Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

MARIE DENTIÈRE
(fl. 1530s)

Switzerland
Reformist, Defender of Women, and Writer

Marie Dentière was the abbess at a convent of Augustinians in Tournai in the 1520s, but she left the convent and married former priest Simon Robert. Shortly after their marriage, they met Guillaume Farel, a well-known Protestant reformer; they moved to Aigle with him, then to Strasbourg, where they grew increasingly involved in reformist activity. After Robert's death in 1533, Marie married another reformist, the shopkeeper Antoine Froment.

Marie, Froment, and their five children moved to Geneva to be near their friend, Guillaume Farel, who was especially instrumental in fanning the flames of political and religious rebellion in the city that played such an important role in the history of the Reformation. Farel, Froment, Dentière, and other activists helped galvanize the Protestant reformists' opposition to the Catholic clergy in Geneva. Several years of dissent followed, and by May 1536, Geneva had successfully overthrown the clergy and become an independent Protestant city. The transition to a Protestant city was not, however, a smooth one, given the various religious and political factions all vying for power. In 1536 the religious leader John Calvin arrived: He and Farel were influential for awhile in Geneva, but their reformist practices were ultimately considered too radical, and they were exiled from the city for several years. Calvin did not return to Geneva until 1541 when he was eventually successful in establishing himself as the powerful leader of the city's reform movement.

Marie Dentière was active in this Protestant reform movement as a speaker and as a writer of religious tracts. She published two works: The first was an account of the reform movement in Geneva in the 1520s and 1530s, The War for and Deliverance of the City of Geneva. Dentière's version of these events makes no attempt to be impartial; her chronicle is a celebration of reformist achievement, filled with biblical allusions and colorful, contemporary language. It is no sur-

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