“I should prefer that all women, even of the lowest rank, should read the evangelists and the epistles of Paul.” Erasmus, Paraclesis: or, an Exhortation (1516).
Invectives: Examples of Reactions to Women in Leadership in the Reformation — Part One Introduction
Invectives: Examples of Reactions to Women in Leadership in the Reformation — Part Two Examples of Invectives
Invectives: Examples of Reactions to Women in Leadership in the Reformation — Part Three Sexual and Posthumous Invectives
It appears from the writings of these women that they could give as good as they got. Argula von Grumbach wrote her own poem in response to Johannes Landshut, and when she had it published, she didn’t try to hide the original poem, instead she included it in the publication so that readers could judge for themselves who was right, because she had full confidence in rightness of her response. Likewise, Argula did not back down in light of her uncle’s chastisement of her. Instead, she stood her ground and justified her letter writing campaign by arguing that the leadership at the university (and even the princes of the land) were “as well informed about the Bible as a cow is about chess.”
Marie Dentière did not wither in the face of invectives thrown at her. In her Epistle to Marguerite of Navarre, written at the request of Marguerite to inform her about what had happened to cause John Calvin’s expulsion from Geneva, Marie did not mince words as she condemned the Genevan city leadership for their decisions. She likened them to “cowardly soldiers” who “when they find themselves in assaults, skirmishes, and ambushes with the enemies of truth…don’t want to bite for fear of blows, insults and outrages. Thus, they are as bold as slugs.” These men were “donkeys, wolves, and impudent, lustful hypocrites.” She specifically called out one man, Pierre Caroli, who “impudently abandoned his own pregnant wife…and returned to his vomitings,” that is, he rejoined the Catholic Church.
When Katharina Zell was called a concubine for being married to a clergyman, she chose to not remain silent and instead wrote a defense of not only her marriage to Matthias Zell, but a defense of clergy marriage in general. And Elizabeth displayed her unhappiness at Knox’s First Blast by refusing to allow him to travel through England as he traveled from Switzerland back to Scotland.
Part Five: Evaluation
Argula von Grumbach, “An Answer in verse to a member of the University of Ingolstadt in response to a recent utterance of his which is printed below (1524)” in Matheson, Argula Von Grumbach: A Woman’s Voice in the Reformation, 173–190.
Katharina Schutz Zell, “Apologia for Matthew Zell on Clerical Marriage (1524)” in Zell, Church Mother: The Writings of a Protestant Reformer in Sixteenth-Century Germany.
Robert Healey. “Waiting for Deborah: John Knox and Four Ruling Queens.” Sixteenth Century Journal XXV, no. 2 (1994): 371–386.
Peter Matheson, “Breaking the Silence: Women, Censorship, and the Reformation.” Sixteenth Century Journal XXVII (1996): 97–109.