The Reformation and Women – Book Feature

As we continue to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year (1517-2017), we have been taking a glimpse at some of the new books being written and published in commemoration.

Many of these paint a broad picture of God’s reformation of the church and of Protestantism, covering its various movements and branches. Others focus on the main characters of the great Reformation – Luther, Calvin, Knox, and others of particular significance.

Not to be forgotten are the women who played an important role in this mighty reformatory event. For God, as He has throughout the history of His church, used many women – of high degree and low degree (humanly speaking) – to turn His people back to His Word during the 16th century.

And there are several old and new books that highlight the role that women played in the great Reformation. Today let’s feature some of them, so that the ladies, as well as the men, may profit from God’s work through His queens and nuns.

Reformation-Women-VanDoodewaard-2017A brand new one recently published is Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth , written by Rebecca VanDoodewaard and published by Reformation Heritage Books (2017). Here is some detail on this title as found on the publisher’s website:

Women are an essential element in church history. Just as Deborah, Esther, and the New Testament Marys helped shape Bible history, so the women of the Reformed church have helped to make its history great. In Reformation Women, Rebecca Vandoodewaard introduces readers to twelve sixteenth-century women who are not as well known today as contemporaries like Katie Luther and Lady Jane Grey. Providing an example to Christians today of strong service to Christ and His church, these influential, godly women were devoted to Reformation truth, in many cases provided support for their husbands, practiced hospitality, and stewarded their intellectual abilities. Their strength and bravery will inspire you, and your understanding of church history will become richer as you learn how God used them to further the Reformation through their work and influence.


Table of Contents:

  1. Anna Reinhard
  2. Anna Adlischweiler
  3. Katharina Schutz
  4. Margarethe Blaurer
  5. Marguerite de Navarre
  6. Jeanne d’Albret
  7. Charlotte Arbaleste
  8. Charlotte de Bourbon
  9. Louise de Coligny
  10. Catherine Willoughby
  11. Renee of Ferrara
  12. Olympia Morata




French family tree

Dutch family tree

British family tree

Bucer’s letters to Margarethe Blaurer

Mrs-Luther-Wilson-2016Another new title is Mrs. Luther and Her Sisters: Women of the Reformation by Derek Wilson (Lion Hudson, 2016). From the publisher comes this introduction:

It is a frequent complaint that women have been airbrushed out of history, their contributions forgotten, their voices silenced. In this superbly written book, historian Derek Wilson redresses the balance, showing how women were crucial to the Reformation. Working alongside men and sometimes in opposition to them women were able to study, to speak, to write, to struggle and even to die for what they believed, and to leave behind a record of all these achievements. From Catharina Luther, through English martyr Anne Askew to Elizabeth I and onwards out into Europe this book reveals the rich threads women brought to the tapestry of history.

On Reformation Heritage’s website you also find two more titles that broadly treat women of the Reformation. One is an older work that has been reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books – Famous Women of the Reformed Church by James I. Good. About this work we find the following:

The wives of the Reformers are an interesting study and have been an important element in the history of the Reformed Church. They received greatness from their husbands, and impart gentleness and beauty in return. Just as Deborah and Esther, with the Mary’s of the New Testament, aided in making up Bible history, so the women of the Reformed Church have helped make her history great. It is hoped that the lives of these Reformed saints will stimulate the women of our Church to greater interest in our splendid Church history, to greater activity in missions and the practical work of the Church. Some of the women considered are Anna Reinhard, Zwingli’s wife; Idelette D’Bures, Calvin’s wife; Anna Bullinger, Henry’s wife; Queen Margaret of Navarre and many others.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Women of the Reformation

1. Switzerland

Anna Reinhard, Zwingli’s Wife

Calvin’s Wife, Idelette D’Bures

Anna Bullinger

2. Germany

Catherine Zell

Margaret Blaarer

3. France

Queen Margaret of Navarre

Queen Jeanne D’Albert of Navarre

Charlotte D’Mornay

Phillipine De Luns

Charlotte D’Bourbon, Princess of Orange

Louisa De Coligny, Princess of Orange

4. Italy

Duchess Renee of Este

Olympia Morata

Part II: Women of the Seventeenth Century

1. Germany

Electress Elizabeth of the Palatinate

Electress Louisa Juliana of the Palatinate

Landgravine Amalie Elizabeth of Hesse Cassel

Countess Ursula of Hadamer

Countess Gertrude of Bentheim

Duchess Catharine Charlotte of Palatinate-Neuberg

Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate

Electress Louisa Henrietta of Brandenburg

2. Women of Other Lands

Countess Susan Rakoczy of Hungary

The Women of the Tower of Constance

3. Women of Switzerland

Anna Lavater

Anna Schaltter and Meta Heusser Schweitzer

4. Women of America

Mrs. Thomas C. Doremus

In the same vein is this reprinted work: Ladies of the Reformation by J. H. Alexander (Westminster Discount), about which RHB says:

Throughout the history of the church of God there has been a succession of women who have been shining examples in their life and witness.

Read the story of brave Sibylla of Cleves who defied the emperor Charles V and Katherine the Heroic who held the terrible Duke of Alva at bay in her own castle. Also retold are the stories of four Reformers’ wives Anna (Zwingli), Katherine (Luther), Idelette (Calvin), & Marjorie (Knox).

The renowned author of “More Than Notion” and “From Darkness to Light”, J. H. Alexander writes the poignant stories of several outstanding ladies of this era.

five-women-english-reformation-zahlAnother broader title with narrower focus is Five Women of the English Reformation, penned by Paul F. M. Zahl (Eerdmans, 2001). The publisher includes this brief description on its website:

Books on the history of the Reformation are filled with the heroic struggles and sacrifices of men. This compelling book by Paul Zahl puts the spotlight on five women — Anne Boleyn, Katharine Parr, Jane Grey, Anne Askew, and Catherine Willoughby — who were themselves powerful theologians and who paid the cost of their reforming convictions with martyrdom, imprisonment, and exile.

As enjoyable to read as its subject matter is fascinating, this book not only portrays important women in church history but also has much to say about the relation of gender to theology, human motivation, and God. An epilogue by Mary Zahl contributes a woman’s view of these remarkable Christian women.

Titles on individual women of the Reformation include the following:

Katherine_ParrKatherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation Queen byBrandon G. Withrow (P&R, 2009). Concerning this work the publishers states:

This book examines the life of an important, but often forgotten, Protestant Reformer. Katherine Parr, one of only a handful of women to publish in a hundred-year period in England, dared to push Henry VIII toward the Reformation, nearly losing her head as a result. This volume is a guided tour of her life, her contributions to the Reformation, and her writings. Including the full text of her two books as well as select letters, Katherine Parr presents both an intimate portrait of a woman struggling to make a difference, and a reintroduction of a classic text to the contemporary church.

Katharina-Luther-2017Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha (Baker Books, 2017). About this title the publisher provides this information:

Their revolutionary marriage was arguably one of the most scandalous and intriguing in history. Yet five centuries later we still know little about Martin and Katharina Luther’s life as husband and wife. Until now.

Against all odds, the unlikely union of a runaway nun and a renegade monk worked, over time blossoming into the most tender of love stories. This unique biography tells the riveting story of two remarkable people and their extraordinary relationship, offering refreshing insights into Christian history and illuminating the Luthers’ profound impact on the institution of marriage, the effects of which still reverberate today.

Together, this legendary couple experienced joy and grief, triumph and travail. This book brings their private lives and their love story into the spotlight and offers powerful insights into our own twenty-first-century understanding of marriage.

I will stop here for today, but an Internet search on the Christian publishing sites will yield plenty of other good things to read. Be sure to include some reading on the women of the Reformation this year!

By the way, all of these titles are in the PRC Seminary library, and some can be found for sale in our Seminary bookstore. 🙂

Published in: on August 10, 2017 at 7:33 AM  Leave a Comment