“Woman and the Reformation then and now”

Did the Reformation create new opportunities or lead to new chains for women? This question was put to the 80 people on hand at the May 9, 2017 Women’s Conference of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, which took place in Bern. The attendees delved into the issue, taking into account the interesting stories and portraits of historical women discussed there.
Dorit Witt, Saxophonist

The history of the Reformation is dominated by men. This does not, however, mean that there were no equally courageous and well-spoken women as well. Their lives were only less frequently recorded for posterity. The participants in the conference came to know these women better in a variety of talks and workshops.

The main talk held by theologian Isabelle Graesslé discussed the situation of women in the 16th century, delved into the influence of the Reformation on their everyday lives, and lent a voice to figures of that period in particular, such as Catherine Zell and Marie Dentière.

During its incipient period, the Reformation provided women with opportunity: They served as preachers, writers, and were not only active alongside their husbands, but contributed to the movement’s expansion in their own right. Most of them would soar too high, however, in the view of the authorities, and their new wings were cut quickly: they were prohibited from preaching and their writings were burned. And even if it took nearly another 500 years before it would become fully legal for women to take to the pulpit as preachers, their first attempts did take place back in the Reformation era.

In her talk, Sabine Scheuter, President of the Women’s Conference, delved into the effects of the Reformation on the roles of women and men as well as on the understanding of marriage and family, using Reformation women as examples, including Anna Reinhard Zwingli, Katharina von Zimmern, Anna Adlischwyler Bullinger, and Margarete Blarer.

Four afternoon workshops expanded on the talks. This included an introduction to a theatre production, a look into women between evolution and emancipation, creative writing inspired by women’s art, and a discussion of Reformed women in history in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

The conference concluded with the opening of the Standpunkt 17 art exhibition of the Protestant Women of Switzerland (EFS), accompanied by the saxophonist Doris Witt.

The next Women’s Conference will take place in Bern on October 23, 2017.

More Informations and Documents (in german)