Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on women of the Reformation. Next post. Previous post.
There have been Reformation sisters as well as Reformation wives. Margarethe Blaurer’s brother was Ambrose Blaurer, the Reformer of Konstanz and Württemberg. She stands as an example of service in singleness. In 1415, Jan Hus had been burned at the stake in Konstanz, prophesying that the Reformation would rise from his ashes. Over a century later, the city threw off Roman Catholicism. More than twenty ministers preached the gospel; Roman Catholic priests and bishops fled the city.
In this Reformed place, the Blaurer family became very prominent. Ambrose had been a monk, but he left the monastery disgusted with the religious community’s sins. His brother Thomas became burgomaster and Margarethe became the Swiss Reformation’s helpmeet. During the Reformation, Konstanz struggled through many trials: drought, plague, and earthquake came one after the other. During all of these, Margarethe was a great help to Ambrose.
Her Relationship with Other Reformers
Like so many other Protestant women, Margarethe was well educated, despite her common birth. Isaac Good points out that Erasmus and Heinrich Bullinger honored her as a poet, but it seems that her Latin was lacking—surviving letters to her are in her own tongue. She corresponded with many Reformation scholars. Bucer, on his way home from a conference in 1528, returned with Ambrose to Germany by way of Konstanz. There, he met Margarethe and afterwards wrote several letters to her. He addressed her as “sister” and even “mother” out of respect, despite the fact that he was three years older. Bucer was a guest more than once in the Blaurer home. He once visited while Margarethe was away; Ambrose later wrote to Bucer that Margarethe was disappointed that she was not able to host him herself and asked him to come again when she would be able to serve.
The relationship between Margarethe and Bucer is fairly typical of the kind of friendship that male Reformers had with female correspondents. Bucer’s primary relationship was with Margarethe’s brother, and often when Bucer wrote to Ambrose, he would include greetings to Margarethe in the conclusion of his letter. But because of her involvement in reform work, Bucer sometimes encouraged and advised her directly. They knew each other well enough for Bucer to tease Margarethe to end her singleness with a good marriage. (Even back then, pastors were tempted to match up godly young people.) He also asked for Margarethe’s help in arranging a match between a young man he thought highly of and a young woman whom Margarethe knew.
Theology was also a topic of discussion. The Anabaptists were making waves in the Protestant community. Margarethe had friends among them. Bucer explained the danger of their spiritual trajectory, calling the teaching heresy. Whether Margarethe considered their views as scriptural or whether Bucer feared she might is unclear. He did send her “our confession”—a scriptural explanation of the errors. So, like many of her Protestant peers, Margarethe also read theological works in the spare time she carved out.
In their discussions of mutual friends, relationships, and larger issues of reform, it is clear that the Reformer and the Reformer’s sister were friends in a very biblical way, encouraging each other as they did the work of reform and offering practical help—two points in a network trying to facilitate gospel advance.