Marie Dentière

Mary McKinley

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online August 2011 | | DOI:
Marie Dentière

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Marie Dentière (b. 1495–d. c. 1561) was the daughter of a noble family (d’Ennetières) and an advocate of religious reform who left her Augustinian convent in Tournai and joined French Reformers in Strasbourg in 1521. With her first husband, Simon Robert, she followed William Farel to the Swiss Valais, where Robert became a pastor. Widowed with several children, she married Antoine Froment (b. 1509–d. 1581) in 1533 and moved to Geneva in 1535. A pamphlet, La guerre et deslivrance de la ville de Genesve, fidelement faicte et composée par ung marchant demourant en icelle, recording the events between 1532 and 1536, culminating in the Protestant victory, has been attributed to her, but her authorship of that work is questioned. (The “merchant living in that city” suggests Froment, who was a merchant and a shopkeeper.) The couple became followers of John Calvin when he assumed leadership of the Reformed Church later in 1536. The Epistre tres utile, addressed to Marguerite de Navarre, appeared with a false printer’s name in Geneva in 1539. Most copies were confiscated and the printer, Jean Girard, was imprisoned. The Epistre contains a “Defense pour les femmes” that argues for women’s right to interpret and teach scripture. The Epistre affirms Farel’s and Calvin’s teachings on salvation through faith alone and attacks the Roman Catholic mass, clergy, and papacy. Dentière appears fleetingly as “Froment’s wife” (uxor fromentis) in the correspondence of Swiss Reformers, most strikingly in a disparaging report by Calvin to Farel in 1546. The preface to a rare 1561 edition of Calvin’s sermon on 1 Timothy 2:8–12 carries her initials. The word froment (wheat) appears in the final lines of both the preface and the Epistre, linking the two texts to Dentière’s husband, Froment, a probable collaborator. Dentière all but disappeared from history until several 19th-century historians restored her to view.

Article.  4523 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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