The 500th anniversary of the Reformation has prompted a publishing bonanza of all things related to the Protestant Reformation. Many of these books have understandably focused on the life and legacy of towering figures such as Martin Luther. Others have traced the broader themes and trajectories of the various reformations which swept across Europe in the 16th century. Relatively few books, however, have offered the kind of accessible, interesting, and unique writing found in Rebecca VanDoodewaard’s new book Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth.
One of the things I most loved about the book was its commitment to introducing the reader to new faces and figures. As VanDoodewaard says in the preface:
The subjects of this book are limited to women who are not household names in modern evangelicalism. Today, many Christian women are familiar with figures like Lady Jane Grey, but few know about Louise de Coligny. One of the goals of this book is to introduce today’s Christians to believing women who helped form our Reformed faith but who are largely unknown now. Biographies of women like Katherine Luther are available, but biographies of equally influential and godly women are not, and the church needs them; these women form a large section in the cloud of witnesses. Women from this seminal century of Protestantism have much to teach us.
In pursuit of this goal, VanDoodewaard offers us brief biographies of the lives of twelve women of the Reformation. Some were the wives of famous reformers while others were scholars and theologians in their own right. Many were members of the aristocracy who used their influence to further the cause of the Reformation and protect the persecuted. These women hailed from different places – France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands – yet they shared a common love for Christ and His church. Each biography is short but all of them left me with a desire to learn more about these great women who lived through grave times.
VanDoodewaard’s study helps to fill the gap which exists at a popular level regarding the role of women in the Reformation. Her study is helpful and engaging and I found each chapter to be better than the last (the chapters on the Frenchwomen Jeanne d’ Albret & Luise de Coligny were particularly riveting). Hopefully this book will help to provide the church today (and perhaps especially the daughters of the church) with models of feminine faithfulness.
I would like to thank the good folks over at Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free review copy of this book. I was not obligated to provide a positive review.