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Historians are only beginning to appreciate fully the political and social impact of the aftermath of the German Peasants' War, when some nobility "reverted to feuding with a vengeance" and rich peasants tried to stabilize relations with nobles. (3) As for women, research has tended to focus on town dwellers, nuns, women of high-noble rank, or state-building, alternatively stressing the (often negative) impact of Protestant reform on women's economic participation and social freedom, their escape from patriarchy and cultural productivity in monasteries, their role in high politics to promote or resist Lutheran reform, the place of virginity and chastity in social discipline and state-building, and the constructs of gender related to these things. (4) In all this, the tendency is to look up toward women of very high social rank, or in toward women in religious vocations, or out toward the social structures and conceptualizations that conditioned women's opportunities. However valuable all of this clearly is, ordinary women responding to the religious controversy as they met everyday challenges have been largely ignored. Tom Scott has offered one of very few exceptions to this rule, in an exemplary study of groups of women physically defending local preachers in the early stages of the Peasants' War. (5) Barbara's case draws attention to a woman of middle or perhaps upper-middle status, displaying her tenacity in the sequel to armed conflict. Her case also illustrates the flux of religious identities at ground level in the early Reformation, among people whose interest in the religious controversy was secondary to, perhaps inseparable from, family business.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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