse for women. Supposedly private letters could fairly easily become published as pamphlets and at times for propaganda purposes (Katharina Schütz Zell, Ursula von Münsterberg),62 whether or not they had been originally written that in mind. The apparently “private” writings could have had a public audience in mind from the get-go. Besides, “the line between public and private writing is fuzzy,” says Merry Wisner-Hanks.63

[39] As the letters offered the most diverse channel for women’s theological writing, the letters could vary significantly. For instance, Argula’s argumentative letters to the University and the town council, Katharina Zell’s public defense of her marriage and her appeal to the people of Strasbourg, and Jeanne d’Albret’s letters lobbying for the annulment of her first marriage are very different from Renée de Ferrara’s cryptic letters64 with Calvin, or Olimpia’s concerned letters to her family and friends in Italy, or Katharina Zell’s pastoral letter to the Women of Kentzingen, not to mention individual women’s personal correspondence with Luther. This diversity makes it difficult — and exciting — to compare or draw conclusions from the letters’ theological content and the effectiveness of their theological argumentation. One conclusion can be made: women were free to make explicit or implicit theological arguments in their private letters.

[40] A letter from Lady Ursula von Münsterberg serves as an example of the theological, as well as personal and political nature, of women’s letters. Her letter gives a rare look into woman’s theological deliberation on her options: After Ursula (1491/1495–1534 or after), granddaughter of the King of Bohemia, had escaped her convent on October 7th, 1528, she wrote a letter about her decision. This letter was soon published and used as propaganda by the Protestants (as was the case with other similar letters from both sides). “I have written this work with my own hand, out of my heart…. Through this [work], your graces will discover that this has not happened out of thoughtlessness, but because I am accountable to the judgment of God for my soul.” Quoting the New Testament (Mark 16:5, 16, John 3:16, 15:16) for her reasons, she stressed that “this has not happened from a foolhardy disposition nor from hasty spontaneity, but that everything has been considered and well thought out. The confidence is in each one who is informed and taught by God, through the divine grace of faith….” Her letter of defense of her conversion became also an occasion for her to-be-published theological reflection on some of the debated issues of the day, such as the Lord’s Supper. Her testimony of faith, as much as it was written as her praise of God, was motivated by her concern for her fellow sisters and their lack of certainty about their salvation.65

[41] Literary noble women who were in positions of authority and at times involved in very public writing in that office were a class unto themselves. Jeanne d’Albret and her mother Marguerite de Navarre of France, Elisabeth I of England, and Elisabeth of Brandenburg and her daughter Elisabeth of Braunschweig from Germany could be involved in legislative writing as much as advising their own. They could write as “mothers” in a broader sense of the word as well (as in the case of Elisabeth of Braunschweig, and Jeanne d’Albret: in her signing off the enforced reforms in her queendom and involving herself in writing manifestos for the Huguenots, acted not only as a ruler but also as a mother securing the land and the Protestant faith for her son, Henry, the future King of France).66

[42] With all their privileges, the noble women also bore the burden to mind their position in the public eye and consider the cost their writing could have for their households and beyond. For this reason, for instance, Duchess Renée de Ferrara (1510–1575), who protected persecuted Huguenots in her castle under the nose of her Catholic husband, while was herself forced to return publicly to the Mass by the Inquisition, did not wish to leave anything in print to document her Protestant faith, Her faith commitment posed a risk to her family and subjects, not to mention her own life. Thus in her letters she asked Calvin to burn correspondence. “Monsieur Calvin, all these concerns have caused me to be prolix in this letter and in others which I have written you from time to time, and which I have begged you to burn, as I now do with this one. And I beg you to continue to write to me freely whatever seems good to you, which I shall always receive gladly.”67 Perhaps the best known example of a woman carefully calculating her public words for the sake of peace and order is Elisabeth I of England, who mothered the Reformation in her country without taking too strong a side in public. Even the women “on the top” knew of the dangers their religious writing could bring upon. Naturally this limited what these women could write for public purposes.

Situational Biblical Theologies
[43] Danger often marked women’s theological writing. At times, Protestant women would rise to write in defense of someone else. They would shed much less ink about their own internal religious development and relationship with God than they would for the purposes of instructing or guiding others, or intervening on behalf of others for the sake of the gospel and what they understood it to call from people. Their theological writing is situational and extroverted. Because of the nature of their situation, their writing could have a certain edginess to it — except in the pastoral writings. Katharina Schütz Zell, for example, offers examples of both, pastoral writing to those suffering, on the one hand, and feisty words of defense of the Reformation principles and, as she understood, the right interpretation of the gospel. Olimpia’s letters to her persecuted friends in Italy from her suffering experience in war-stricken Germany have a significantly different tone from the sharp words of the converted nun Marie Dentière, who was interested in describing the Genevan situation to the rest of the world. Each in her own way, they spelled out a defense of women and their voice in the church and faith matters.

[44] The genres women mostly used in their writing reflect the conditions under which women typically operated. Theological writing was not supposedly even in the radar screen, and yet women managed to publish important pieces of theological writing. The theological intent in women’s writing is more often implicit in the text (Olimpia Morata, Elisabeth von Brauschweig) than explicitly stated (Argula von Grumbach). From women’s more or less “private texts” we can detect their formative theological principles (Renée de Ferrara, Katharina von Bora Luther) and in some rare cases we have a variety of genres employed with a definite theological vision and freshly articulated (Katharina Schütz Zell). In all, we can conclude that behind the very act of writing and inherent in the various writings of Protestant women there is typically a discernable theology.

[45] We can conclude that the women wrote from the basis of a theology they had embraced, that shaped their experience, directed their decisions, and gave them a voice. The occasion that called them to write often determined the style and forum of their writing. As said before, women’s theological writing most often was situational, responsive to a situation, to a problem, or to a need of an individual or a group of people, men or women, clergy or laity. Their theological writings were typically rooted in and responding to real life situations. They were concerned about being heard and getting their points across rather than the sophistication of a footnoted argument — although they did use biblical references to support their arguments. Their writings were by and large less abstract in nature than the treatises written “in abstract.”

[46] We have no known efforts from the first generation Protestant women to craft a calculated, systematic abstraction of their theological vision in a way their male contemporaries did. That being the case, women did not write textbooks of theology. That does not mean that they did not write theology or have anything to contribute theologically. They did, in ways that it was possible for them as lay women. They wrote as Protestant theologians — with the authority of the Scripture. Scripture more than their personal experiences, or quoting authoritative voices in the theological canon, proved their arguments.

[47] In addition to the authority they found from the Scripture, women have found creative ways to write when convinced that they had a message to deliver and a responsibility to voice their concerns and visions, and when they were passionate enough to do so regardless of the odds. Identification of women’s theological contribution, often dormant in their genres and stylistic choices, is happening gradually and requires stretching of the established methods and criteria. In this exploration, as Natalie Zemon Davis says, “we must also search in the margins for insights about women.”69 These margins can be gold mines of insights into the women writers’ lives and thoughts, and help us to assess their theological work. Gender plays such a fundamental role in how, what and why women wrote, or did not write, simplistic comparisons between men’s and women’s theological voices has little merit, especially if the purpose is to prove women’s texts theologically deficient.70

Characteristics of Women’s Theological Texts
[48] Notwithstanding the nearly total absence of visionary and prophetic texts, the other genres used by the Reformation women were quite similar to those of medieval women writers. Women produced devotional materials, prayers, and hymns, occasionally meditations and interpretations on the Scripture, and even homilies for weddings, baptisms, and funerals and other religious occasions. We can draw some general observations:

[49] First, women’s writing often had a significant autobiographical component, even if the author’s intent was not to describe her inner religious life in depth.71 Their writings typically reflect one way or the other their own experiences or observations. As many of the women wrote mostly in letters to people close to them, their theological writing by necessity had a personal tone. Second, their writing was typically “biblical,” as the Scripture had been their main source of theological knowledge and, in line with the sola scriptura principle, women’s arguments would have validity only if supported from the Scripture. Women were drawn to re-interpret scriptural texts as the sources of their Christian identity and their new Protestant faith, as well as the support for their arguments. Some used the Scripture explicitly to argue women’s right to speak and teach in the church. Third, women’s writings could be didactic or pastoral in nature. As mothers and friends they could minister and teach others through their writings, supposedly mostly individuals familiar to them, but in actuality (without always an explicated intention) also a wider audience (e.g., Olimpia Morata’s letters, Katharina Zell’s hymnbook, Elisabeth von Braunschweig’s “mirrors”).

[50] Fourth, women’s writings have a political nature to them. Especially when women wrote as a reaction to a difficult situation, that condition naturally shaped the tone of their writing and added a tone of urgency at times (e.g. Argula von Grumbach). In case of the women in positions of authority to legislate, the writer’s identity as a ruler may dominate and the focus in the text can be on the practical implications of the inherent theology (e.g., Jeanne d’Albret, Elisabeth von Braunschweig). In these cases, the theology of the woman in question could be deduced from the causes she gave her attention to or associated herself with (e.g. Renée de Ferrara and the persecuted Huguenots). Fifth, women’s writing could have a poetic or artistic character (e.g. Olimpia’s verses and translations, and Elisabeth von Braunschweig’s songs, Marguerite de Navarre’s mystical writings). Of all the forms of writing, this may have been the least appreciated — or least suspected — form of theological writing.

[51] In general, much theological reflection has remained dormant or disguised in women’s texts, lacking many of the customary characteristics of scholastic theological argumentation. It is worth reiterating that, in comparison to medieval women writers, the absence of visionary writings and introspective spiritual texts is striking.

Writing without Visions — Mothers with a Cause and Compassion
[52] As a general observation, the Protestant women’s writings stand apart from the medieval women’s writings that were much more introspective in style, and often employed the visionary genre and relied on personal spiritual experiences. Even when proposing reforms or changes, or delivering messages for others, the visionary women’s premise was internal and introverted. Their authority and confidence in their writing drew mainly from their empowering internal spiritual experiences.72 “In the first part of the sixteenth-century, as in the late Middle Ages, women were sometimes seen as spiritual authorities because of their visionary and prophetic experiences. They based their claim to authority not on office, but on experience, an extraordinary vocation. Such experience often took the form of ‘prophetic visions.’ These ‘visions’ were a socially sanctioned activity that freed a woman from conventional female roles by identifying her as a genuine religious figure. They brought her to the attention of others, giving her a public language she could use to teach and learn. Her visions gave her the strength to grow internally and to change the world, to preach, and to attack injustice and greed, even within the church. Through visions, she could be an exemplar to other women, and out of her own experience, she could lead them to fuller self-development.”73

[53] In the medieval world, where only rarely could a woman writer write in her own name (e.g., 14th c. Marguerite of Porete, burned; professional writer Christine de Pisan), visionary women identified themselves as messengers and mouthpieces of God. With such a call, if evidenced with mystical experiences, virtuous life and others’ affirmation, women could see visions, prophesy, teach, and publish.74 Protestant women could be equally empowered by their spiritual life and faith, but they could not refer to internal experiences of that as reasons for writing. In mainstream Protestant circles, spiritual experiences were not sought after, nor would they be a good enough reason for women to leave their domestic place. Only in the radical reformers’ midst, initially, was it feasible for a woman to preach and teach based on her supernatural experiences and thus assume a role of a prophet, as for instance Ursula Jost (16th c.) from Strasbourg did.75

[54] By and large, Protestant women did not write extensively about their spiritual experiences of conversion or union with God. Some of the exceptional, more detailed descriptions of women’s personal religious discernment and narratives about their conversion come from those women who had to testify regarding their decision to leave a convent, and from those who were persecuted and on trial for their faith.76

Protestant women could not write as brides of Christ, but they could write as mothers of Christ’s new “children,” that is, in their roles of caring for all God’s children in their dominion. Rather than internal spiritual authorization, a good enough reason, or the only reason, for a Protestant woman to write would be a “greater” cause, such as caring for the persecuted or their dependents, or if they could exercise their writing within the limits of their domestic calling. Visionary experiences or other “radical activity” would not be helpful in this regard.

[55] The absence of visionary introspective spiritual writing in Protestant women’s publishing is thus one of the biggest differences between medieval visionary writers and the Protestant women religious writers. To repeat, whereas medieval women wrote as godly-inspired visionaries, and felt compelled to do so, Protestant women would need to write without visions and they would do so compelled by the situation and their concern for others. Ideally, they would write from an accepted place within the priesthood of all believers and from the places carved for their holy vocations; ideally, they would only write for children or other women. In reality, they did write as mothers and pastoral care providers, and they wrote as rulers and as participants in conflict or confessional situations. They wrote as friends and as defenders of others. They wrote with compassion and care for others’ wellbeing (and learning), and for the wellbeing of the church. Unlike medieval visionaries, who also arose from the margins, Protestant writing women had no category to fit in, however.

[56] Their theologies were thus almost predisposed to become marginalized. There remained a significant gap between official theologies, imagined by male theologians and pastors, and the theologies envisioned and voiced from the domestic locations. Innovatively, some of the Protestant women carved themselves a more public theological voice that led them beyond the acceptable, given the parameters for women’s holy callings. The radical change in women’s decreased options as spiritual and theological voices has to do ultimately with the Protestants’ unchanged gender ideologies and their new teaching about vocations on the one hand, and on their Word-centered theology and spirituality, on the other.

[57] The Protestants’ emphasis on “sola scriptura” as the means of revelation and “norma normans,” as well as Luther’s theology of the mysterious work of the Word for a person’s justification, radically stressed the “extra nos” aspect — or foundation — of human holiness. In guarding against all “merit theology” and safeguarding the Scripture’s supreme authority, the Protestants underscored faith versus experiences or practices. As the focus was on what the Word, Christ, would do “for you,” out of grace that would flow from “extra nos,” individual experience or personal participation in the justification process became far less important than it had been in the past. By downplaying the human subject and person’s participation in the justification process and salvation — which was a shared concern for all Christians — the value of personal religious experience was drastically diminished, if not flat out rejected. Simply put, the mystical route and mystical experiences were not encouraged among Protestants. For women in particular, in terms of their writing activity or exercising a voice in theological matters, this meant a significant loss of a form of authorization.

[58] With no “spiritual license” to teach and preach and write in public, with no recognized official role to do so, the most important stimulus for Protestant women to write theologically came from their understanding of the Word and external reasons: a necessity to defend others, to intervene on behalf of others, to show care for “theirs” as well as others, to teach those they cared about, and to speak the word of truth when it was needed, and to respond to the call of the gospel as they saw it. They could do this as an expansion of their maternal duty in the church and the society. Within the priesthood of all believers, Protestant women could shape their theologically defined maternal or domestic calling in ways that fit better their sense of the call of the gospel in their situation. That is the place from which they wrote theology with compassion and concern for truth and justice.

[59] Protestant women in the 16th century needed to write without visions, spiritual experiences, or scholastic training as means of authority. Writing and exercising a public theological voice without a recognized place in the world of theology, Katharina Schütz Zell, Argula von Grumbach, Marie Dentière, and Olimpia Morata are Protestant women who stretched the domestic calling designed for women and expanded the “holy maternal calling” to include caring of the Word and with the Word. Compelled by their situation, their love and knowledge of the Scripture, their sense of Christian duty in regards to the gospel, and the Protestant theological principles they had embraced, women with an evangelical identity could emerge as Scriptural and situational theologians, and as reformers. The “mothers” of the Protestant church could employ genres available for laity, especially letter writing, and offer compassionate theology, shaped by their interpretation of the gospel, their life experiences, concrete situations of crisis, and their concerns for justice.


1. For examples of important work in the area, see Merry Wiesner-Hanks, “Kinder, Kirche, Landeskinder: Women Defend their Publishing in Early Modern Germany” in R.B. Barnes, R. A. Kolb, P. L. Presley (eds): Habent sua fata libelli, Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers 1998, pp.143–152. Silke Halbach, „Publizistisches Engagement von Fauen in der Frühzeit der Reformation,” in Anne Conrad & Caroline Gritschke (eds): “In Christo ist weder man noch weyb”: Frauen in der Zeit der Reformation und der katholischen Reform. Mit Beiträgen von Anne Conrad, Coline Gritschke, et al. Münster: Aschendorff, pp. 49–68. Kertin Merkel and Heide Wunder (eds), Deutsche Frauen der Frühen Neuzeit. Dichterinnen, Malerinnen, Mäzeninnen, Darmstadts: Primus Verlag. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2000. Paul Russell, Lay Theology in the Reformation: Popular Pamphleteers in Southwest Germany 1521–1525, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press 1986. Martin H. Jung, Nonnen, Prophetinnen, Kirchenmütter. Kirchen- und frömmigkeitsgeschichtliche Studien zu Frauen der Reformationszeit, Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt Gmb 2002. Barbara Becker-Cantarino, Der lange Weg zur Mündigkeit: Frau und Literatur 1500–1800. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler 1987; Barbara Becker-Cantarino, Die Frau von der Reformation zur Romantik: Die Situation der Frau vor dem Hintergrund der Literatur- und Sozialgeschichte. Bonn: Bouvier 1980.

2. See e.g., Natalie Zemon, “Gender and Genre; Women as Historical Writers, 1400–1820” in: Patricia H. Labalme (ed), Beyond Their Sex: Learned Women of the European Past, New York: New York University Press 1980, pp. 153–182. Natalie Zemon Davis, “Women’s History in Transition: The European Case” in: Feminist Studies 3 (1975/1976), pp. 83–103. Merry E. Wiesner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. New Approaches to Modern European History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1993/2000 (2nd ed.). Merry E. Wiesner, “Studies of Women, Family and Gender” in: William Maltby (ed) Reformation Europe: A Guide to Research II. St. Louis: Center for Reformation Research 1982, pp. 159–187. Joan Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” in: American Historical Review 91 (1986), pp. 1053–1075. Heide Wunder, Gisela Engel (eds), Geschlechterperspektiven Forschungen zur Frühen Neuzeit, Königstein: Taunus 1998. Joan Kelly, Women, History, and Theology, Chicago: University of Chicago 1984.

3. In addition to works listed in the endnote above, see, e.g., Miriam Chrisman, “Women and the Reformation in Strasbourg 1490–1530” in: Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 63 (1972), pp. 143–168. Susan C. Karant-Nunn, “Continuity and Change: Some Effects of the Reformation on the Women of Zwickau” in: Sixteenth Century Journal 12 (1982), pp. 17–42. Susan C. Karant-Nunn, “The Transmission of Luther’s Teachings on Women and Matrimony: The Case of Zwickau” in: Archives for Reformation History 77 (1986), pp. 31–46. Jane Dempsey Douglass, “Women and the Continental Reformation” in: Rosemary Radford Ruether (ed) Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, New York: Simon and Schuster 1974, pp. 292–318. Roland Bainton, Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House/ Academic Renewal Press 1971/2001. Roland Bainton, Women of the Reformation in England and France, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House/ Academic Renewal Press, 1974/2001. Roland Bainton, Women of the Reformation from Spain to Scandinavia, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1977/2001. Sherrin Marshall (ed), Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe: Public and Private Worlds. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 1989. William Monter, „Protestant Wives, Catholic Saints, and the Devil’s Handmaid: Women in the Age of Reformations” in Renate Bridenthal, Claudia Koonz, and Susan Stuard (eds): Becoming Visible: Women in European History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1987, pp. 203–221. Heide Wunder, “Es ist die Sonn, sie ist der Mond.” Frauen in der Frühen Neuzeit, Münich: Beck 1992/1998 (in English, He is the Sun, She is the Moon: Women in the Early Modern Germany, transl. Thomas Dunlap, Cambridge: Harvard: University Press 1998). Angelika Nowicki-Patuschka, Frauen in der Reformation: Untersuchungen zum Verhalten von Frauen in der Reichstädten Augsburg und Nürnberg zur reformatorischen Bewegung zwischen 1517 und 1537, Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus-Verlagsgesellschaft 1990.

4. Elsie McKee’s analysis of Katharina Schütz Zell’s life and theology in context provide an example for the kind of work very much in need in the field. Similarly important works come from by Paul Matheson on Argula von Grumbach and Mary McKinley on Marie Dentière. Merry Wiesner-Hanks’ pioneering work in providing translations of women’s texts, interpretations of the role of gender in women’s lives, and identifying both writing and “working women” in sixteenth-century are invaluable on many accounts. E.g. Lisa DiCaprio and Merry E. Wiesner, Lives and Voices, Sources in European Women’s History, Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2001; also Monica Chojnacka and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Ages of Woman, Ages of Man, Sources in European Social History, London: Pearson Education, 2002.

5. This paper, in a much shorter form, was originally planned for the 2006 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Salt Lake City.

6. Thysell, Carol, The Pleasure of Discernment. Marguerite de Navarre as Theologian, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000, 3.

7. Gretha Jacobsen, “Nordic Women and the Reformation” in: Marshall, Women in Reformation, pp. 54, also 47–67.

8. Lyndal Roper, Holy Household, Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989, 2–3.

9. See Merry Wiesner-Hanks, (ed) Convents Confronting Reformation. Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany, transl. Joan Skocir and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, “Introduction,” pp. 11–25, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press 1996/1998. Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Women and Gender, 215–218, 228–230. Jane Dempsey Douglas, “Women,” 303–309. William Monter, “Protestant Wives,” 206–207. Martin Jung, Nonnen, pp. 13–15. Charmarie Blaisdell, “Religion, Gender, and Class: Nuns and Authority in Early Modern France” in: Michael Wolfe (ed) Changing Identities in Early Modern France, Durham, NC: Duke University 1999, pp. 147–168.

10. See Thysell “The Pleasure,” pp. 3, 4. Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Women and Gender, pp. 244. Natalie Zemon Davis “City Women,” pp. 72–73, 80–83. Christine Peters, Patterns of Piety. Women, Gender and Religion in Late Medieval and Reformation England, Cambridge University Press 2003. Merry Wiesner, “Women’s Response to the Reformation” in: Ronnie Po-chia Hsia (ed) The German People and the Reformation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1988, pp. 148–171.

11. On women’s piety, responses and obstacles, see Thysell “The Pleasure,” pp. 3, 4. Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Women and Gender, pp. 244. Natalie Zemon Davis “City Women,” pp. 72–73, 80–83. Christine Peters, Patterns of Piety. Women, Gender and Religion in Late Medieval and Reformation England, Cambridge University Press 2003. Merry Wiesner, “Women’s Response to the Reformation” in: Ronnie Po-chia Hsia (ed) The German People and the Reformation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1988, pp. 148–171.

12. See Lowell Green, “The Education of Women in the Reformation” in: History of Education Quarterly 19 (Spring 1979), pp. 93–116. Phyllis Stock, Better than Rubies: A History of Women’s Education, New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons 1978. Roland Bainton, “Learned Women in the Europe of the Sixteenth Century” in Labalme Beyond, pp. 117–125. Natalie Zemon Davis, “City Women,” pp. 65–95, 72. Barbara Whitehead (ed), Women’s Education in Early Modern Europe. Studies in the History of Education Volume 7, New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc. 1999.

13. Margaret Sommerville, Sex and Subjection: Attitudes to Women in Early-Modern Society, London: Arnold 1995. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness; From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1993. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, New York: Oxford University Press 1986.

14. Margot King and Albert Rabil Jr., “The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: Introduction to the Series” in Elsie McKee (ed): Katharina Schütz Zell. Church Mother. The Writings of a Protestant Reformer in Sixteenth-Century Germany, transl. by Elsie McKee, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press 2006, p. xxii (also pp. ix–xxix). E.g., Olimpia Morata was “attacked as a ‘Calvinist Amazon'” after her death, whereas “other women scholars viewed her as a light shining in the darkness.” So Holt N. Parker in idem (ed) Olympia Fulvia Morata, 1526–1555. The Complete Writings of an Italian Heretic, transl. by Holt N. Parker, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2003, pp. 1–2.

15. Wiesner-Hanks, “Kinder,” p. 149; idem Women and Gender, pp. 223; 1986.

16. See Dorothea Vorländer „Olympia Fulvia Morata — eine evangelische Humanistin in Schweingurt” in: Zeitschrift für Bayerische Kirchengeschichte 39 (1970):95–113. Janet Smarr, Janet, “Olympia Morata: From Classicist to Reformer” in Deanne Shemek, Dennis Looney (eds): Phaethon’s Children: The Este Court and its Culture in Early modern Ferrara, Teme, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 2004, pp. 321–343. Holt N. Parker, “Latin and Greek Poetry by Five Renaissance Italian Women Humanists” in Paul Allen Miller, Barbara K. Gold, Charles Platter (eds), Sex and Gender in Medieval and Renaissance Texts, Albany: State University of New York Press 1997, pp. 247–285.

17. Parker, Olympia, pp. 101–103.

18. Janet Levarie Smarr, Joining the Conversation: Dialogues by Renaissance Women, Ann Arbor: University of Michican Press 2005, pp. 80–81.

19. Parker, Olympia, pp. 269–270. Her epitaph, by Jerome Angenoust, reads: “Nature denied you nothing of all her gifts with one exception: that you were a woman.” (Parker, Olympia, p. 213.)

20. For Olimpia’s works, see Parker (ed) Olympia Fulvia Morata, 1526–1555. The Complete Writings of an Italian Heretic, ed. and transl. Holt N. Parker, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2003, pp. 269–270. See also Lanfranco Caretti (ed) Olimpia Morata, Opere, vol. I. Epistolae, vol. II. Orationes, Dialogi et Carmina, Ferrara: Deputazione Provinciale Ferrarese di Storia Patria 1954. Mostly Olimpia’s texts from her youth and years in Ferrara have survived (from 1549–1541), whereas her later words disappeared as casualties of war in Germany where she relocated after marriage. The first edition of 1558 was dedicated to Isabella de Bresegna, the 1562 augmented edition to Queen Elisabeth of England, after which new nearly identical editions followed in 1570 and 1580. See, Olympiae Fulviae Moratae mulieris omnium eruditissimae Latina et Graeca, quae haberi potuerunt, monumenta, eaque plane divina, cum eruditorum de ipsa iudiciis et laudibus. Hippolytae Taurellae elegia elegantissima. Ad ill. Isabellam Bresegnam. Basileae apud Petrum Pernam, MDLVIII, ed. Caius Secundus Curio, Basel: Petrum Pernam 1558. See Olympiae Fulviae Moratae foeminae doctissimae ac plane divinae Orationes, Dialogi, Epistolae, Carmina tam Latina quam Graecae cum eruditoru de ea testimonijs & laudibus. Hippolytae Taurellae elegia elegantissima. Ad Sereniss. Angliae reginam D. Elisabetam, ed. Caius Secundus Curio. 2nd, Basileae/Basel: Petrum Pernam 1562. (Also in Microfilm History of Women, reel 62 no 396. New Haven Conn.: Research publications 1975.)

21. “A brilliant scholar, she gave public lectures on Cicero, wrote commentaries on Homer, and composed poems, dialogues, and orations in both Latin and Greek. She was one of the most sophisticated and flexible Latin stylists of her age. She was also a Protestant in papal lands, a profound student of the Bible, who underwent a crisis of faith to emerge stronger. Thrown into disfavor at court, she married for love and love of learning. In search of religious freedom, she and her husband went over the Alps to Germany. There she communicated with leading Reformation theologians, continued her studies, wrestled with the mysteries of predestination and the Eucharist, and wrote Greek poems that won praise across Europe.” (Parker, Olympia 2003, p. 1).

22. Argula von Grumbach, Wie ein Christliche Fraw des adels / in // Beyern durch iren / in Gotlicher schrifft / wolgegrund // tenn Sendbrieffe/ die hohenschul zu Ingoldstat / // vmb das sie eynen Euangelischen Jungling / zu widersprechung des wort gottes. Betrangt// haben / straffet. Actum Ingelstat. M D Xxiij, Erfurt: Matthes Maler, 1523. [Köhler: Fiche 1002/2543.] See Theodor Kolde, “Arsacius Seehofer und Argula von Grumbach” in: Beiträge zur bayerischen Kirchengeschichte 11 (1905), pp. 49–77, 97–124, 149–188 (ibid. 1922 vol. 22:162–164).

23. Argula von Grumbach, Wie ein Christliche Fraw des adels / in // Beyern durch iren / in Gotlicher schrifft / wolgegrund // tenn Sendbrieffe/ die hohenschul zu Ingoldstat / // vmb das sie eynen Euangelischen Jungling / zu widersprechung des wort gottes. Betrangt// haben / straffet. Actum Ingelstat. M D Xxiij. Erfurt: Matthes Maler 1523. [Köhler: Fiche 1002/2543.] Ain Christennliche schrifft // ainer Erbarn frawen / vom Adel // darinn sy alle Christenliche stendt / vnd obrigkayten ermant/ Bey // der warheit / vnd dem wort // Gottes zuo bleyben / vnd // solchs auß Christlicher // pflicht zum ernstlich // sten zuo handt // haben.// Argula Staufferin. M.D.xxii. Augsburg: Philipp Ulhart Sr. 1523. [Köhler: Fiche 16/66.] An ain Ersamen // Weysen Radt der stat // Ingolstat / ain sandt // brief / von Fraw // Argula von grun // back gebore // von Stauf // fen. Augsburg: Philipp Ulhart Sr., 1523. [Köhler 5/19.] Dem // Durchleuchtigen hochge // bornen Fürsten vnd herren /Herren Jo // hansen / Pfaltzgrauen bey Reyn // Hertzogen zuo Beyern / Grafen // zuo Spanheym x. Mey // nem Gnedigisten // Herren. Argula Staufferin. Augsburg: Philipp Ulhart Sr., 1523. [Köhler: Fiche 284:818.] Dem durchleuchtigisten Hoch // gebornen Fürsten vnd herren /Herrnn Fri // derichen. Hertzogen zuo Sachssen / Des // hayligen Römischen Reychs Ertz // marschalck unnd Churfürsten / // Landtgrauen in Düringen / unnd Marggrauen zuo // Meyssen / meynem // gnedigisten // herren.// Argula Staufferin. Augsburg: Philipp Ulhart Sr., 1523? [Köhler: Fiche 10/40.] An den Edlen // und gestrengen he // ren / Adam von Thering // der Pfalzgrauen stat // halter zuo Newburg // x. Ain sandtbrieff // von fraw Argula // von Grumbach // geborne von // Stauf // fen. Augsburg: Philipp Ulhart Sr., 1523. [Köhler: Fiche 967:2427.] Ein Sendbrieff der edeln // Frawen Argula Staufferin / an die // von Regensburg. // M.D. Xxiiij. Nuremberg: Hans Hergot, 1524 [Panzer 2342]. Eyn Antwort in // gedichtß weiß / ainem auß d // hohen Schul zu Ingol // stat / auff ainen spruch // newlich con jm auß // gangen / welcher // hynden dabey // getruckt // steet. // Anno. D.M. Xxiiij. // Rom. X. // So mann von hertzen glawbt / wirt // man rechtuertig / so man aber mit dem // mundt bekennet / wirt mann selig. // Argula von Grumbach / // geboren von Stauff. // Eyn Spruch von der // Staufferin / jres Dispu // tierens halben. // Nuremberg: Hieronumus Höltzel, 1524. [Köhler: Fiche 285:820.]

24. Argula’s writings consist of several letters (see above for editions): The first two, on September 20th, 1523, she wrote to the University of Ingolstadt (printed in 14 editions) and to the Duke Wilhelm (IV). Other letters followed: on October 28th, 1523 she wrote to the Mayor and the city council of Ingolstadt, on December 1st, 1523 to the Count Palatine Johann von Simmern and to Fredrick the Wise. Later that month she wrote to Count Adam von Thering. On June 29th, 1524, she wrote to the city of Regensburg, and later that summer her a response to a student’s anonymous poem explicitly ridiculing her. See Paul Matheson (ed), Argula von Grumbach. A Woman’s Voice in the Reformation, Edinburgh: T&T Clark 1995. Her first letter, to the University of Ingolstadt from 1523 went through 14 editions. See Paul Matheson, Argula, p. 57.

25. Similar arguments on the role of her gender, see Wiesner, “Nuns, Wives,” p. 22; Wiesner, “Women’s Response,” p. 169.

26. See Matheson, Argula, pp. 76–77 (“The Account”). She maintained through her adult life a personal contact with the Reformers in Wittenberg, especially Melanchthon, Luther, and Spalatin. See Theodor Kolde, “Arsacius Seehofer und Argula von Grumbach” in: Beiträge zur bayerischen Kirchengeschichte 11 (1905), pp. 49–77, 97–124, 149–188 (ibid. 1922 vol. 22:162–164), pp. 169–170, 64, 115, 62.

27. See Matheson, Argula, pp. 86–87 (“The Account”).

28. Matheson, Argula, p. 90 (“The Account”). She wrote primarily as a Christian, which mattered in her mind more than being a Lutheran or a woman: “I am called a follower of Luther, but I am not. I was baptized in the name of Christ; it is him I confess and not Luther. But I confess that Martin, too, as a faithful Christian, confesses him.” (1523 letter to Adam von Thering, the Count Palatine’s Administrator in Neuburg). Matheson, Argula, p. 145.

29. Matheson, Argula, pp. 120–121 (“To the Honourable.”) See Silke Halbach, Argula von Grumbach als Verfasserin reformatorischer Flugschriften. Europäische Hochschulschriften; Reihe XXIII, Theologie Bd. 468, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang 1992. Maria Heinsius, „Das Bekenntnis der Frau Argula von Grumbach” in: Christliche Wehrkraft (1936) 34. Kurt Erich Schöndorf, „Argula von Grumbach, eine Verfasserin von Flugschriften in der Reformationszeit” in Jorunn Valgard, Elsbeth Wessel (eds): Frauen und Brauenbilder Dokumentiert durch 2000 Jahre. Osloer Beiträge zur Germanistik, volume 8, Oslo: Universitet i Oslo Germanistisk institutt 1983, pp. 182–202. Barbara Becker-Cantarino, „Religiöse Streiterinnen: Katharina Zell und Argula von Grumbach” in idem: Der lange Weg zur Mündigkeit: Frau und Literatur (1500–1800). Stuttgart: Metzler 1987, pp. 96–110.

30. On Luther and Argula, see Bainton, Women, 106–109; WABr 4:706; 2:509. Also Matheson, Argula 18, 21, footnotes 48, 58; WABr 3: 247/25–34 21; WABr 3:235; 4:605.

31. Katharina’s published works consist of: Entschuldigung Katharina Schützinn/für M. Matthes Zellen/jren Eegemahel/ der ein Pfarrher und dyener ist im wort Gottes zu Strassburg. Von wegen grosser lügen uff jn erdiecht (Strasbourg: W. Köpffel, 1524) (= „Katharina Schütz’s Apologia for Master Matthew Zell, her Husband”); Den leydenden Christglaubigen weyberen der gmein zu Kentzigen minen mitschwestern in Christo Jesus zu handen (Strasbourg, 1524) (=that is, “Letter to the Suffering Women of the Community of Kentzingen”); Den Psalmen Miserere/mit dem Khünig David bedacht/ gebettet/ und paraphrasirt von Katharina Zellin M. Matthei Zellen seligen nachgelassne Ehefraw/ sampt dem Vatter unser mit seiner erklarung/ zugeschickt dem Christlichen mann Juncker Felix Armbruster/zum trost in seiner kranckheit/ und andern angefochtenen hertzen und Concientzen/ der sünd halben betrubt &c. In truck lassen kommen (=that is, “The Misere Psalm Meditated, Prayer, and Paraphrased with King David by Katharina Zell… Sent to the Christian Man Sir Feliz Armbruster”); Klag red und ermahnung Catharina Zellin zum volk bey dem grab m: Matheus Zellen pfarer zum münster zu Straßburg/ deß frommen mannß/ bey und über seinen todten leib. (January 11, 1548) (=”Lament and Exhortation of Katharina Zell to the People at the Grave of Master Matthew Zell”); Ein Brieff an die gantze Burgershafft der Statt Strassburg/ von Katherina Zellin/ dessen jetz saligen Matthei Zellen/ deß alten und ersten Predigers des Evangelij diser Statt/nachgelassene Ehefraw/Betreffend Herr Ludwigen Rabus / jetz ein Prediger der Statt Ulm / sampt zweyen brieffen jr und sein/ die mag mengklich lessen und urtheilen on gunst und hasß/ sonder allein der war heit warnemen. Dabey auch ein sanffte antwort/ auff jeden Artickel/ seines briefs (Strasbourg, December 1557) (=”A Letter to the Whole Citizenship of the City of Strasbourg from Katharina Zell … concerning Mr Ludwig Rabus”); Von Christo Jesus unseerem saligmacher/ seiner Menschwerdung/ Geburt/ Beschneidung/ etc. etlich Christliche und trostliche Lobgsang/auß einem vast herrlichen Gsangbuch gezogen/Von welchem inn der Vorred weiter anzeygt würdt (Strasbourg: J. Froelich, 1534–36) (=that is, “Some Christian and Comforting Songs of Praise about Jesus Christ Our Savior.”) All these works are available in critical German edition and in modern English translation: Elsie McKee (ed), Katharina Schütz Zell. The Writings. A Critical Edition. Volume 2, Leiden, Boston, Koln: E. J. Brill 1999. Elsie McKee, Katharina Schütz Zell. Church Mother. The Writings of a Protestant Reformer in Sixteenth-Century Germany, transl. by Elsie McKee, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press 2006.

32. The hymnbook was the first edition of the Bohemian Brethren’s hymns, and the first hymnbook published in German. She described her book as follows: “I found such an understanding of the work of God in this songbook that I want all people to understand it. Indeed, I ought much rather to call it a teaching, prayer, and praise book than a songbook. However, the little word ‘song’ is well and properly spoken, for the greatest praise of God is expressed in song.” McKee, Katharina (2006), p. 93, see pp. 82–92, 82–96. See McKee, Reforming Popular Piety in Sixteenth-Century Strasbourg. Katharina Schütz Zell and Her Hymnbook. Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary 1994.

33. McKee, Katharina, pp. 224–225.

34. She wrote letters, both personal and public, and especially letters for pastoral care purposes; many of her works had apologetical or polemical nature, or they were catechetical texts, devotional pieces, always biblically referenced, and sometimes homiletical. Autobiographical themes dominate, with reflection on biblical texts’ meanings in the particular situation she was writing for. She even wrote sermons, and edited hymns to better reflect the new theology and people’s experiences. See McKee, Katharina (1999 vol 2.)

35. See Barbara Becker-Cantarino, „Religiöse Streiterinnen: Katharina Zell und Argula von Grumbach” in idem: Der lange Weg, pp. 96–110. Gabriele Jancke/Pirna, „Prophetin — Pfarrfrau — Publizistin. Die Strasbourger, ‚Kirchenmutter’ Katharina Zell” in: Frauen mischen sich sein, Frauen mischen sich ein; Katharina Luther, Katharina Melanchthon, Katharina Zell, Hille Feicken und andere, Evanglisches Predigerseminar, Wittenberger Sonntagsvorlesungen, 2. Aufl.Wittenberg: Drei Kastanien Verlag 1995/1997, pp. 55–80. Christian Moeller, „Katharina Zell (1497/98–1562): Kirchenmutter von Strassburg” in Peter Zimmerling (ed): Evangelische Seelsorgerinnen: biografische Skizzen, Texte und Programme, Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2005, pp. 46–63. Martin Jung, “Katharina Zell geb. Schütz (1497/98–1562). Eine Laientheologin der Reformationszeit?” in: Jung, Nonnen, pp. 121–168. Thomas Kaufmann,”Pfarrfrau und Publizistin — Das reformatorische ‚Amt’ der Katharina Zell” in: Zeitschrift für Historiche Forschung 23 (1996), pp. 169–218.

36. Unlike most lay writers of the time, Katharina continued to publish after 1520s till the end of her life. She used her father’s name Schütz, or Schützin, in her publications, as well as a feminine form of her husband’s name, Zellin. See Jung, Nonnen, pp. 125–128,133–135, 184–185, 220, 231; McKee, Katharina, p. xiv. See Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Merry, „Katherina Zell’s Ein Brieff an die ganze Bürgerschaft der Statt Strassburg as Autobiograpy and Theology” in: Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift für Germanistik 28 (3/4) (1995): pp. 245–254.

37. Mary McKinley (ed), Epistle to Marguerite de Navarre; and, Preface to a Sermon by John Calvin, by Marie Dentière, ed. and transl. Mary B. McKinley, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, London 2004. Cynthia Skenazi, “Marie Dentière et la prédication des femmes” in: Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 21, no. 1 (1997), pp. 5–18. Madeleine Lazard, “Deux soeurs enemies, Marie Dentière et Jeanne de Jussie: Nonnes et réformeés à Genève « in B. Chevalier, C. Sauzat (eds): Les réformes: Enracinements socio-cultures. XXV colloque d’études humanists, Tours, 1–13 juillet 1982, Paris: La Maisnie (1985), pp. 233–249. Thomas Head, “Marie Dentière” in Katharina M. Wilson (ed): An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers, New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1991, pp. 303–304.

38. La querre et délivrance de la ville de Genesve de fidèlement faicte et composée par un Marchand demourant en icelle (1536), with excerpts from L’Epistre tres utile, including Defense pour les Femmes, in A. Rilliet (ed): “Restitution de l’ecrit intitulé La Guerre et Deslivrance de la ville de Genesve,” Mémoires et documents publiés par la Sociéte d’histoire et d’archéologie de Genève, 20, 1878–88 (1881), pp. 309–383. In English: The War for and Deliverance of the City of Geneva, Faithfully Prepared and Written Down by a Merchant Living in That City. See McKinley, Marie.

39. Marie D’entière à Marguerite de Navarre. Publiée à Genève vers la fin d’avril 1539. Epistre tres utile faicte et composée par une femme Chrestienne de Tornay, Envoyée à la Royne de Navarre seur du Roy de France, Contre Les Turcz, Iuifz, Infideles, Faulx chrestiens, Anabaptists, et Lutheriens, [à Anvers, chez Martin l’empereur] Geneva: Jean Gérard 1539. In A.L. Herminjard (ed): Correspondance des Réformateurs dans les pays de langue française: Recueillie et publiée avec d’autres letters relatives à la Réforme et des notes historiques et biographiques, 9 vols., 1866–1897, reprint, Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf 1965–1966 (Vol. 5), pp. 295–304. In English: A Most Beneficial Letter, Prepared and Written Down by a Christian Woman of Tournai, and Sent to the Queen of Navarre, Sister of the King of France, Against the Turks, the Jews, the Infidels, the False Christians, Anabaptists and the Lutherans (1539). See McKinley, Marie.

40. Marie Dentière, Preface to a Sermon by John Calvin. In: Les Conditions et vertus requises en la femme fidèle et bonne mesnagere: Contenues au xxxi. Chapitre des Prouerbes de Salomon. Mis en forme de Cantique, par Théodore de Besze. Plus, un Sermon de la modestie des Femmes en leurs habillemens, par. M. Iean Calvin. Outre, plusieurs chansons spirituelles, en Musique, 1561. In English: The Behavior and Virtues Required of a Faithful Woman and Good Housekeeper: Contained in chapter XXI of the Proverbs of Solomon. Rendered in the form of a song by Théodore de Bèze. Plus a sermon on the modesty of Women in their Dress, by Monsiuer John Calvin. In addition, several spiritual songs with music, M.D. LXI. s.l. See, Jean Calvin, Sermon où il est montré quelle doit etre la modestie des femmes en leurs habillements [sur 1 Timothèe 2:9–11]. Genéve: Kundig. Prèface de M[arie] D[entière] 1945.

42. McKinley, Marie, pp. 53, 56. Jane Dempsey Douglass, Women, Freedom and Calvin, The Westminster Press: Philadelphia 1985, pp. 104–105. “This conviction of Dentière that God is now giving women grace to write about theology and preach the gospel and that they are under obligation now to use that talent and gift of grace is an essential part of her vision of God’s present activity in the world.” Head, Marie, pp. 260, 263–264.

43. McKinley, Marie, pp. 53–54; Douglass, Women (1985), pp. 103–104. Irena Backus, “Marie Dentière; Un cas de féminisme théologique à l’èpoque de la Rèforme?” in: Bulletin de la Société de l”histoire du Protestantisme Français: études historiques 137 (1991), pp. 177–195.

44. Dempsey, Women, p.p. 103–104. Ingrid Åkerlund, “Jeanne de Jussie and Marie Dentière. Two Abbesses Persecuted for Their Religious Beliefs” in idem (ed): Sixteenth Century French Women Writers. Marguerite d’Angouleme, Anne de Graville, the Lyonnese School, Jeanne de Jussie, Marie Dentière, Camille de Morel, The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston Queenston, Lampeter 2003, p. 111, and passim pp. 105–126. Head, Marie, pp. 264–265.

45. McKinley, Marie, pp. 76–77, also pp. 24–25.

47. Matheson, Argula, pp. 101, also 108 (“A Christian Writing”).

48. McKee, Katharina, p. 128.

49. Ursula von Münsterberg/Bainton Women (1971), pp. 51–52, also 45–53. Wiesner-Hanks, Conents, 39–63, 12, 13.

50. Matheson, Argula, pp. 75, 77. (See ibid., pp. 16–17, footnote 44.) Also in the case of Marie Dentière, “The power of the ‘pure Word of God’ to liberate the oppressed is a central theme of the theology of history of Marie Dentière.” Jane Dempsey Douglass, “Marie Dentière’s Use of Scripture in Her Theology of History” in Mark Burrows, Paul Rorem (eds): Biblical Hermeneutics in Historical Perspective; Studies in Honor of Karlfried Froelich on His Sixtieth Birthday, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans 1991, pp. 227, and 228, see 227–244.

51. McKee, Katharina, p. 64, 82. Similarly, “The power of the ‘pure Word of God’ to liberate the oppressed is a central theme of the theology of history of Marie Dentière.” Douglass, Marie, p. 227, also 228.

52. Martin Treu (ed), Katharina von Bora, die Lutherin: Aufsätze analäßlich ihres 500. Geburtstages, Wittenberg: Elbe-Druckerei 1999. Martin Treu, Katharina von Bora, Wittenberg: Drei Kastanien Verlag, 1995. [Peter Freybe (ed)] Mönschure und Morgenstern. Katharina von Bora, die Lutherin — im Urteil der Zeit, als Nonne, eine Frau von Adel, als Ehefrau und Mutter, eine Wirtschafterin und Saumärkterin, als Witwe. 1999, Evanglisches Predigerseminar, Wittenberg: Drei Kastaninen Verlag 1999. In particular, ibid., Ute Gause„Katharina von Bora, die Lutherin — Ehefrau und Mutter,” pp. 9–35.

53. See Wiesner-Hanks, „Kinder,” p. 144. Wiesner-Hanks, Women and Gender, p. 222. Merete Nielsen, Merete, „Kinder, Küche und Kirche.’ Pfarrfrauen der Reformationszeit in Südwestdeutschland und der Schweiz” in: Treu Katharina von Bora (1999), p. 128, see also pp. 128–158. See Inge Mager, „Theologenfrauen als ‚Gehilfinnen’ der Reformation” in Martin Treu: Katharina von Bora, pp. 117, 121, also pp. 113–127. Johanness Wahl, „… sich in das dorffwesen gar nicht schicken kann.” Pfarrfrauen des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts zwischen bürgerlicher Ehe und ländlicher Lebenswelt” in Martin Treu, Katharina von Bora, pp. 179–191. Other pastors’ wives could be listed here as well: Walburga Bugenhagen, Elisabeth Cruciger, Ottilie Müntzer, Anna Rhegius, Agnes Roettel-Capito, Wibrandis Rosenblatt-Keller-Oecolampadius-Capito-Buzer, Katharina Firin-Anton Firn, Anna Reinhart-Zwingli (many of whom were introduced in Bainton’s works). Louise Schorn-Schütte, “Il matrimonio come professione: la moglie del pastore evangelico” in Anne Jacobson Schütte, Thomas Kuehn, Silvana Seidel Menchi (eds): Tempi e spazi di vita femminile tra medioevo ed èta moderna, Bologna: Il Mulino 1999, pp. 255–277. Louise Schorn-Schütte, Walter Sparn (eds), Evangelische Pfarrer: zur sozialen und politischen Rolle einer bürgerlichen Gruppe in der deutschen Gesellschaft des 18. bis. 20. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer 1997.

54. McKee, Katharina, p. 226. See also ibid., 15–16; Jung, Nonnen, pp. 126–127.

55. Ingeborg Klettke-Mengel, Fürsten und Fürstenbriefe. Zur Briefkultur im 16. Jahbundert an geheimen und offiziellen preußisch — braunschweigischen Korrespondenzen, Köln: Grote 1986. Ingeborg Klettke-Mengel, „Elisabeth, Herzogin von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Calenberg) 1510–1558″ in: Neue Deutsche Biographie, Band 4 (1959), pp. 443f. Ingeborg Klettke-Mengel, „Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Lüneburg als reformatorische Christin” in: Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für niedersächsische Kirchengeschichte 56 (1928), pp. 1–16. Inge Mager, „Wegert euch das lieben heiligen Creutzes nicht.” Das Witwentrostbuch der Herzogin Elisabeth von Calenberg-Göttingen,” in Hartmut Boockmann (ed): Kirche und Gesellschaft im Heligien Römischen Reich des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen 1994, pp. 207–224. Paul Tschackert, „Herzogin Elisabeth von Münden (gest. 1558), die erste Schriftstellerin aus dem Hause Brandenburg und aus dem braunschweigischen Hause” in: Hohenzollern Jahrbuch III (1899), pp. 49–65. Merry Wiesner-Hanks, “Kinder,” passim. Barbara Becker-Cantarino 1984 TITLE?

56. Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Der Durchleuchtigen Hochgebornen Fürstin und Frawen/Frawen Elisabetg geborne Marckgravin zu Brandenburg u. Hertzogin zu Braunschweig und Lueneburg beschlossem und verwilligtes Mandat inirem Fürstenthum Gottes Wort auffzurichten/Und irrige verfürte lerr außzurotten belangent, Münden 1542. Ein Christlicher Sendebrieff der Durchleuchtigen Hochgebornen Fuerstinnen und Frawen F. Elisabeth geborne Marggraffinnen zu Brandenburg, etc. Hertzoginnen zu Braunschweig und Luneburg etc. Witwen/an alle irer F. G. und irer F. G. Hertzlichen Sons Erichs Untertanen geschrieben/ Christiliche besserung und newes Gottseliges leben/ so in dieser letsten bösen zeit/ Die hohe nod fordert/ belangend, Hannover 1545.
Der Widwen Handbüchlein, durch eine hocherleuchte fürstliche Widwe/vor vielen Jahren selbst beschrieben und vefasset/Jetzt aber wiederumb auff newe gedruckt/Allen Christlichen Widwen/hohes und nieder Standes/zu besonderem Trost. Leipzig 1598. Unterrichtung und Ordnung für Herzog Erich d.J. In: V. Friedrich Karl von Strombeck (ed) Deutscher Fürstenspiegel aus dem 16. Jahrhundert, Braunschweig: Friedrich Vieweg 1924, pp. 57–130.

57. Elisabeth von Braunschweig in Wiesner, Kinder, pp. 146–147. Becker-Cantarino 1984, pp. 207, 216–217. Merry Wiesner-Hanks, “Herzogin Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Lüneberg (1510–1558)” in Merkel and Wunder, Deutsche Frauen, pp. 40, 46–47, passim in 39–48.

58. Wiesner-Hanks, “Herzogin,” p. 41, also pp. 43–44. Becker-Cantarino 1984, 213–216. E.g., she took part in the Osiandrian converversy in her 1551 letters. Klettke-Mengel, Fürsten, pp. 75–81.

59. See Wiesner-Hanks,”Kinder,” p. 144; Wiesner-Hanks, Women and Gender, p. 222.

60. Matheson, Argula,p. 149 (“To Adam von Thering”).

61. From the trials against Lutheran, Calvinists, or Anabaptists women come important records of women articulating for their convictions they were willing to die for. Anne Askew, before she was executed in 1546 as a heretical Protestant, wrote down her experience (from 1545) and articulated her view on several debated theological issues, such as Lord’s Supper. See e.g. Elaine V. Beilin, The Examinations of Anne Askew, New York: Oxford University Press 1996. For another example, see Hermina Joldersma and Louis Grijp (eds), Elisabeth’s Manly Courage: Testimonials and Songs of Martyred Anabaptist Women in the Low Countries, Marquette: Marquette University Press 2001. Jennifer Umble, “Women and Choice: an Examination of the Martyrs’ Mirror” in: Mennonite Quarterly Review 64 (1990), pp. 135–145.

63. Wiesner-Hank, Women and Gender, pp. 189, 191. Russell, Lay Theology.

64. Charmarie Jenkins Blaisdell, “Calvin’s Letters to Women; The Courting of Ladies in High Places.” In: The Sixteenth Century Journal 13/3 (1982), pp. 66–83. F. Whitfield Barton, Calvin and the Duchess. Louisville, KY: WJKP 1989.

65. Ursula von Münsterberg, in Bainton, Women, pp. 51–52, also pp. 45–53. Wiesner-Hanks, Convents, pp. 39–63, 12, 13.

66. David Bryson, Queen Jeanne and the Promised Land: Dynasty, Homeland, Religion, and Violence in Sixteenth Century France. Leiden, Boston, Koln: E. J. Brill 1999. Nancy Lyman Roelker, Queen of Navarre: Jeanne d’Albret, 1528–1572, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 1968. Carole Levin, Jo Eldrige Carney and Debra Barrett-Graves, Elisabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman, England/Burlington VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited 1988.

67. Renée de Ferrara, in Barton, Duchess, p. 218; see p. 242, note 2. Charmarie Jenkins Blaisdell, “Renée de France between Reform and Counter-Reform,” in: Archive for Reformation History, Vol. 63 (1972), pp. 196–226.

69. Natalie Zemon Davis, Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1995, p. 151.

71. E.g., see Felicity Nussbaum, Estelle C. Jelinek (eds) The Tradition of Women’s Autobiography from Antiquity to the Present, Boston: Twayne 1986. Magdalene Heuser (ed) Autobiographien von Frauen: Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte, Tübingen: Max Niewmeyer 1996.

72. Gabriella Zarri, “Living Saints: A Typology of Female Sanctity in the Early Sixteenth Century” in Letizia Panizza and Sharon Wood (ed.): A History of Women’s Writing in Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2000, pp. 219–303. Gabriella Zarri, “Religious and Devotional Writing 1400–1600” in Panizza and Wood, A History, pp 79–91. Johannes Thiele ed), Mein Herz schmiltzt wie Eis am feuer. Die religiöse Frauenbewegung des mittelalters in Porträts, Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag 1988. Marcelle Thiebaux (ed., transl.) The Writings of Medieval Women, New York: Garland 1987. Elisabeth Petroff (ed) Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1986. Katharina M. Wilson (ed) Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformatio, Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press 1987. Lucetta Scaraffia, Gabriella Zarri (eds), Donne e fede. Santità e vita religiosa in Italia, Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza 1994.

73. Snyder, Profiles, p. 282.

75. Snyder, Profiles, pp. 8–11, 14–15, footnotes 24–25, 28. Sprunger, “God’s Powerful,” p. 46; Joldersma, “Elisabeth’s,” pp. 14–15. Joyce Irwin (ed) Women in Radical Protestantism, 1525–1675, New York: Edwin Mellen Press 1979. Ultimately the subjected role of a wife and mother overruled the need for female prophets.

76. Beilin, The Examinations, Umble, “Women and Choice.” Wiesner, Convents.

Kirsi Stjerna

Kirsi Stjerna is Associate Professor of Reformation Church History and Director for Institute of Luther Studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.