“Many of these women were well-educated, especially by the standard of their time. They read theology books, especially the Bible, and anything they could get their hands on from the reformers. Their inner circles of friends were part of long and frequent Bible studies.”
All too often, the textbooks focus solely on the men of the Reformation—Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and others—and fail to take notice of the faithful women who served among, beside, and with the Reformers.
These women were dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ, some to the point of martyrdom. Many of these women were well-educated, especially by the standard of their time. They read theology books, especially the Bible, and anything they could get their hands on from the reformers. Their inner circles of friends were part of long and frequent Bible studies. Most were wives and mothers. Some were also authors, apologists, ex-nuns, and queens. All were faithful servants of Jesus.
Katherine von Bora was a former nun who married Martin Luther. They were married for 21 years and had six children. Her quick tongue, humor, and stubbornness matched Martin’s—no small feat. She managed their home (which was frequently full of students), had a large garden and livestock, fished and farmed, and ran a brewery. She also managed their money and took care of their extended household. Martin called her “My Lord Katie.”
Katharina Schutz Zell was married to Matthew Zell of Strasbourg and ministered as a team with her husband. She developed women’s ministries and published a book of Psalms for women to sing. She took a leading role in organizing relief for 150 men exiled from their town for their faith and wrote scriptural encouragements to the wives and children left behind. During the Peasants’ War, she organized Strasbourg to deal with 3,000 refugees for a period of six months.
Ursula von Münsterberg (1491? – 1534) was the granddaughter of King Georg Podiebrad of Bohemia. Ursala was a nun at a convent in Freiberg, Saxony. She spearheaded an effort to bring in a chaplain who was familiar with Luther and had Luther’s books smuggled into the convent. Because of this, she was forced to flee her convent in 1529, after which she stayed with the Luther family.
Argula von Grumbach was a Bavarian noblewoman who vigorously challenged the faculty of the University of Ingolstadt to debate her reformed views. Her letters were widely published.
Anna Rhegius was born in Augsburg in 1505. She had a good education, which included the study of Hebrew, enabling her to discuss biblical writings in great depth.
Elisabeth von Braunschweig married at age 15. After being married for ten years, her mother visited Elisabeth and invited a Lutheran pastor to preach. Within a year, Elisabeth converted and resolved to raise her son as a Lutheran. After the death of her husband, she wrote a book attempting to console widows, helping them through the grieving process.
Elisabeth Cruciger was from Pomerania and spent time at the convent in Treptow on Rega. She left the convent in 1522 or 1523 and married Caspar Cruciger in 1524, which marked the first official Protestant wedding. A friend of Katie Luther’s, Elizabeth was involved in theological discussions at Luther’s “table talks” and with Philip Melanchthon, who considered her to be a bright woman. She wrote the first Protestant hymn in 1524, which created a controversy since women were not usually songwriters in her day.