Women's religious speech and activism in German Pietism
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The study focuses on women reformers as the primary innovators behind the eighteenth-century Pietist movement. Scholars have usually concentrated on Pietism as a predominantly German, Lutheran, and male movement. This focus has resulted in a neglect of the social issues with which the present study is concerned – that is, the intersection of gender, power, and religion in Europe in the Age of Enlightenment. This study correlates women’s high levels of participation in Pietism with social changes in the period, including a weakening of the class system and the effects of industrialization, and shows that, through the medium of dissenting religion, Pietists coped with these turbulent changes and challenged oppressive hierarchies of the day. What has been overlooked is the fact, familiar at the time, that women religious figures both supported the Pietist movement financially and contributed substantially to its doctrine. Despite the documented importance of these women activists in the era, modern scholars have neglected their writings, looking instead to male figures like Spener, Francke, and Zinzendorf. Thus, the central texts of this analysis are the understudied (and in some cases, unpublished) letters, theological tracts and sermons of Pietist women. The study shows that women’s contributions to Pietism were at least as important as those of their male counterparts, from early prophetic women who helped spur on the movement in its infancy, to female benefactors who funded the major Pietist institutions, to female preachers and administrators in Pietist sects. vii Case studies on the Pietist activist, Johanna Merlau Petersen, and the preacher and church administrator, Anna Nitschmann, detail the scope of women’s participation in the religious reform movement. The study ends by arguing for a reconsideration of religious women's contributions to the European Enlightenment, and especially to the era's debates about the intellectual, artistic, and spiritual authority of individuals within the community and the state.
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