Luther, the Reformation and women | All media content | DW | 31.10.2017

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Luther, the Reformation and women

How did Martin Luther and the Reformation change the status and image of women in society? Luther’s 95 Theses and the subsequent Reformation were not the only game-changers; his marriage to Katharina von Bora also caused a stir in social structures.

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During the Reformation Martin Luther played a prominent part in addressing the role of women in society. Luther examined the values and standards of his times in the light of the Bible and came to a completely new conclusion: women and men were of equal worth. And what about celibacy? Man created that, he said, not God. Luther’s marriage to Katharina von Bora was an incomparable scandal: a nun escapes from her convent, marries a monk and becomes one of the most famous women in Europe. Preaching the equality of men and women and rejecting celibacy, Luther and his peers threw the monastery doors wide open and paid new respect to the role of women in marriage. Without Luther and the other reformers, Katharina von Bora’s startling rise would be unthinkable. She had a polarizing effect: many loved and revered her, whilst others despised and demonized her. What choices did she have after Luther’s death, when she became one of Wittenberg's most successful businesswomen? What options did women have in 16th century at all? In short, how much was the Reformation really about gender equality?

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