Reformation Women - Part 2
In Reformation Women, Rebecca Van Doodewaard profiles 12 women and their influence on the growth of the Protestant church throughout Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. They came from different countries, backgrounds, families, and socio-economic levels, and but each of them was committed to sharing the true gospel. Here is a snapshot of each of these women we learn more about… (VanDoodewaard writes about these women using their maiden names, mainly to avoid confusion between them when some were married multiple times.)
Anna Reinhard was born into a middle class family in Switzerland. She faced a great amount of grief in her life, losing her first husband and a child to sickness and then her second husband, son, brother and son in law in the battles between Roman Catholics and Reformers. Her second husband, Ulrich Zwingli, was a prominent preacher and one of the first to translate the Bible into German. Well known for her piety and kindness, Anna ably supported his ministry by hosting large groups of people in their home. I was struck by Anna’s faithfulness to God despite the suffering she faced throughout her life.
Anna Adlischweiler fascinated me, because she was living in a convent when she heard the Word of God preached by Zwingli (Anna Reinhard’s husband) and was convicted of the truth of the gospel. She was one of the first nuns to leave a convent and marry a priest, which brought particular persecution on Anna and her husband Henry Bullinger from Roman Catholics. While raising 11 children, Anna and Henry’s home in Zurich was a safe haven for many fleeing persecution across Europe. She regularly demonstrated a life of self-sacrifice in order to worship God, and in doing so helped support many of the young Reformers.
Jane Tooher shared about Katharina Schutz (her married name was Zell) at EQUIP17 this year. Katharina is remembered for her extensive writing, both in correspondence with other reformers, theologians and political leaders, but also in outlining and defending the key Reformation truths of the gospel. Unable to have children, Katharina dedicated her time to helping the outcasts - refugees, those in hospital with shunned diseases, and those in prison. It is about her that VanDoodewaard wrote, “she used her gifts for gospel change in her own sphere in whatever ways possible” (p24).
The next Reformation woman, Margarethe Blaurer, is distinctive from the others here in that she remained single throughout her life. She and her brothers were influential in the Swiss Reformation. I was encouraged to hear that Margarethe read widely, and was also committed to educating and training up others. She was well known for her practical support and sacrificial love for those needing help, which culminated in her early death from the plague at age 47.
Marguerite de Navarre was the first Reformed French princess. French Protestants faced sustained and awful persecution, and while Marguerite’s regal position mostly protected her from it, she still faced opposition from her husband’s brother, the King of France, to the extent that her child was taken away to be raised a Roman Catholic. Marguerite wrote extensively, particularly poems that were personal, and deeply grounded in scripture. She also used her position in society to provide refuge for many Reformers who were forced to flee their homes. I was encouraged to see her determination to be a woman involved in theological discussions as well as practically loving her brothers and sisters from any walk of life.
Thankfully, the attempts to control the faith of Marguerite’s daughter Jeanne d’Albret were unsuccessful, and she was not afraid to publically profess her Reformed faith in the kingdom of Navarre where she was Queen. This was not without consequences however, as her son was taken away from her, and she faced extensive opposition. Jeanne’s mountain kingdom became a sanctuary for French Protestants (also known as Huguenots) fleeing threat of execution. I was struck by Jeanne’s unrelenting trust in God as she took on the role of military leader. And at the same time, she was supporting the publication of the New Testament into the Basque language. Sadly, after her death the Huguenots were massacred and Protestantism in France was all but squashed. But during her lifetime Marguerite fought for reform and people’s ability to read God’s word in their own language.
I appreciated the way that Van Doodewaard provides a short but comprehensive biography of each of these women. They are accessible and easy to read discretely if you don’t have much time. I do wish that there had been a map in the back of the book, to help place many of the locations. In my next post I’ll share a bit about the remaining Reformation women Van Doodewaard brings to our attention.
Writer | Sarah Cameron I love to read, but don’t get much time to at the moment with 3 kids under 3 years old. I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where my husband Gus is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds.