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Entries in The Reformation (2)


"Never did the same things please the hearts of all"

Olimpia Fulvia Morata was an Italian noblewoman who was actively involved in the Reformation. Unlike most women of her time, she was highly educated. She was also a poet. Here is a snippet of her poetry, where she describes herself, and likely, many women today:

Never did the same thing please the heart of all,
And never did Zeus grant the same mind to all . . .
And I, though born female, have left feminine things,
yarn, shuttle, loom-threads, and work-baskets,
I admire the flowery meadow of the Muses,
and the pleasant choruses of twin-peaked Parnassus.
Other women perhaps delight in other things.
These are my glory, these my delight.

Fortunately, we can be partakers of the both the "yarn, shuttle, loom-threads," and the "Muses." I know I like both, and I believe it enriches my life to pursue both even if at times I study more than I get out the yarn and shuttle.

Preferring one over the other doesn't make me more or less womanly.


Did all women welcome the Reformation?

I've started reading Women and the Reformation. Unlike other books on women of the Reformation, it does not focus primarily on the Reformation in England, but in Europe and France. Of the eight women discussed, I was only familiar with Renée of France and Katharina von Bora.

When we think of the Reformation, we naturally think of freedom; freedom from the strictures of the Church, freedom to read the Scriptures in one's own language. It was not all beneficial for everyone. For men, the Reformation allowed men to marry and be in church office. For women, it was not exactly the same, and I had never really stopped to think about that much.

In the medieval church, women could join convents and have a role in religious life. For women who didn't want to marry, the convent gave them a place to pursue not only religious life, but education. Once the convents and monasteries started to disband, those opportunities became fewer. 

Convents had fostered women's intellectual pursuits and writing more than any other institution at the time and (especially in urban centers) had provided and "intellectual space" and opportunities unavailable to women elsewhere. In other words, nuns had made many sacrifices for their calling, but gained in return opportunities to develop in areas beyond the reach of married women whose time and energy were consumed by their family and household tasks. It was not at all self-evident that the majority of convent women would eagerly give up what they had for, in their eyes, questionable pleasures of marriage with all its dangers, including childbirth, mortality, and abusive husbands -- and that was for all practical purposes the only alternative offered by the Protestent reformers.

That was something I had not thought much about, and likely because I take for granted the ability of women to seek education. We often forget that not every woman was able to pursue education. I wonder what it would be like to really want to pursue education, to watch the men around me attain it, but to be prevented from it myself. Women throughout history have been in such positions.

It makes me even more thankful for the opportunities I have.