Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth by Rebecca VanDoodewaard: A Book Review

Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

There is something profoundly encouraging and inspiring to be able to go back in time and learn of the women who traversed unfathomable obstacles yet made it safely to glory. It is an infusion of Hope that steels our minds and gives resolve to our faith.

If Calvin, Luther and Zwingli are considered the Father’s of the Reformation, than these women are the Mother’s of the Reformation.

“Limiting our study of Reformation history to men limits us to half a history. Unless we understand at least some of these women’s work and influence, we will have an incomplete picture of God’s work during this century.”

Reformation Women provides brief but informative accounts from the lives of twelve women. Additionally, the appendices supply timelines and family trees for simplicity of understanding.

The author speaks openly of her intent to exhort the Church to reclaim these stories from feminist interpretations and see it as an opportunity to rightly understand and express biblical womanhood as we work through these same concerns just as they did during the Reformation.

“Do you call this disturbing the peace that instead of spending my time in frivolous amusements I have visited the plague infested and carried out the dead? I have visited those in prison and under sentence of death. Often for three days and nights I have neither eaten or slept. I have never mounted the pulpit, but I have done more than any minister in visiting those in ministry. Is this disturbing the peace of the church?…You young fellows tread on the graves of the first fathers of this church in Strasbourg and punish all who disagree with you, but faith cannot be forced.”
~ Katharina  Zell {née Schutz} responding to Rubus whom referred to her as ‘disturber of the peace of the church’.

These women faced war, disease, death of their children, all forms of abuse, death threats, poverty, apostate children, overwrought marriages, oppression, meddling in laws, infertility, abandonment and persecution from within and from without.

“A reform seems so right and necessary that, for my part, I consider that it would be disloyalty and cowardice to God, to my conscience, and to my people to remain any longer in a state of suspense and indecision.” ~ Jeanne d’Albret, excerpt from a letter to a friend in 1555.

They also moved frequently often due to exile, raised orphans, took in refugees, educated children, visited the imprisoned, persuaded leaders, lead armies, gave generously to those in need, and housed the saints.

They give us perspective. Not in a way to minimize the struggles women of faith contend with today but to assure us that we don’t face any afflictions today that aren’t common to women throughout history.

And they faced those afflictions faithfully. Their stories give us comfort knowing that God gave us women to relate to and glean understanding from as they strove to follow Christ. What a gift He has provided for His Remnant.

“Madam, if I at this moment held my son and all the kingdoms of the world in my grasp, I would hurl them into the bottom of the sea, rather than peril the salvation of my soul.” ~ Jeanne d’Albret responding to Catherine de’Medici attempting to force Jeanne to attend Mass

These women came from different backgrounds, with different upbringings, and utilized their different strengths and even their weaknesses to defend and proclaim the Gospel. That is the one thing they all were of one accord: their unwavering and relentless determination to contend for their convictions, even unto death.

“Each woman had her own strength: intellectual, emotional, or physical. But spiritual strength was something they all had in common, drawn from a knowledge of the Scriptures and personal communion with God. It was conformity to God’s Word that taught them how to live, how to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to their Redeemer. There is no such thing as superwoman. In an array of talents, situations, personalities, tastes and even blind spots, each woman bore kingdom fruit as each of their souls took on biblical shape. The primary attribute that these women have in common is Christlikeness. Every believer has the same calling.”

Let us pray as God continues to raise up women to join this cloud of witnesses that He equip us to be counted among them.

Disclosure: This book was provided by Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my review.

Purchase Reformation Women