Reformation Women - Part 3 - A book for all women to read
Reading about the life of each woman in “Reformation Women” has given me a wider picture of what happened as the Reformation spread across Europe during the 1500s and 1600s. It was encouraging to follow the work of the gospel down through generations and also sobering to see how many endured terrible persecution. Here is a little more about some of the remaining women profiled in Rebecca VanDoodewaard’s book.
Charlotte Arbaleste was another French woman who endured extensive persecution and suffering for her faith in Christ. It was during her lifetime that the massacre of French Protestants, called Huguenots, occurred. Though a noblewoman, this did not protect Charlotte from danger. After going into hiding, having her home looted and family and friends threatened, her eventual escape from France must have been terrifying. I was interested to read that Charlotte also engaged in encouraging men and women to read their Bibles well – to understand biblical freedom well. It seems that she was a woman of sound judgement, kindness and compassion, and that there was nothing more important to her than following Jesus.
From a young age, it was clear that French princess Charlotte de Bourbon knew her mind and was bold in sharing her opinions, as she vehemently opposed her family’s decision to send her to a convent in France. When she rose to the position of Abbess, she used the opportunity to teach reformed doctrine, leaving her open to scrutiny and hostility. Once her position became too dangerous, Charlotte fled to Heidelberg in South West Germany. It was there that she met Prince William of Orange, the Protestant ruler of the Netherlands. Theirs was a happy and harmonious marriage, somewhat rare in royal circumstances. Charlotte supported William in his position of leadership and was committed to encouraging education and for more people to understand the Bible and truly know God.
It seems that for many of these women, education was extremely important. For Louise de Coligny, it was her father than encouraged her to study God’s word and make sure her faith was in her eternal hope in Jesus. This would stand her in good stead when both her husband and father were killed in the Huguenot massacre in Paris in 1572. It’s hard to imagine facing so much heartache! But the suffering was not over for Louise. Exiled from France, she married Prince William of Orange after his wife Charlotte de Bourbon died. After only fifteen months of marriage, Louise was widowed with many step-children and her own infant to take care of. For the rest of her life she supported the Reformed churches, and raised her children well.
Along with France, the Reformed church struggled to grow in Italy. Renee of Ferrara, daughter of a French King sent to marry and live in Italy, was an example of one powerful woman who supported the Reformed church practically and financially, despite the constant persecution that she received, even from her husband. She developed a close friendship with John Calvin, and was known for her down to earth theology and generosity. Like many in the book, Renee lost almost everything because of her faith, but it didn’t stop her from providing refuge for many Huguenot’s fleeing France.
There are many things I appreciated about VanDoodewaard’s book. All of these women experienced extensive, sustained persecution throughout their lives, which at times was hard to read about. But it is a great encouragement to see their steadfast trust in Jesus despite the loss of belongings, homes, children, spouses, family and friends. They are models that should spur us on in whatever context God has placed us in.
I was also heartened to see that these women weren’t perfect, as VanDoodewaard shares honestly about some with tempestuous personalities, and others’ struggles with theology. This is a book I’d recommend to any Christian woman. Its style is accessible and easy to dip in and out of, and the content is emboldening for us in our personal walk with Jesus. In these women we see the work of God bringing people to maturity in Christ, helping them understand his word, and navigate a tumultuous period of history and trust in Jesus alone for their salvation with wisdom and grace.
VanDoodewaard ends with seven things we learn from these women, which I found quite thought-provoking: 1. A radical change in circumstance did not affect fruitfulness. 2. All of these women had multifaceted identity. 3. The Reformation women who were married to godly men knew that biblical headship and submission produce fruit. 4. These women prove that good leadership is servanthood. 5. Everyone has gifts, and everyone needs to use them. 6. God uses individual’s faithfulness to bring about his kingdom. 7. Death comes when our work is done, not before or after.
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.