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The Life of Lady Johanna Eleonora Petersen, Written by Herself

Pietism and Women’s Autobiography in Seventeenth-Century Germany

In a time when the Pauline dictum decreed that women be silent in matters of the Church, Johanna Eleonora Petersen (1644–1724) was a pioneering author of religious books, insisting on her right to speak out as a believer above her male counterparts. Publishing her readings of the Gospels and the Book of Revelation as well as her thoughts on theology in general, Petersen and her writings created controversy, especially in orthodox circles, and she became a voice for the radical Pietists—those most at odds with Lutheran ministers and their teachings. But she defended her lay religious calling and ultimately printed fourteen original works, including her autobiography, the first of its kind written by a woman in Germany—all in an age in which most women were unable to read or write.

Collected in The Life of Lady Johanna Eleonora Petersen are Petersen’s autobiography and two shorter tracts that would become models of Pietistic devotional writing. A record of the status and contribution of women in the early Protestant church, this collection will be indispensable reading for scholars of seventeenth-century German religious and social history.

168 pages | 1 halftone | 6 x 9 | © 2005

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Germanic Languages

Religion: Christianity

Women's Studies


"As an early example of an autobiography written by a German woman, this document would also be useful in literary history classes, especially in conjunction with Becker-Cantarino’s introduction, which provides a good discussion of the place of this work in the history of the genre... The Life of Lady Johanna Eleonora Petersen, Written by Herself provides us with an interesting and useful example of an early modern woman’s voice, and another valuable addition to the Other Voice in Early Modern Europe series."

Tryntje Helfferich, | H-German

"This is the story of a remarkable woman whose mystical-spritual immersion in God’s word inspired her to serve as an example for women to find their own voice and a goal for their lives, Her life changed perceptions about women at a time when this was all but unimaginable. This book is well written and very readable."

Francis Klopper | Studies Historiae Ecclesiasticae

"By making the entire autobiography with annotations available in a compelling translation, Becker-Contarino gives students and teachers of early modern German an excellent new resource. . . . The lively translation of Petersen’s Life will be particuolarly welcome in the classroom and go a long way in conveying the dynamism and character of the Pietist movement to students of history, religion, and literature."

Jonathan Strom | Seventeenth-Century News

"Offer[s] much to the scholar and the student of early modern history and not just to those interested in Germany, women, [or] theology."

Mary Lindemann | Clio

Table of Contents

Series Editors’ Introduction
Johanna Eleonora Petersen, née von und zu Merlau (1644-1724): From Noblewoman to Radical Pietist
Volume Editor’s Bibliography

The Life of Lady Johanna Eleonora Petersen, née von und zu Merlau, Wife of Dr. Johann Wilhelm Petersen, Written by Herself
Editor’s Introduction

Appendix A
Editor’s Introduction
A Supplication to the Magistrate of Frankfurt (1677)
Appendix B
Editor’s Introduction
A Letter to Her Sisters: The Nature and Necessity of the New Creature in Christ (1699)
Series Editors’ Bibliography

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