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Voice, leadership, and influence among spiritualist and anabaptist women in strasbourg, 1525-1570.

Abstract: Scholars arc divided on whether the impact of the Radical Reformation on women was positive, negative, or a combination of the two. Evidence from two generations of nonconformist women in Strasbourg suggests that there is truth in all three viewpoints. Along with religious developments, factors such as social class, citizenship, and the outlook of the authorities affected the status of women. From 1525 to 1570 Spiritualist and Anabaptist women in and around Strasbourg were active in religious nonconformity and in society. Although they appear in the records less frequently than do men and usually operated behind the scenes, many possessed clear theological opinions, leadership abilities, and various forms of power. More freedom for women appeared in the early years of the Reformation, when nonconformist and societal structures were in flux, but there were also openings for dissent among second- and third-generation nonconformists. Opportunities for public leadership were generally greater among Spiritualists than among the sectarian Anabaptists, especially among Melchiorite women. Women of upper classes enjoyed more freedom to dissent than women from lower classes, but non-aristocratic women claimed similar freedoms if they held citizenship in Strasbourg. Women excluded from formal leadership positions still exercised informal power as they operated family businesses, accompanied their husbands, and influenced their children. And under persecution, nonconformist women in all decades and of all orientations showed themselves to be on par with their male co-believers.


Scholars are divided on the impact of the Radical Reformation on women. Some see it as positive, some see it as negative, and some see it as mixed, depending on the time and place. Evidence from Strasbourg, where religious nonconformists were many, suggests that in some sense all the scholars may be correct. This study investigates the voice, leadership, and influence of Spiritualist and Anabaptist women in Strasbourg from 1525 to 1570. Many women in Strasbourg held opinions about religious matters, but not all could express them overtly. Many had leadership abilities but not all could openly exercise them.

Whether women in Strasbourg expressed their voice, leadership, and influence overtly or covertly depended on a number of other factors such as social class, citizenship, the perspectives of the authorities, Spiritualist or biblicist orientations among the nonconformists, the presence or lack of flexibility in religious and social structures, and whether the women appeared in the early or later years of the Reformation.

* Strasbourg was a city of unique religious tolerance since at least the thirteenth century. During the Reformation years of the sixteenth century--and particularly after the Peasants' War of 1525, when other cities executed Anabaptists--Strasbourg offered religious dissidents shelter or at worst sent them into exile. So a wide variety of threatened religious nonconformists, sectarians, apocalypticists, mystics, social revolutionaries, and Spiritualists, fled to Strasbourg for safety.(1)

To the authorities the Spiritualists posed little threat because they focused mostly on inner faith. The apocalypticists posed a greater threat because they gathered large numbers and preached that when Christ returned, oppressive rulers would fall and the poor would inherit the earth. The authorities saw sectarians as a threat because with their concept of a free church, they formed the thin edge of the wedge that would separate church from state, and undermine the powerful church-state alliance that had long held society together and kept both parties in power.(2)

Many of these nonconformists were Anabaptists--dissidents who embraced believer's baptism in defiance of church law. Most were sectarian in outlook, but since nonconformist lines were often blurred, Anabaptists often held apocalyptic, social revolutionary, or Spiritualist tendencies. By 1532, together with local radicals, they numbered around 2,000, perhaps 20 percent of Strasbourg's adult population, and their numbers were growing.(3) In 1533-1535, fear for the official reform drove the authorities to legislate doctrine and expel them. For the Anabaptists and other radicals this was a catastrophe. Most fled the city and formed clandestine rural groups of lower artisans with uneducated leaders. In sum, Strasbourg's religious nonconformists emerged around 1525, rose to a peak around 1532, suffered a severe fall in the years 1533-1535, and then experienced a slight recovery after 1540, numbering perhaps 1,000.(4)

Our study focuses on Spiritualist and Anabaptist women--women who did not adhere to the official Reformed Church or the Roman Catholic Church. As sixteenth-century women generally carried a lower profile than did men, and as court records often identify men but not their wives or children, the number of nonconformist women mentioned in the sources is much smaller than the number of men. Still, over 100 women do appear, some identified by name and others mentioned alongside their husbands, fathers, or families.(5) Their situation and social location normally resembled that of the men in their lives--first appearing in the sources around 1526, increasing in number and influence to about 1532, suffering dispersion in the years 1533-1535, and then recovering slightly after 1540. Often they were sectarian in outlook, and sometimes with apocalyptic, social revolutionary, or Spiritualist tendencies. In terms of social profile, the majority were of the artisan class. A few benefited from education or noble standing, or both, but especially after the expulsions of 1533-1535, their social status dropped. Some had strong personalities and were articulate, and some took advantage of opportunities to express their views. For the most part, however, their work was behind the scenes, often at the side of their husbands. Although few enjoyed public or institutional recognition for their leadership, many had opinions of their own, gifts of leadership, and forms of power.


The Protestant Reformation and Women

Scholars have posited various, sometimes contradictory, perspectives on the history of women in the Protestant Reformation. Roland Bainton, Julia O'Faolain and Lauro Martines, Jane Dempsey Douglass, Sherrin Marshall Wyntjes, and Thomas Safley(6) argue that the Reformation was generally positive for women. Although legal and economic situations hindered their choices, women encountered new opportunities and took on new roles, especially during the Reformation's early years, participating visibly and behind the scenes in religious movements. In proclaiming the priesthood of all believers, and in urging literacy and education for both girls and boys, the Reformation encouraged gender equality. Along with the closing of convents, Protestants articulated a new exalted vision of marriage that envisioned the home as a place of mutual love and a school of faith. In their families women had great religious influence. Marriage was spiritual but since it was no longer a sacrament, marriage became more secular. Divorce and remarriage became legal in city marriage courts. Although women were still vulnerable in society, Protestant marriage courts, particularly in Basel, offered them greater protection.

Miriam Chrisman, focusing particularly on Strasbourg, concurs that the Reformation gave women new significance. Women were not socially equal, but with the end of clerical celibacy, the role of family and women as teachers of faith to children gained new importance. Like women of the Reformation, the women who were drawn to the Radical Reformation varied in their reactions to the reform. Some stayed in their convents while others left and married. Some refused to jeopardize their children while others followed their husbands into a refugee existence. Still others exercised leadership through visions, preaching, and moral teaching. For all, the family and home remained central, and if the marriage was good, women were equal in the Christian life.(7)

Other scholars have drawn more negative conclusions on the outcome for women in the Reformation. Natalie Zeman-Davis, Lyndal Roper, Susan Karant-Nunn, Mario Barbagli, David Kertzer, and Jeffrey Watt(8) have argued that little changed for sixteenth-century women, especially in terms of patriarchal restrictions. Despite the seemingly revolutionary announcements of salvation by faith alone, claims regarding the spiritual equality of all, the positive evaluation of women in marriage and of prophetic gifts bestowed on women, and dreams of a world made right by Christ's return, traditional attitudes hardly changed. The number of upper-class women with liberty to live out their convictions and the Spiritualist women who preached were few. In Protestant France, no sects arose with women preachers, organizers, writers, or leaders. While preachers exalted marriage and called on men to love their wives, they counseled women to be submissive and controlled marriage more tightly. The demand for marriage bans in church and parental consent for a marriage emphasized male leadership of the family, state, and church. The view of marriage as a civil contract rather than a sacrament made divorce and remarriage easier, but marriage courts generally favored men and gave abused women little recourse. And the longstanding patriarchal double standard regarding illicit sexual activity persisted. The closing of convents limited women's religious expression mostly to the home. Although literacy rates rose for both girls and boys, schools for girls were fewer and offered a smaller curriculum. Women also experienced fewer work and economic opportunities, for only at home could they oversee the production and sale of their products. In German towns women ended up in guild households, excluded from independent enterprise and political power, and subject to the married craftsman. And most women accepted society's lower estimation of their value.

Kirsi Stjerna has argued that the Reformation was both positive and negative, noting that it affected women differently in different times, places, and contexts. Proclamations of the equality of all under God and the priesthood of all believers produced ambivalent outcomes for women. While marriage ceased to be a sacrament, its social and spiritual value was elevated. With the closing of convents, women lost opportunities for leadership, and women prophets, visionaries, and mystics nearly disappeared. Women were left with an exclusively domestic role, and no options besides marriage received theological affirmation. Thus Reformation teaching reinforced the established gender hierarchy.(9) Education improved overall, but literacy rose faster among men than among women, and girls' education was usually limited to basic reading and writing skills, so gender-equal education was not achieved. Class made a difference. More noblewomen promoted the Reformation overtly than did women from lower classes. Their privileges gave them early access to new ideas, and in some cases noblewomen with power were crucial to the success of reformers and reform movements.(10)

The Radical Reformation and Women

Scholars also hold various perspectives regarding the status of women in the Radical Reformation. George H. Williams, Elise Boulding, Sherrin Marshal Wyntjes, Wayne Plenert, Jennifer Umble, John Klassen, Betti Erb, Adela Torchia, Lyndal Roper, and Auke Jelsma(1l) argue that women of the Radical Reformation women experienced spiritual equality and played central roles in ways never realized in mainline churches. In the Anabaptist fellowship, women were spiritual equals with men, companions in faith, mission, and martyrdom, and they benefitted from the emphasis on practical holiness. Doctrines of freedom of conscience and believer's baptism eliminated sex-based distinctions and formed an equalizing covenant for women and men. In contexts of religious dissatisfaction, new movements, apocalypticism, and visionary and ecstatic experiences, women preached and felt free to redefine social relationships. Often the men were away in mission work or in exile, so women were central. By hosting meetings in their homes where they had most influence, women held the congregations together and were crucial to the movement's cohesion. The view of marriage as a spiritual bond sometimes gave women freedom to divorce and remarry if their spouse did not share their faith. And in the face of interrogation, torture, and death, Anabaptist women also showed amazing faith, decisiveness, determination, and courage. In the Martyrs Mirror, Anabaptist women, who knew the Bible marvelously and were not intimidated, died because they were strong, visible leaders. Letters exchanged with their husbands also show them to be intimate, strong, and equal marriage partners.

Other scholars, however, assess the status of women in the Radical Reformation more negatively. Klaus-Peter Clasen, Joyce Irwin, Lucille Marr, Wes Harrison, and Werner Packu11,(12) for example, have all argued that the status of Anabaptist women differed little from the rest of society. Except for the Spiritualist movement, in which women, claiming authority from God and the Spirit, found new freedom and voice, patriarchal attitudes continued. In family, church, work, and elsewhere, Anabaptist women were to be responsible, industriousness, and submissive. And Anabaptist women generally accepted this subordination. With convents closed, opportunities for creativity and leadership narrowed, and if men were leading, women had little voice in church. Education was available for upper-class girls, but apart from some Hutterite gains in elementary education, the harassed, lower-class Anabaptist girls benefited little. Marriage raised women's status for some, and women were full partners in marriage, but they were also subject to their husbands, and marriage was primarily for procreation. Anabaptist leaders often viewed the church covenant as primary, so some women were allowed to divorce an unbelieving spouse. But the marriage ban, which showed the primacy of the church, was hardest on wives, who were responsible for the family.

Finally, as the historiography of women in the broader Reformation also suggests, Keith Sprunger, Marion Kobelt-Groch, C. Arnold Snyder, Linda Huebert Hecht, Sigrun Haude, and Kirsi Stjerna(l3) have argued that outcomes of the Radical Revolution for women were ambivalent, with the status of Anabaptist women varying from place to place and time to time. All broke with the institutional churches and taught the spiritual equality of women and men under God. But Anabaptism combined revolutionary spiritual views (e.g., Melchior Hoffman) and traditional male-female relationships (e.g., Menno Simons). In communities where the Spirit broke forth, women grasped many opportunities. Teachings of the Spirit's outpouring and trust in spiritual experiences and prophetic visions allowed women to speak with public religious authority. But where biblicist and legalistic doctrines prevailed, women were quiet sisters, and Anabaptist patriarchy was potentially even more domineering than in the rest of society.

Women generally enjoyed greater freedom and equality in the early years (up to about 1534) than in later years (after 1534). Since the early years under persecution, meetings usually took place in homes, women, as the traditional homemakers, formed the essential "infrastructure and backbone of the movement."(14) In some places, women taught, preached, evangelized, interpreted Scripture, wrote letters and songs, carried messages, nourished believers in hiding, hosted sewing circles and Bible readings, distributed alms, and housed traveling ministers and refugees. In times of crisis, revolution, or when husbands were martyred, women did even more, sometimes leading as apostles, prophetesses, and visionaries. And, according to the Martyrs Mirror, in the face of death, without access to theological learning and in a society that expected them to be docile, women displayed learning, shrewdness, tenacity, and deep faith "with or without their husbands."(15) As Anabaptism institutionalized, however, these openings for leadership roles narrowed.

Especially after Munster, biblicism supplanted spiritualism, written Anabaptist theology did not recognize their contribution, and women came under traditional conventions with "a patriarchally ordered marriage and household and church."(16) But even in the structured biblicism of later years, women's leadership emerged, especially in informal ways and in times of chaos. And at all times, women exercised leadership for and among themselves--writing hymns, forming support groups, interpreting the Bible, strategizing for interrogators' questions, and upholding each other under persecution.(17)

Thus we see that scholars reach differing and even contradictory conclusions on the status of women in the Radical Reformation. Evidence from two generations of nonconformist women in Strasbourg suggests that to some degree, all these scholars may be correct.


Voice and Leadership among Melchiorite Women

In Strasbourg, women with Spiritualist orientations tended to appear in three main groups: Melchiorites, Schwenckfeldians, and Steinbachians. The Melchiorite community was led by the preacher Melchior Hoffman and a circle of visionaries known as the Strasbourg Prophets. A number of strong-minded women given to visions, prophecy, and apocalyptic thinking were active among the Strasbourg Prophets. They included Ursula Jost, Barbara Rebstock, Gertrud Lorenz, Agnes Jost, Elisabeth Jost, Katherine Seid, the wife of Heinrich the shoemaker, one Margret, and one Apollonia. Thus out of some twenty known people associated with the Strasbourg Prophets, nine were women.(18)

Katherina Seid, in whose home Hoffman stayed in 1530, was dissatisfied with Strasbourg's reform. She yearned for preachers who were "more truthful" than Strasbourg's reformers, and saw Hoffman as one to "lead her out of the house of bondage to salvation."(19) On trial in 1534, she argued that she should not be expelled but would not yield in her convictions. She admitted having been baptized in 1532 in her own house by someone from across the Rhine, but said that she did not know his name or identity. The Anabaptists, she said, taught better doctrine than all other preachers, and she would remain with them. When the magistrates encouraged her to attend the regular services in order to compare both kinds of teaching, she refused. She was not learned enough, she said, to make such a comparison, but she was sure of her own belief and with God's help would maintain it. Indeed, she begged the authorities to let her hold the truth as she knew it, for no one else could live, die, or believe for her. When asked for the names of other Anabaptists, she refused, saying that she lived alone, she did not know any, she was not an informer, and it was up to the magistrates to find the information they needed. In the end Seid was banished from Strasbourg in 1534 as an "obstinate Anabaptist" because she would not recant, would not identify fellow believers, and would not allow herself to be converted by the evangelical preachers. Seid, however, would not be cowed; after her banishment she often returned in secret to visit friends in the city. Although some reports described her as excitable and suffering from epileptic fits, according to her 1534 testimony, she was an independent-minded woman with strong religious convictions and loyalties to her fellow believers.(20)

Ursula Jost and Barbara Rebstock were considered spiritual authorities because of their prophetic visions. According to Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff, in medieval Europe these visions were a socially sanctioned activity that freed a woman from conventional female roles by identifying her as a genuine religious figure. . . . Her visions gave her the strength to grow internally and to change the world, to preach, and to attack injustice and greed, even within the church. Through visions she could be an exemplar to other women.(21)

Lois Barrett adds that the visionary tradition was often apocalyptic because women's prophecy was seen as a certain sign that the new order was beginning. Preaching by women (and lay men) was a sign of the End, as promised in the Bible. . . . Even if the old order had given men authority over women, in the new order women shared in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through dreams and visions.(22)

As persons gifted with spiritual visions, Jost and Rebstodspoke out and exercised leadership.

In 1530 Jost published her visions in a forty-page book titled Die Pro phetische Gesicht.(23) Of her seventy-seven reported visions between 1525 and 1529, fifty-eight occurred during the Peasants' War and eighteen in 1529 during the famine and Anabaptist persecution. This relationship of visions to social upheaval suggests that to a degree they express her hopes and fears in times of crisis. Many visions portray cosmic catastrophes such as fire, rivers of blood, and corpses (visions nos. 19, 26, 32, 35, 50, 51, 52, 67). In terms of social relations, God's wrath is often directed against church rulers and nobles while oppressed commoners, led by Christ, wear crowns and ascend into heaven (9, 14, 16, 23, 35, 39, 41). Hopes rest on a charismatic leader who will lead the people out of servitude into freedom--into a new and spiritual life.(24)

Like much apocalyptic literature, Jost's visions were intended to help "readers cope with crises by putting them in the context of God's ultimate plan for the present age."(25) The years 1524 to 1530 were full of crises: the Peasants' War, the heavy land tithe on the peasants, the persecution of religious dissidents, the overturning in many locales of the Catholic Church's power, and famine. Some visions placed these crises in the context of God's judgment and wrath. Other visions called for endurance and patience until God would deliver the elect. In asserting that God was in control, the visions of Prophetische Gesicht gave meaning to the events of history and to people's lives. In the end, the victors would not be nobles or bishops or military forces, but those who, like children, had followed Christ's narrow way.(26)

Ursula Jost influenced many people's hopes and religious views, and fed apocalyptic fervor in Strasbourg. Her impact on Melchior Hoffman also gave fundamental shape to Anabaptism in the Netherlands.

With Jost's death around 1530, Barbara Rebstock, renowned for her miracles, became the group's leading prophetess and leader of a Melchiorite group.(27) In a vision from around 1533, she predicted "that unless Strasbourg repented, it would disintegrate into a village."(28) According to the Dutch Anabaptist leader Obbe Philips, Hoffman appeared to Rebstock as a beautiful white swan, and she interpreted this to mean that Hoffman was the prophet Elijah.(29) Rebstock's reputation spread even to the Netherlands; Hoffman's followers there journeyed to Strasbourg to see her because of her reputed visions and miracles.(30)

As a leader, Rebstock also counseled right behavior. When Elisabeth Pfersfelder and Claus Frey, who had left his wife and children, tried to find a home among the Strasbourg Prophets in 1533, Rebstock and others ordered Frey to leave Pfersfelder and return home.(31) In Rebstock's view, visions needed to be in line with, and checked by, biblical teachings.

Rebstock's critical ability surfaced also with the Dutch leader David Joris. In 1538, after Joris had established himself as the strongest Anabaptist leader in the Netherlands, he came to Strasbourg to win the Melchiorites' support. In earlier letters Joris had argued that his visions superseded biblical revelations. Among other things, for example, Joris posited a first David of the Old Testament, a second David embodied in Christ, and a third David "according to the Spirit" Gods himself) who would reign on earth.(32) Rebstock pronounced these ideas devilish and false, arguing that visions could supplement but not supersede Scripture. Joris then tried to divide the Strasbourgers by pitting other leaders against Rebstock.(33) When Tons questioned their spiritual maturity, Rebstock interrupted, "The Lord warns us that no one speak further, for he will have to answer for it."(34) Joris retorted that the devil was in her words and, to avoid deception, men in Strasbourg ought to maintain authority over women.35 Ian Pont, a male colleague responded, "Her heart is such that it is necessary to speak of this matter. Therefore she is not in need of such [rebuke]."(36) With this, discussion broke down.(37) Rebstock, revered for her visionary abilities, also displayed here critical judgment and courage to oppose joris. Although Joris could not accept such authority for women, male Strasbourgers in Rebstock's congregation defended her leadership because of her spiritual insight and ma turity.(38)

Melchiorite women of lower profile also freely articulated their opinions and showed courage even in the face of opposition. In 1535 the Strasbourg church instituted official visitations of its rural parishes. In Dorlisheim, the pastor singled out a Melchiorite woman as especially quarrelsome.(39) In 1536 a woman from Ottrott was considered a prophetess. Under interrogation one Barbara Murer spoke openly of Anabaptist meetings and their locations and even revealed some names of fellow believers, but she would not disclose who had baptized her. Nor would she submit to the clergy. Rather, she brought her children to Anabaptist meetings and asked to be left alone to her conscience.(40) In a remarkable ten-day discussion with the magistrate Jakob Wetzel von Marsilien that seemed to transcend class divisions and male stereotypes of female intellectual weakness, Murer's colleague Barbara Bruder rejected infant baptism, wished for the baptism of John, confessed belief in a heavenly Christ, and regretted that Strasbourg's magistrates had been misled by the clergy.(41) Lienhart Jost's second wife, Agnes, also had the courage of her convictions. As the years passed, Melchiorites struggled with the fact that Christ had not returned in 1533 as predicted. Some, including Lienhard Jost, eventually joined the Strasbourg Reformed church. Agnes Jost did not. Arrested and interrogated in 1539, she held firm to the apocalyptic and social revolutionary convictions she had confessed at her baptism twelve years earlier.(42)

In keeping with societal restrictions on verbal leadership, many women displayed the courage of actions more than words. In 1543, Margretlin von Gengenbach, the wife of Adolph Winter, the butcher Hans Schlemer's wife, and Konrad Junger and his wife, at the risk of arrest, bribed the wife and the maid of the prison warden, and visited Hoffman in prison. This daring act demonstrated the commitment of these women to their faith and their leader, and constituted a statement of defiance toward the authorities.(43) Courage of actions appeared also in Anabaptist weddings that took place in homes or at Anabaptist gatherings rather than in the Strasbourg official church. This created conflict because marriage was to be a public church affair, and the Ecclesiastical Ordinance of 1534 had forbidden couples to marry in secret. To marry outside the church, then, was to challenge the church's authority. Yet Melchiotite women challenged the church in just this way. In 1538 reports came of Netherlander Melchiorites conducting weddings in their homes. And in 1543 Ursula Jost's daughter Elisabeth married Marx Reicher outside the established church. (44) In these acts of marriage outside the church, the brides and grooms expressed their opinions on the authority of the church, and on the social, political, and religious issues of the day.

Among Melchiorite women, then, voice and leadership appear in various ways. While some high profile women such Ursula Jost and Barbara Rebstock spoke out, exercised leadership, and received public recognition, many more expressed their convictions in low profile, sometimes nonverbal, and less recognized ways. They also challenged male stereotypes of female intellectual weakness. These examples support the idea that in communities centered on the Spirit, women enjoyed more open doors than did women in the rest of society and in biblicist communities, and that in the early Radical Reformation, when the Spirit received more prominence and Anabaptist structures were in flux, women enjoyed relatively more freedom than in other parts of sixteenth-century Europe and in later decades of Anabaptism.

Voice and Leadership among Aristocratic and Schwenckfeldian Women

Apart from the Melchiorites, a number of women with a Spiritualist outlook came from the nobility, and enjoyed religious freedoms and influence because of their high social standing. A Strasbourg noble patrician, Ottilie von Uttenheim von Berckheim, empowered her radical scholar husband, Martin Cellarius. Although his association with the Zurich Anabaptists in 1525-1526 placed him in danger of arrest, and although his disdain for infant baptism alienated him from Martin Bucer, her marriage to him offered him the possibility of Strasbourg citizenship and opportunity to work undisturbed on his theological and philosophical treatises on her estate outside the city. Cellarius's relationship with Von Uttenheim enhanced his career as thinker, reformer, and professor.(45)

Other noblewomen with a Spiritualist outlook were followers or associates of the Silesian nobleman Caspar Schwenckfeld (1489-1561), who arrived in Strasbourg in 1529. Although Schwenckfeld himself was expelled in 1534, his female followers participated in Schwenckfeldian conventicles and stayed in literary contact with him to his death. These women included the daughters of the nobleman Peter Scher: Margareta Scher, Felicitas Scher Andernach, Elisabeth Scher Hocklin, and a half-sister, Margareta Engelmann.(46) With her husband, Jakob, Margareta Engelmann lodged Schwenckfeld for over two years, held meetings at her home, and become his closest literary correspondent after he left Strasbourg until his death in 1561. Although Bucer after 1530 wished for Schwenckfeld to stop preaching or leave the city, Engelmann and her high social standing enabled Schwenckfeld to stay until 1534.(47)

Felicitas Scher, wife of Franz Frosch, the city lawyer until his death in 1540, then married the well-known physician Johann Winther von Andernach. Strasbourg's leading pastor, Johann Marbach, rebuked her and her family for welcoming refugees, travelers, and religious dissidents into their home. Elisabeth Scher was the wife of the nobleman Hans Christoph Hocklin von Steineck. After he died in 1551, she moved in with her father. Schwenckfeld replied to her questions and sent her writings on a daily spiritual Lord's Supper and on the eucharistic Stillstand. Ever fervent, Elisabeth tried to convince relatives and friends in the nobility to accept Schwenckfeld's ideas. In 1553 Marbach tried to dissuade Elisabeth but she held her ground.(48) Both Felicitas and Elisabeth died in 1562. When the clergy refused to preach their eulogies without denouncing their Schwenckfeldianism, Katherina Schatz Zell, their friend and a fierce defender of freedom of conscience, conducted the funerals.(49)

A perhaps unexpected Schwenckfeldian was the noblewoman Elisabeth Pfersfelder, onetime partner of Claus Frey, who was drowned in 1534 for blasphemy and bigamy. Within weeks she publicly repented and decided to live in Strasbourg rather than with her family near Nurnberg. In 1535, declaring that she wished only to glorify God, she purchased Strasbourg citizenship. After suffering severe suicidal guilt feelings for having robbed Frey's wife of her husband, Pfersfelder found new religious direction in Schwenckfeld's teaching and soon she was receiving his writings. In 1540 he sent her a letter on the incarnation of Christ, and Valentin Crautwald sent her a letter on Christology and justification. Despite Pfersfelder's erratic history, her embrace of Schwencicfeldianism was not surprising: she had Spiritualist inclinations; she was from the nobility; Schwenckfeld was a friend of her brother's; and Schwenckfeld responded to her questions. Strasbourg probably welcomed her because of her wealth, and she certainly did not threaten the city's peace. Despite her Spiritualist inclinations, she died a citizen in good standing.(50)

Sophia von Hassel, another upper-class Strasbourg woman, married the notary Jacob Held von Tieffenau, a citizen since 1528, and Schwenckfeld's most trusted associate. For a time it seems that Sophia shared her husband's religious views, for in 1534, seven years after their marriage, they sought Schwenckfeld's advice on the baptism of their child. In line with Schwenckfeld, Held told the authorities that "he could not consider infant baptism the true baptism of Christ," but they could baptize the child on their own if they insisted.(51) This nonconformity proved costly and led to Held's brief expulsion from the city in 1535. Soon after his return, Held was again hosting illicit meetings with religious nonconformists under continual surveillance by the authorities. Sophia was surely involved in the hosting. This pressure to conform caused them in 1545 to consider fleeing to Switzerland.(52)

Held also spent much time away from home. A skilled diplomat, he was often called to mediate between the religious and political leaders of his day. He attended colloquies and conferences in Tubingen (1535), Smalkald (1540), and Basel (1545), and traveled in 1545 to Landau and Memmingen to encourage Spiritualist communities there. Sophia came to resent his many long absences, and tension grew in their relationship. "In 1548 she accused him of having abandoned her in need, claimed her goods, and moved to Cologne. . . . This separation became permanent; ten years later Sophia asked that the money they had deposited in the hospital be restored to her." Since the city council did not know if Jakob was dead or alive, it sent only half to her.(53) In spite of long-term religious nonconformity that created tension with the authorities and placed stress on their marriage, Sophia's upper-class status and Held's diplomatic skills allowed them to remain in the city as respected citizens.

Unlike religious nonconformists of lower classes, these upper-class Spiritualists were generally tolerated in Strasbourg. Their wealth, their intellectual and diplomatic skills, and their relationships with rulers made them valuable to the city. And given their low numbers and inward orientation, the magistrates never regarded them as a threat to mobilize the masses against the regime. "Their benefits outweighed their danger and the city could safely tolerate their nonconformity."(54) As a result, upper-class Spiritualist women were relatively free to express their opinions and challenge the authorities as they saw fit.

Voice and Leadership among Steinbachians

A third group of women with a Spiritualist outlook emerged as an informal movement of visionaries who called themselves Lichtseher (Seers of the Light). Their prophet, a barrelmaker named Martin Steinbach, appeared in Strasbourg in 1544 and was soon acknowledged to be "the leader of a unique sect."Illiterate, he claimed to have been taught by God, whose word, unlike the written word, was spirit and life. He asserted that "Christ was true God and true man, born of Mary by the Holy Spirit." Strasbourg was Jerusalem; and he was Elijah, the chosen prophet spoken of in the Scriptures, "called by God to overturn, destroy, and renew the city, its social structures, and its rulers."(55) Some of his followers said they had seen a light, and some even believed Steinbach to be that light. By 1551 he was calling himself both Elijah and the Holy Spirit.(56)

To the clergy's distress, Steinbach attracted a large following of women, men, and youth, and despite their opposition, his movement continued for at least a generation. Indeed, with his death in 1564, his followers seemed to gain new momentum. In 1565, with others, Elisabeth Wolff, the widow of Lienhard Wolff of the gardeners' guild, was interrogated (for at least the second time) on suspicion of lodging Steinbachians and herself being a Steinbachian. As with the pastors, she stated, reports that "Steinbach claimed to see a light and to have a special grace from God" came to her only second hand. She attended church and the sacraments. Because the preachers had continually urged the faithful to care for the poor, she had for eight days taken in "a couple named Georg and Apollonia who had been expelled from" nearby Schlettstadt. At the time, she said, she was unaware that they were Steinbachians. Thereafter, she said, she took in no more.(57)

In 1566, the authorities received a report that listed sixteen people who had been expelled from Schlettstadt for being Steinbachians. Some had settled in Strasbourg. Among them were a widow named Christina Kegler; the wife of Marx Dietrich; the wife of Jorg Jackler; the wife of the miller and baker Aurelius Muller; the widow of Hieronymi Casselman; Sophia, the wife of a blind man; Anna, the wife of Hans Schuster; Walch, the wife of the physician Michel Els; and the widow of Vincent Heilman. For some Steinbach was a pious mart. Others believed he was "both human and the Holy Spirit." Some identified Schlettstadt as the New Jerusalem, and some wanted to know the date of Judgment Day. While some hesitated to criticize Steinbach "for fear of committing the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit," others recanted and called him a heretic.(58)

In 1568 the authorities interrogated a gardener, Matthis Schultheiss, about having supported the Steinbachian widow Christina Kegler. Although he denied the charge and claimed orthodox faith, he did admit to having hired one Sophia as his maid. He now had no idea where both women were. Another gardener, Anton Murler, was also interrogated for associating with Steinbachians. His stepdaughter was engaged to a gardener's son, and the authorities warned the young couple to avoid the group.(59)

Despite little social and political power, for a generation these women asserted themselves in their quest for. an alternative social and religious order. Their prophet's visionary character, his anger against the rulers, his identification with commoners, his demand for a society overturned and renewed, his self-appellation as Elijah, and his prediction of a New Jerusalem unsettled the authorities. Their outlook was perhaps more apocalyptic than political; but their presence, enthusiasm, and commitment were contagious enough to spur the pastors to campaign against them, and to cause their occasional interrogation, imprisonment, and expulsion from the city. The authorities' 1568 warning to Murler's stepdaughter and her fiance to avoid the Steinbachians points to ongoing dissidence among women in the next generation.(60)

Despite their yearning for a new and better society, and despite their Spiritualist orientation, Steinbachian women did not enjoy the prominence, respect, and safety that aristocratic and some Melchiorite women did. Steinbachian women seemed continually on the defensive, partly because of their social location in the lower artisanal class, and partly because by the late 1540s, the Strasbourg church had established itself and narrowed the space for dissidents to express themselves.


The more biblicist Swiss Brethren women generally carried a lower profile than did Spiritualist prophets such as Ursula Jost and Barbara Rebstock or Schwenckfeldian women. But sometimes they too expressed their convictions in public. When Strasbourg's Disciplinary Ordinance of 1535 decreed that all adults were to swear the civic oath and submit all children for baptism within six weeks of birth, a widow withheld her child from baptism and faced interrogation. Heinrich Buchsner's widow and others insisted that the reformers had earlier preached freedom of conscience.(61) Brida Brenndline, a mother of four, had in 1533 been a leader of the Anabaptist community in Rottenb-urg. By her leadership she affirmed her husband's protest that years earlier the reformers Bucer and Capito had criticized infant baptism as not grounded in Scripture.(62)

In Dorlisheim in 1535, the authorities described the shoemaker Hans Hess and his wife as "hardnecked" Anabaptists. Like the Netherlander Melchiorites and Elisabeth Jost, Lorentz Schuhmacher and his wife challenged the Strasbourg church by marrying outside it.(63) The pastor mentioned that although some Anabaptists were good-hearted, others were refractory. The feisty wife of the radical tailor Hans Adam, described as stubbornly wayward and deserving punishment, declared that she would rather lose her life than submit to the church authorities.64 A "hardnecked" but struggling Anabaptist of DorLisheim was Barbara Kiefer from Barr. Her husband, Barthel, was apparently not an Anabaptist. Interrogated, she confessed that years earlier she had received baptism from a Strasbourg carpenter because she desired to obey the clergy's calls to "die to the world." For this confession the authorities expelled Kiefer from Dorlisheim in 1536.(65) Marital separation was difficult. A year later she recanted and sought readmittance, for she wanted again to live at home with her husband. However, during the next five years she left him four times for the sake of Anabaptism, and by 1542 they had filed for divorce.(66) Her religious goals and opinions were clear, but living them out was difficult. Kiefer is an example of women who embraced Anabaptism independently of their husbands, and her case contributes to the debated possibility that there may have been nearly as many Anabaptist women as men.(67) It also raises the question of whether Kiefer's recantation was a moment of weakness or a strategy to attain her goal.

Large-scale arrests of Swiss Brethren Anabaptists in 1540 revealed a desperate lack of leadership. Most could not intelligibly defend their faith.(68) When threatened with imprisonment or exile, a woman named Anna Weibel recanted and swore an oath renouncing Anabaptism.(69) Again, it is not clear whether this recantation was out of weakness or a strategy to retain her freedom.

Declining social status, however, did not necessarily silence women's calls for rights. In the village of Dangolsheim in 1542, a Strasbourg citizen named Mathis Schlosser was jailed. His Anabaptist wife pleaded to the Strasbourg council that the Dangolsheim authorities had violated his citizenship rights. The council learned that he had been jailed not over citizenship questions but for obstinate Anabaptism. Knowing that the Strasbourg council defended its citizens' rights against village authorities, Schlosser's wife obtained his release.(70)

Another Strasbourg citizen who lived in Dangolsheim was an Anabaptist widow named Attala Daul. She stood up for her own rights with similar success. In 1545 the Dangolsheim authorities charged her with hosting Anabaptists and pressed her to pay property taxes to the village. She replied that her taxes had been paid to Strasbourg and requested the city council to defend her. The council called on the authorities to end their harassment because, as Daul had paid her taxes and been a responsible citizen, it overlooked her Anabaptism.(71) In Wasseln.heim in 1546, Olivia Kircheysan and her joiner husband, Sylvester, were socially and economically marginalized for he was not a member of a guild. Still, they refused to have their 9-month-old child baptized and rejected the advice of the preachers, whom they considered hypocrites(72)

Some Anabaptist women showed remarkable courage against enormous odds. In 1549 during the Augsburg Interim, when Emperor Charles V defeated the Smalkaldic League and forced Strasbourg partially to reinstitute Catholicism, the city council no longer rose to the defense of Anabaptists caught among Catholic authorities. Two daughters of a Borsch vinedresser, Jorg Offenbach, and their colleague, Ottilia, displayed singular courage when arrested by the Cathedral Chapter. Although isolated in separate cells, they continued to reject the Interim and the Chapter's laws, and held fast to their Anabaptist faith. Despite an appeal to the Strasbourg city council, they found no support from the magistrates, who now bowed to Catholic authorities.(73) Verbally silenced, and with the possibility of long imprisonment or even death before them, these women nonetheless displayed the courage of their convictions--what many in the sixteenth century considered a "manly" virtue--on par with their male fellow believers.(74)

Despite strong opinions, dedication, and great personal courage, Swiss Brethren Anabaptist women lacked the opportunities for overt leadership that emerged among some Melchiorites and lacked the deference offered to the aristocratic Spiritualists Strasbourg citizenship promised a measure of security, but without it, like the Steinbachian women, most Swiss Brethren women lived in ongoing danger of arrest.


Women who had little social visibility and power often held opinions of their own and exercised influence in verbal and nonverbal ways. Sally Smith has pointed out that if village women in late Medieval England were excluded from formal and institutional positions of power, they still wielded a great deal of informal and non-institutional power.(75) Similar dynamics applied to Anabaptist women in and around Strasbourg. Even if they did not speak out in public or hold visible leadership positions, they often exercised informal power, especially in family and social circles.

Through her Strasbourg citizenship and high social status, Ottilie von Uftenheim von Berckheim made it possible for her husband, Martin Cellarius, to work on his scholarly treatises near Strasbourg even though he was tainted by association with the Zurich Anabaptists and alienated from Bucer.(76) Similarly, Strasbourg citizenship and the social status of the noblewoman Margareta Englemann protected Schwenckfeld from expulsion between 1530 and 1534.(77) A low-profile Spiritualist with influence was Anna Elisabeth Landschadin. Her daughter's husband, Johann-Georg Schied, became a Schwenckfeldian pastor. She used her education in 1558-1559 to compile a catalog of Schwenckfeld's works from 1534-1535. In 1594, the catalog was published to a broader audience.(78)

Although Ursula Ryse Tucher was not a leader, teacher, or noblewoman, she exercised informal power. As the daughter of a Strasbourg citizen, she passed on her right to citizenship and guild membership to her foreign-born Anabaptist husband in 1527. This citizenship offered him both employment and protection when other Anabaptists were being expelled from the city.(79)

In the Reformation, the role of the pastor's wife, illustrated vividly by Katharina Schiitz Zell in Strasbourg, was new. Like other women, pastors' wives were expected to love and obey their husbands, bear children, and nurture their family. But their responsibilities and influence extended much further. Besides hosting guests, some provided shelter, food, and care to refugees, students, immigrants, and worshipers; helped finance and run hospitals, orphanages, and schools; offered counseling; served as godmothers; sponsored individuals; and participated in many other aspects of church ministry.(80)

Anabaptist wives frequently found themselves in similar situations, with many and varied responsibilities. Anna Marpeck, for example, exercised informal power as the longtime wife of a strong leader. From 1528 onward, her husband, Pilgram Marpeck, founded and led Anabaptist congregations in diverse places for at least twenty-eight years, and Anna influenced his decisions and work. In Strasbourg he led a sizeable Anabaptist group. Within a month of his 1528 arrival, PiIgram was arrested while working with other Anabaptists to alleviate refugee needs. That the meeting and the arrest occurred in the Marpecks' home makes it almost certain that Anna was involved in the relief effort. In addition, Pilgram founded and led a congregation in the Kinzig Valley where he did engineering work for the city. The couple exchanged letters at least to 1555.(81)

As a strong pastor's wife, Anna wielded informal power. Anna Scharnschlager, the wife of Leopold Scharnschlager, PiIgram Marpeck's successor in Strasbourg, was another independent and self-confident decision-maker. That she wrote down medicinal prescriptions to treat bodily ailments indicates that she had received an education. Shortly before her arrival in Strasbourg in 1529, she conducted the sale of their estate in Tirol and arranged for the protection of her valued personal belongings. Thus, she probably handled the finances of the family and her husband's soapmaking business. In 1546, and again in 1563, she attempted to rectify outstanding loans and transfer her property in Tyrol to Switzerland, where she and Leopold lived after 1546.(82) Her broad education, her competence in planning and financial matters, her role as pastor's wife, and her ability to take initiative suggests that Anna participated directly in family leadership, including the decision to join the Anabaptists and move to Strasbourg.

Perhaps the woman who wielded the most informal or non-institutional power in nonconformist circles was Margarethe Priiss. Priiss owned and operated a printing press. She was probably not rebaptized, but her nonconformist convictions are visible in the material published by her press. When she operated it alone as a widow from 1522 to 1524 and again from 1526 to 1527, her literary leadership was overt. When married, her leadership and influence became more informal and "behind the scenes."(83) The husbands she married were from outside Strasbourg. Through marriage she passed on to them automatic Strasbourg citizenship and membership in the prestigious Zur Steltz guild. Several times the court records mention that she passed on press ownership to her husband, or even that both she and he were owners.(84) As one who had earlier operated the press alone, she almost certainly shared in decisions to publish the radical writings of Andreas von Karlstadt, Clemens Ziegler, Melchior Hoffman, Hans Banderlin, Kaspar Schwenckfeld, and Sebastian Franck, even if these decisions put the press and their family at political and economic risk. Well aware that the authorities might punish her for publishing subversive or heretical ideas against the law, she disseminated these writings anyway. Her approval would also have been needed for her daughter Margarethe to marry Franck. Clearly Priiss played a major role in her print shop's support of the radical reform and the Anabaptist movement. She made choices of whom to marry, and what materials to print and publish. As a radical sympathizer, she exercised direct and indirect leadership in making nonconformist ideas available to Strasbourgers.(85)

On a much smaller scale, the midwife Cordula Federlin, who appears to have had Melchiorite sympathies, exercised informal power in the late 1530s. Federlin was delivering babies for Melchiorite women from the Netherlands and not reporting them to the authorities. Midwives were expected to note family dynamics around the babies they helped birth, such as whether or not the child was born out of wedlock or whether the child was baptized.(86) Federlin claimed not to know or care about whether or not her clients had their children baptized. She knew of some foreigners, including Netherlanders, but claimed not to know their religious leanings.(87) Federlin may not have known all the details, but in withholding information from the authorities, she exercised considerable power. Federlin's "oversight" may have been a deliberate action to resist the authorities' control of religion and to support her Anabaptist employers.

Unnamed older Anabaptist women in the 1540s exercised informal power similarly. Concerned that their Anabaptist community and faith continue to the next generation, old women went from home to home to persuade younger women to be baptized. Despite the magistrates' resolve to punish women who acted in this way, it appears that the women succeeded; in 1544 the authorities received warnings about "new Anabaptists," and second-generation Anabaptists appeared by the 1540s. By the 1560s second-generation Anabaptism, especially in villages such Wangen and Boersch, was widespread.(88)

This points to what was perhaps the most important arena of women's non-institutional power: the influence of mothers on their children. The sources tell of a number of mothers who influenced their children away from the Strasbourg church and toward Anabaptism. In 1533, for example, Anna Schamschlager's daughter, Ursula, married the Anabaptist Hans Felix.(89) In 1536 the Melchiorite Barbara Murer brought her children to Anabaptist meetings and determined not to obey the dergy.(90) Her children witnessed this "disobedience" and learned the Anabaptist way. In 1542 Margarethe Priiss's daughter married Sebastian Franck,(91) and in 1543 Elisabeth Jost, the daughter of Ursula Jost, married the Anabaptist Marx Riecher outside the church.(92) A generation later children raised in the Anabaptist way had grown up to be nonconformists like their mothers.

In Wangen in 1569, a number of Anabaptists were following their mothers' footsteps. Hans Metzger's mother had failed to attend the official church for thirty years. He could accept that the Bible was God's Word but could not promise to accept the pastor's preaching or stay away from Anabaptist meetings. Similarly, Johann Weber's mother had not attended church for thirty years. He now rarely attended church. A third generation of dissidents was emerging, for none of his four children went to church either.(93) In terms of marriage choices and religious orientation, mothers had great influence on their children.

In the cases of Scharnsdilager, Priiss, and Jost, the husband and father was known and present. But in the cases of Barbara Murer, Hans Metzger's mother, Johann Weber's mother, and the older women urging younger women to receive baptism, the sources say nothing about the husbands and fathers. Perhaps in these cases the mothers practiced their faith and shaped religious convictions independently of their husbands.

These examples also challenge the notion that Anabaptist women were freer in the early years of the movement and less free in later years. In the cases of Metzger's mother, Weber's mother, and the older women urging baptism upon younger women, women challenged institutions and pursued their own vision of faith, including in later years of the Radical Reformation.


In Strasbourg between 1525 and 1570, Spiritualist and Anabaptist women were active and influential members of their communities. Although they appear in the records much less frequently than men do, and though their work was mostly behind the scenes and only rarely enjoyed public or institutional recognition, many had opinions of their own, gifts of leadership, and forms of power.

These forms of agency emerged in various ways. While some women such as Ursula Jost and Barbara Rebstock exercised public leadership and received public recognition, others exercised leadership in low-profile and nonverbal ways. In some ways, those who hosted meetings in their homes, such as Anna Marpeck, Margareta Engelmann, Sophie von Kassel, and Felicitas Scher, formed the hub or the backbone of the movements and held congregations together. So that even if they were excluded from formal and institutional positions of power with visible leadership positions, and even if they did not speak out in public, nonconformist women still exercised informal and non-institutional power as they operated printing presses, inns, and other family businesses; as they enabled and influenced their more visible and recognized husbands; and, especially, as they managed their homes, and guided the lifestyles, marriages, and religious choices of their children.

Both Spiritualist women and Anabaptist women held and expressed theological convictions. Among the Melchiorites, where women such as Ursula Jost and Barbara Rebstock held spiritual, moral, and social authority, opportunities for public leadership were greater. No Swiss Brethren woman held comparable authority. These examples, together with the large percentage of women active in the Lichtseher movement, support the idea that in communities centered on the Spirit, women enjoyed more open doors than did women in biblicist communities. Some of these women, such as Barbara Bruder in discussion with the magistrate Jakob Wetzel von Marsilien, challenged male stereotypes of female intellectual weakness. More women, however, both Spiritualist and Anabaptist, expressed their convictions in low-profile, often nonverbal ways. And women of all orientations and classes served as the hub or communication center of their movements, especially if they hosted meetings in their homes. The power and influence of these women was largely informal and non-institutional.

In terms of chronology, the examples of Ursula Jost, Anna Marpeck, Margareta Engelmann, Brida Brermdline, and Hans Adam's wife suggest an openness to women's leadership in the years before 1535 when the Spirit received more prominence, nonconformist structures were in flux, and the Reformed church was still relatively fragile. The attempts to silence the Scher sisters in the 1550s, the attacks on the Steinbachian women, and the low profile of Swiss Brethren women after 1540 indicate that as the Reformed church established itself after 1535, the space for dissent narrowed. Nevertheless, the ministry of Barbara Rebstock in 1538, the Schwenckfeldian conventicles in the 1550s, and the Lichtseher movement in the 1560s suggest that women continued to participate and lead in later years, especially in Spiritualist circles. In Anabaptist cirdes, the informal leadership exercised by older women urging younger women to receive baptism in the 1540s, and the second-generation dissent of Hans Metzger's mother and Johann Weber's mother in 1569, reveal the determination of women to challenge existing structures well into later years.

Social status was important. While nonconformists of all classes met resistance, especially from the clergy, women in the nobility rarely feared imprisonment, expulsion, or death. They were freer to practice their nonconformity, especially in quiet ways, than were the Melchiorites, Steinbachians, and Anabaptists of the artisan and lower classes. Also important, however, was Strasbourg citizenship, which often trumped class considerations. Non-aristocrats like Ursula Tucher, Margarethe Priiss, Mathis Schlosser's wife, and Attala Daul were able to use their Strasbourg citizenship to assert their rights, express their opinions, and protect their husbands.

The Strasbourg sources reveal a large number of women who were interrogated by the authorities. Katharina Seid, Barbara Murer, the wife of Hans Adam, the daughters of Jorg Offenbach, Elizabeth Scher Hocklin, Elizabeth Wolff, and others, both Spiritualist and Anabaptist, demonstrated remarkable determination and assertiveness under the pressure of interrogation. Here, particularly in the face of imprisonment, expulsion, and possible death, nonconformist women showed themselves to be fully on par with their male co-believers.(94)

Thus, for those in the early years of social and religious flux, and for the Spiritualists, aristocrats, and Strasbourg citizens, the impact of the Radical Reformation was largely positive. For Steinbachians after 1550 and for Anabaptists of the lower classes, especially those without Strasbourg citizenship, it was often negative. For all women, who were both harassed by the authorities and empowered to seek a better world, the Radical Reformation brought measures of both opportunity and setback.

(1.) Printed primary sources for Strasbourg's religious nonconformists are found in Quellen zur Geschichte der Tauter, vols. 7, 8, 15, and 16: Elsass. Stadt Strassburg, vols. I & 11 (1959, 1960), ed. M. Krebs and H. G. Rott; and vols. III & IV (1986, 1988), ed. M. Lienhard, S. F. Nelson, and H. G. Rott, all published by Giltersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn. Henceforth they are cited as TAE I, II, III, and IV. Published secondary works on Strasbourg's religious nonconformists indude Camill Gerbert, Geschichte der Strassburger Sectenbewegung zur Zeit der Reformation, /5254534 (Strassburg: Heitz und Mundel, 1889); Abram Hulshof, Geschiedenis van der Doopsgesinden te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 2557 (Amsterdam: J. Clausen, 1905); Johann Adam, Evangelische Kirchengesthichte der Stadt Strassburg (Strassburg: J. H. Heitz, 1922); Robert Kreider, "Anabaptists and the Civil Authority of Strasbourg, 1525-1548," Church History 24 (1955), 99-117; Stephen F. Nelson and Jean Rott, "Strasbourg: The Anabaptist City in the Sixteenth Century," The Mennonite Quarterly Review (henceforth MQR) 58 (July 1984), 230-242; Klaus Deppermann, Melchior Hoffman: Social Unrest and Apocalyptic Visions in the Reformation Era (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1987); George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1992); Stephen Boyd, Pilgram Marpeck: His Life and Social Theology (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992); John Derksen, From Radicals to Survivors: Strasbourg's Religious Nonconformists over Two Generations, 1525-1570 (Utrecht: HES & DE GRAAF, 2002).

(2.) See Walter Klaassen, "The Nature of the Anabaptist Protest," MQR 45 (Oct. 1971), 291-311; Keith Sprunger, "God's Powerful Army of the Weak: Anabaptist Women of the Radical Reformation," in Triumph over Silence: Women in Protestant History, ed. R. L. Greaves (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985), 45-46.

(3.) On Anabaptist origins in Strasbourg, see Hans-Werner Musing, "Karlstadt und die Entstehung der Strassburger Taufergemeinde," The Origins and Characteristics of Anabaptism (The Hague: Martinus Nijhof, 1977), 169-195; Hans-Werner Musing, "The Anabaptist Movement in Strasbourg from Early 1526 to July 1527," MQR 51 (July 1977), 91-126; Henry G. Krahn, "An Analysis of the Conflict Between the Clergy of the Reformed Church and the Leaders of the Anabaptist Movement in Strasbourg, 1524-1534" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Washington, 1969).

(4.) Abray, People's Reformation, 107-116; Williams, Radical Reformation, 377-383, 405-430.

(5.) Jean Rott and Marc Lienhard, "La communaute des 'freres suisses' de Strasbourg de 1557 a 1660," in Saisons d'Alsace, No. 76, Les Anabaptiste Mennonites d'Alsace. Destin d'une minorite (Strasbourg: Librairie lstra, 1981), 27; Rene Gerber, "Les Anabaptistes a Strasbourg entre 1536 et 1552," in Bibliotheca Dissidentium: Scripta et Studia, No. 3 (Baden-Baden: Editions Valentin Koerner, 1987), 312; cf. Lois Barrett, "Ursula Jost and Barbara Rebstock of Strasbourg," in Profiles of Anabaptist Women, ed. C. A. Snyder and L. A. Hecht (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996), 276.

(6.) Roland H. Bainton, Women of the Reformation in France and England (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1973); Roland H. Bainton, Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1971); Julia O'Faolain and Lauro Martines, ed. Not in God's Image: Women in History from the Greeks to the Victorians (New York: Harper and Row, 1973); Jane Dempsey Douglass, "Women and the Continental Reformation," in Religion and Sexism: Images of Women in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. Rosemary Radford Ruether (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), 292-318; Sherrin Marshall Wyntjes, "Women and Religious Choices in the Sixteenth Century Netherlands," Archly far Reformationsgeschichte 75 (1984), 276-289; Sherrin Marshall Wyntjes, "Women in the Reformation Era," in Becoming Visible: Women .in European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), 165-191; Thomas Max Safley, Let No Man Put Asunder: The Control of Marriage in the German Southwest: A Comparative Study, 1550-1600 (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1984).

(7.) Miriam U. Chrisman, "Women and the Reformation in Strasbourg 1490-1530," Archly fiir Reformationsgeschichte 63 (1972), 143-167.

(8.) Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1975); Lyndal Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (Oxford/New York: Clarendon/Oxford University Press, 1989); Susan C. Karant-Nunn, "Changing One's Mind: Transformations in Reformation History From a Germanises Perspective," Renaissance Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2005), 1101-1127; Marzio Barbagli and David I. Kertzer, "Introduction," in Family Life in Early Modern Times, ed. Marzio Barbagli and David I. Kertzer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001), ix-xxxii; Jeffrey R. Watt, "The Impact of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation," in Family Life in Early Modern Times, ed. Marzio Barbagli and David I. Kertzer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001), 125-154.

(9.) Kirsi Stjema, Women and the Reformation (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2009), 3, 13, 15, 32-33.

(10.) Stjema, Women and the Reformation, 44, 47.

(11.) George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation, 3rd rev. ed. (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1992); Elise Boulding, The Underside of History (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1976); Wyntjes, "Women and Religious Choices," 276-289; Wyntjes, "Women in the Reformation Era," 165-191; Wayne Plenert, "The Martyr's Mirror and Anabaptist Women," Mennonite Life 30 (June 1975), 13-18; Jenifer Hiett Umble, "Women and Choice: An Examination of the Martyrs' Mirror," MQR 64 (April 1990), 135-145; John M. Klassen, "Women and the Family among Dutch Anabaptist Martyrs," MQR 60 (Oct. 1986), 548-171; Betti Erb, "Reading the Source: Menno Sim,ons on Women, Marriage and the Family."

Conrad Grebel Review (1990), 301-318; Adela D. Torchia, "Purity and Perseverance: Merino Simons' Understanding of Practical Holiness and Early Anabaptist Women," Journal of Mennonite Studies 12 (1994), 26-44; Roper, Holy Household, 253-254; Auke Jelsma, Frontiers of the Reformation: Dissidence and Orthodoxy in Sixteenth-Century Europe (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 1998).

(12.) Claus-Peter Clasen, Anabaptism: A Social History, 1525-1618 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972); Joyce L. Irwin, Womanhood in Radical Protestantism, 1525-1675 (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1979); :Joyce L. Irwin, "Society and the Sexes," in Reformation Europe: A Guide to Research (St. Louis: Center for Reformation Research, 1982), 343-359; M. Lucille Marr, "Anabaptist Women of the North: Peers in the Faith, Subordinates in Marriage," MQR 61 (Oct. 1987), 347-362; Wes Harrison, "The Role of Women in Anabaptist Thought and Practice: The Hutterite Experience of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," Sixteenth Century Journal 23, no. I (1992), 49-69; Werner 0. Packull, "We Are Born to Work Like the Birds to Fly': The Anabaptist-Hutterite Ideal Woman," MQR 73 (Jan. 1999), 75-86.

(13.) Keith Sprunger, "God's Powerful Army of the Weak: Anabaptist Women of the Radical Reformation," in Triumph over Silence: Women in Protestant History, ed. Richard L. Greaves (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985), 45-74; Marion Kobelt-Groc.h, "Why Did Petronella Leave Her Husband: Reflections on Marital Avoidance Among the Halberstadt Anabaptists/' MQR 62 (Jan. 1988), 26-41; Marion Kobelt-Groch, Aufslissige Richter Gottes: Frown im Bauernkrieg und in den Tiluferbewegungen (Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag, 1993); C. Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora, 1995), 108-109, 253-269; C. Arnold Snyder and Linda A. Huebert Hecht, eds, Profiles of Anabaptist Women: Sixteenth-Century Reforming Pioneers (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996); Sigrun Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives among Anabaptist and Spiritualist Groups," in A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 15211700, ed. John D. Roth and James M. Stayer (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 425465; Stjema, Women and the Reformation.

(14.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 430; Roper, Holy Household, 253-254.

(15.) Stjema, Women and the Reformation, 16.

(16.) Stjerna, Women and the Reformation, 15.

(17.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 439.

(18.) TAE 111, No. 799, pp. 109-115; Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 276, 279. Men included the goldsmith Valentin Dufft; Josef Lorenz, husband of Gertrud; Lienhard Jost, husband of Ursula and later of Agnes; Hans Kropf, husband of Barbara Rebstock, a bucket-maker named Valentin Nessel; a Dutch intellectual, Johannes Eisenburg; and two Strasbourg millers, Wilhelm Blum the elder and his son Wilhelm Blum the younger. On Lorenz, TAE III, No. 799, pp. 112-113; on Jost, TAE II, No. 665, p. 453; on Kropf, see TAE II, No. 362, p. 13; No. 540, p. 304; on Nessel, TAE 11, No. 491, pp. 261-262 and TAE Ill, No. 952, p. 365; on Eisenburg, TAE III, No. 800, pp. 116-119; No. 922, pp. 337-338.

(19.) Williams, Radical Reformation, 391.

(20.) TAE II, No. 547, pp. 309-310; TAE II, No. 664, 451-452; Deppermann, Melchior Hoffinan, 204; Chrisman, "Women," 162-163; Seid, Katharina," Mennonite Encyclopedia (henceforth ME) IV.

(21.) Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff, Medieval Women's Visionary Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 6.

(22.) Barrett, 'Ursula Jost," 282.

(23.) TAE I, No. 210, p. 259; No. 298, p. 412; TAE III, No. 799, pp. 109-115; Chrisman, "Women," 160-161; Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 273.

(24.) Deppermann, Melchior Hoffinan, 206-210.

(25.) Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 277-278.

(26.) Ibid.

(27.) On Rebstock and her visions, see TAE I, Nos. 205, 206, 206a, pp. 253-256; TAE 11, Nos. 362, 400, 533, 540, 617; Deppermann, Melchior Hoffman, 212, 356-358, Williams, Radical Reformation, 391.

(28.) TAE III, No. 799, pp. 109-115; Deppermann, Melchior Hoffman, 356-357; Hulshof, Geschiedenis, 172-173.

(29.) Obbe Philips, "A Confession," in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. G. H. Williams and A. M. Mergal (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957), 211-212; Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 278279.

(30.) TAE II, No. 533, p. 300.

(31.) TAE II, Nos. 361, 362, 369, 388, 564; Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 279; Deppermann, Melchior Hoffman, 291-292; Williams, Radical Reformation, 419-421, differs slightly.

(32.) On the debate, the Twist reden, see TAE III, No. 836, pp. 156-238. Gary K. Waite, David )(iris and Dutch Anabaptism, 1524-1543 (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1990), 117-122, 129-132; Deppermann, Melchior Hoffman, 359-365; Williams, Radical Reformation, 582-584.

(33.) TAE III, 860, p. 293; Barrett, "Ursula jost," 280; Waite, David loris, 132-137; Deppermann, Melchior lioffinan, 363-367.

(34.) Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 280.

(35.) TAE III, No. 836, p. 180; Waite, David loris, 136-137; Deppermartn, Melchior Hoffirian, 364-365.

(36.) Barrett, "Ursula Jost," 281.

(37.) Waite, David Joris, 137-139; Deppermann, Melchior Heman, 366-369, 373.

(38.) TAE III, No. 836, p. 180; Barrett, "Ursula Jost/' 281-282.

(39.) TAE ii, No. 680, p. 468.

(40.) TAE III, No. 727, p. 32; No. 747, pp. 51-51.

(41.) TAE III, Nos. 737, 739, 747, 1046.

(42.) TAE 111, No. 980, pp. 380-381.

(43.) TAE III, No. 1083, p. 452; TAE IV, No. 1248, p. 9.

(44.) TAE IV, No. 1294 Beilage, p. 36; Lienhard, "La Reforme a Strasbourg," 482-483.

(45.) TAE I, No. 59, p. 58, n. 1; Chrisman, "Women," 159; "Cellarius, Martin," ME 1:538; Musing, "The Anabaptist Movement," 99.

(46.) John Derksen, "The Sc.hwenckfeldians in Strasbourg, 1533-1562: A Prosopographical Survey," MQR 74, no. 2 (2000), 261-262, 289-292.

(47.) TAE I, No. 256, pp. 337-338; Derksen, "Schwenckfeldians," 292; Daniel Husser, "Liberte spiritualiste et structures socio-religiuses: Caspar Schwenckfeld et les "Schwenckfelchens" entre eglises, sectes et autorites a Strasbourg (1529-1631)" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Strasbourg, 1980), 76.

(48.) TAE ill, Nos. 894, 935; TAE TV, Nos. 1743, 1762, 1764; Derksen, "Schwenddeldians," 291; Husser, "Liberte spiritualiste," 76, 129, 131, 134, 396.

(49.) Bainton, Women of the Reformation: In Germany and Italy, 73. On Zell, see Elsie A. McGee, Katharina Schutz Zell (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999).

(50.) TAE H, Nos. 564, 573, 575, 606, 650; TAE IV, Nos. 1047, '1062, 1148, 1150, 1192, 1227; Derksen, "Schwenckfeldians," 289.

(51.) TAE II, Nos. 637-639, 644, 645, 647, 649, 653, 660; Corpus Schwenckfeldianum V, No. 183, pp. 269-271; Chrisman, "Women," 159; Husser, "Liberte spiritualiste," 95, 116, 392.

(52.) Corpus Schwenckfeldianum XVIII, No. 1191, p. 205; TAE II, No. 645a, p. 438; TAE IV, No. 1487, p. 172.

(53.) Derksen, "Schwenckfeldians," 263-264; TAE IV, Nos. 1461, 1470, 1606, 1607, 1612, 1613, 1618, 1623-1625; Husser, Liberte spiritualiste," 78, 142, 145-147.

(54.) Derksen, "Schwenckfeldians," 293.

(55.) Isa. 26:4-6, 60:1-3; Jer. 48:12; Mal. 4:5; Acts 17:31, I Pet. 2:9; Bar. 5:3-5. TAE IV, No. 1536, pp. 207-208; John Derksen, "Melchiorites after Melchior Hoffman in Strasbourg," MQR 68, no. 3 (1994), 344-345.

(56.) TAE IV, No. 1536, pp. 207-208; No. 1755, pp. 343-344; Derksen, "Melchiorites," 345346.

(57.) TAE IV, No. 1536, pp. 207-208; Nos. 1748-1751, pp. 340-342; Derksen, "Melchiorites," 346-347.

(58.) Reinhardus Lutz, "Verzaichnus vn kurtzer begriff der Kiikzerischen vn verdampten Leer Martin Steinbachs..." (Strassbourg: Christian Muller, 1566), Ex. Bibliotheque nationale et urtiversitaire de Strasbourg R 102, 335; Derksen, "Melchiorites," 348.

(59.) Archives municipales de Strasbourg, Wiederteiuferherren, I, 14, f. 40v-41r; Derksen, "Melchiorites," 348.

(60.) Derksen, "Melchiorites," 349.

(61.) TAE II, No. 649, pp. 440-441.

(62.) TAE II, No. 359, pp. 9-10.

(63.) TAE II, No. 648a, pp. 470471; No. 680, pp. 467-468; TAE IV, No. 1294 Beilage, p. 36.

(64.) TAE II, No. 680, pp. 468. On Hans Adam and radical tailors, see John Derksen, "Hans Adam and Jorg Ziegler: Strasbourg's Radical Tailors," Journal of Mennonite Studies 15 (1997), 3143.

(65.) TAE II, No. 684a, pp. 470-71; TAE III, No. 723, pp. 30-31.

(66.) TAE III, No. 786, pp. 85-86; No. 1167, p. 511; No. 1187, p. 523.

(67.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 443-444.

(68.) TAE III, No. 1010, p. 398.

(69.) TAE III, No. 1024, p. 410.

70. TAE IV, Nos. 1233-1235, 1251, 1258, 1270-1273, 1276, 1366.

(71.) TAE IV, No. 1456, p. 147; No. 1466, p. 156.

(72.) TAE IV, No. 1496, pp. 177-178.

(73.) They may have felt pressure frnm their father, who threatened to disown them if they recanted.--TAE IV, No. 1649, p. 278.

(74.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 449-451.

(75.) Sally Smith, "Women and Power in the Late Medieval English Village: A Reconsideration," Women's History Review 16, no. 3 (2007), 311-321.

(76.) TAE I, No. 59, p. 58, n. 1; Chrisman, "Women," 159; "Cellarius, Martin," ME 1:538; Musing, "The Anabaptist Movement," 99.

(77.) TAE I, No. 256, pp. 337-338; Derksen, "Schwenckfeldians," 292; Husser, "Liberte spiritualiste, 76.

(78.) Husser, "Liberte spiritualiste," 114-115.

(79.) TAE I, No. 67, pp. 62-67; No. 112, p. 135; Musing, "Anabaptist Movement," 107; Cluisman, "Women," 159; Boyd, Pilgratn Marpeck, 49.

(80.) Stjema, Women and the Reformation, 35-36.

(81.) Derksen, From Radicals to Survivors, 62, 152; Boyd, Marpeck, 114.

(82.) Walter Klaassen, "Anna Scharschlager of Hopfgarten, Tirol," in Profiles of Anabaptist Women, ed. C. A. Snyder and L. A. Hecht (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996), 59-61.

(83.) TAE if, No. 462, p. 214; Cheryl Nafziger-Leis, "Margarethe Priiss of Strasbourg," in Profiles of Anabaptist Women, ed. C. A. Snyder and L. A. Hecht (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996), 270; Chrisman, "Women," 159-160.

(84.) Nafziger-Leis, "Margarethe Priiss," 260, 263-267.

(85.) TAE I, No. 7, p. 11; No. 74, P. 588; No. 189, p. 240; Nafziger-Leis, "Margarethe Pruss," 258-259, 266-270.

(86.) Merry E. Wiesner, Working Women in Renaissance Germany (Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986), 72-73.

(87.) TAE III, Nos. 866 and 867, p. 295.

(88.) TAE IV, No. 1394, p. 112; No. 1407, P. 118; Belicht des Matthaus Nagelin, Strassburg, Bez.-Archives., H 2713: "Wangen Geschefft," f. 34-36, 47-50, 76; Archives municipales de Strasbourg, Wiedertiinferherren, 1, 14, f. 40v-41r.

(89.) "Scharnschlager, Leopold," ME IV:443-446.

(90.) TAE III, No. 727, p. 32; No. 747, pp. 51-51.

(91.) TAE I, No. 74, p. 588.

(92.) TAE IV, No. 1294 Beilage, p. 36.

(93.) Bericht des Matthaus Nagelin, Strassburg, Bez.-Archives., H 2713: "Wangen Geschefft," f. 34-36, 47-50, 76.

(94.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 441, 449451.


*John Derksen is an associate professor of Conflict Resolution Studies at Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg).
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