The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg

The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg

The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg

The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg

Synopsis

This is a fascinating study of the impact of the Reformation idea of "civic righteousness" on the position of women in Augsburg. Roper argues that its development, both as a religious credo and as a social movement, must be understood in terms of gender. Until now the effects of the Reformation on women have been viewed as largely beneficial--Protestantism being linked with the forces of progressivism, individualism, and modernization. Roper here argues that such a view of the Reformation's legacy is a profound misreading, and that the status of women was, in fact, worsened by the Reformation. A number of themes are explored: the economic position of women in the household economy; the nature of "civic righteousness" and how it applied a "reform moralism" to the role of marriage and the household; the efforts of civic authority to reform sexual deviance; the attempts to control marriage and the breakdown of marriage; and the role of convents and nuns. The Holy Household is the first scholarly account of how the Reformation affected half of society. It combines sound application of feminist theory with careful, open-ended archival research to advance our understanding of the Reformation, of feminist history, and of the place of women in modern European society.

Excerpt

The Discipline Ordinance of 1537, the most important institutional legacy of the Reformation in Augsburg, marked not only a transfer of control over marriage and morals from the Church to the civic Council, but the codification of a new psychology of sin and a distinctive language of crime--all the more powerful for being an uneasy amalgam of religious and secular traditions. the new code carried with it a kind of secular theology of gender which articulated the ideal differences between men and women, locating them in different duties, work responsibilities, and psychologies.

In its definition of sexual differences, the new rhetoric of paternal moralism rapidly developed into a new understanding of paternal power in the political sphere. As the Council assumed a far greater role in policing those who lived within the city walls, it developed a conception of its own authority which was at once more sophisticated and made far wider claims for its own jurisdiction. This aggressive interpretation of the scope of its authority found dramatic expression when, in January 1537, the Council sent the old Catholic clergy packing and locked several churches--a flagrant violation of the bishop's authority which he was powerless to stop. Yet, paradoxically, it was not only the Church which felt the pinch of this extension of the Council's jurisdiction, but the guilds. the power of the guilds suffered a significant eclipse, even though the Reformation's institutionalization was accomplished to most guildsmen's applause (apart from those reactionary craftsmen mocked by the evangelical painter and chronicler Jörg Preu because they feared the loss of the lucrative ecclesiastical commissions). We shall explore how this came about, and then show how the new organs of moral control, the Discipline Lords and the Marriage Court, became integrated into civic institutions and advanced the careers of the men who staffed them.

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