The First Lady in France

For Marie Dentière, the astonishing news of saving grace and the powerful message of equality before God were truths that had been suppressed by the Catholic Church and needed to be shouted from the housetops by anyone who had seen them for themselves in God’s word.

Far more than a historian, Marie Dentière was an articulate (if inflammatory) evangelist. She loved and revered the Bible, was distressed that the Catholic Church had withheld so much of it from the people, and preached that every person, including women, should be able to read God’s precious and glorious words for themselves.

 

Born in 1495 to a noble family in Tournai, France, Marie Dentière was well educated, entered an Augustinian convent (which was Luther’s order), and likely served as a prioress in the early 1520s. Captivated by Martin Luther’s breakthrough theology, Marie left the convent by 1525 and moved to Strasbourg to officially join the highly charged Reformation movement. In that same year, she made a second radical move when she married a former priest, Simon Robert.

Renouncing clerical celibacy and extolling the joys of marriage from Scripture became strong themes in Marie’s ministry, especially in her controversial attempts to convert nuns in Geneva. One Reformer writes that Marie and Simon Robert “were the first French married couple to accept a pastoral assignment for the Reformed Church.” The couple had five children, but Robert died in 1533. By 1535, Marie had married Antoine Froment, another Reformed pastor, and the family moved to Geneva.

Live from Geneva

Most of what we know of Dentière, which is not a great deal, is gleaned from three documents attributed to her. The first of the written works recounts the events of 1532–1536 in Geneva from the point of view of the Reformers. Dentière may have been the first Protestant writer to give an eyewitness account of that tumultuous time, and she was among the first women, if not the first, to articulate and defend Reformed theology in French.

But far more than a historian, Marie Dentière was an articulate (if inflammatory) evangelist. She loved and revered the Bible, was distressed that the Catholic Church had withheld so much of it from the people, and preached that every person, including women, should be able to read God’s precious and glorious words for themselves.

A Reformed Female Teacher?

Dentière’s most famous and controversial work was a letter to the Queen of Navarre, entitled “A Most Beneficial Letter.” The letter is a robust biblical defense of Reformed theology and an impassioned attack on the Catholic Church.

Read More