Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy

Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy

Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy

Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy


In this first installment in celebrated historian Roland Bainton's Women of the Reformation trilogy, sixteen women who are usually lost behind familiar Reformation figures and events come to life. Extensively researched and vividly told, these are the stories of unsung reformers who courageously renounced religious vows, opened their homes to those fleeing religious persecution, and faced estrangement from their families in the cause of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and Italy.


This work aims to give brief biographical sketches of women who played a prominent role in the Catholic and Protestant reform movements in the early years of the 16th century. The term Reformation is used in the title because it designates a recognizable reform, but the word is here employed in a broad sense to include not only Protestantism but also evangelical Catholicism. The arrangement is geographical. The present volume has eight sketches for Germany and six for Italy.

The reasons for undertaking this work are several. I have always had an interest in those who have not had their due, and devoted my earliest studies to the heretics of the Reformation, who were persecuted alike by the Catholics and the Protestants.

The second reason is to observe the way in which the reform was disseminated. The women constituted a half of the population, and had they boycotted the movement, one may be sure that would have been the end.

The third is to assess the impact of the Reformation on the social order. This involves the character of the family, the position of women in society, and the role of women in the church. The reform, in my judgment, had greater influence on the family than on the political and economic spheres. The reform did not extinguish the power drive nor eliminate the acquisitive instinct. It did affect domestic relations at first indirectly by the elimination of monasticism. In consequence the home became the area par excellence for the exemplification of the gentler Christian virtues: love, tenderness, sharing of goods, self-effacement, humility, reconciliation, compassion, and the bearing of one another's burdens. If Reinhold Niebuhr's book Moral Man . . .

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