Amelia Bloomer vs. Philipp Melanchthon

Today in Lent Madness it's a 19th century reformer taking on a 16th century Reformer (see what we did there?). It's an intriguing matchup between  an educator on the forefront of the Women's Rights movement and a theologian on the forefront of the Protestant Reformation. Who will advance to the Saintly Sixteen? That, dear friends, is up to you!

Yesterday, in what may well be considered the biggest upset thus far, Franz Jägerstätter narrowly took down Joan of Arc 52% to 48%. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an official Cinderella of the 2017 bracket -- and rather than a glass slipper he's wearing double umlauts.

Amelia Bloomer

Born to devout Presbyterian parents in 1818 in New York, Amelia Bloomer was taught by her mother at home and given basic instruction in a village school. Bloomer worked as a teacher and a governess. When she married, the vows omitted, at the bride’s declaration, the promise to obey her husband. She became an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls.

Bloomer’s passion was the issue of temperance—she recognized the damage alcohol abuse brought to communities and relationships. She attended the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. While she initially rejected much of the platform from Seneca Falls, the seeds of equality were planted and nurtured by Bloomer’s faith and her community.

Realizing the power of newspapers, Bloomer began publishing The Lily in 1849, much to the mocking consternation of male journalists, who deemed her project a failure. But The Lily bloomed, providing a national platform to address women’s rights, temperance, women’s education, and double standards between women and men. The Lily’s coverage of a new fashion for women that allowed for movement and less restriction went viral; subscriptions for her paper doubled when more mainstream newspapers ran stories about the ensemble eventually called bloomers.

In her newspaper, Bloomer publicly countered arguments from clergy who used scripture to condemn women’s fashion. Well-versed in scripture, Bloomer wrote extensively about verse traditionally used to demean women. She recognized that women’s fashion issues were symptomatic of a larger issue—women were not seen as independent, capable citizens in the eyes of the government or the Church.

Amelia was a devoted Episcopalian, challenging clergy who opposed women’s rights. Her Christian faith was fuel for her commitment to moral and social change, and she continued to champion women’s rights, preaching that one day, God would “bring about the emancipation of women, and make her equal in the power and dominion that she was in the beginning.” She died in 1894; twenty-six years later, women won the right to vote.

Collect for Amelia Bloomer
O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servant Amelia. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Laurie Brock

Philipp Melanchthon

Edmund Hillary had Tenzing Norgay. Ginger had Fred. Joey had Monica and Chandler. And Martin Luther had Philipp Melanchthon.

In the shadow of Martin Luther was Philipp Melanchthon, who wrote some of the most important theological works of the Protestant movement. Melanchthon received a thorough classical education, studying philosophy, rhetoric, Greek, jurisprudence, and medicine. He was eligible for a master’s degree in 1512 but was denied the degree because he was only fifteen at the time. Four years later, he was finally awarded his master’s degree, and he began to study theology in earnest.

A year after Luther posted the 95 Theses, Melanchthon was invited to the university in Wittenberg, where he and Luther became fast friends and faithful collaborators. In 1521 Melanchthon published the first edition of Theological Commonplaces—the first systematic explanation of Reformation thought. Luther said of this work, “Next to Holy Scripture, there is no better book.” This text became the essential theological textbook for understanding the Reformation across Europe. It is possible that the comprehensive quality of this work is one reason that Luther never wrote his own systematic theology.

Melanchthon was part of the team that drafted the Augsburg Confession—the most widely accepted confessional document of the Lutheran tradition to this day. He also wrote The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, which is also considered a binding document for many Lutherans.

Not content with merely reforming the Church, Melanchthon also worked to improve education across Germany, writing a guide for elementary education that served as a model for schools across Germany. In addition, he provided guidance for the founding and renewal of several important universities.

Following Luther’s death, conflicts within the Reformation movement cast a shadow over Melanchthon’s work. On his deathbed, he wrote, “You shall be delivered from sins, and be freed from the acrimony and fury of theologians.” Following his death in 1560, Melanchthon was buried alongside Luther in Castle Church, Wittenberg.

Collect for Philipp Melanchthon
Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge, and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace you have imparted to your servant Philipp Melanchthon, and pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

— David Hansen

[poll id="183"]

Amelia Bloomer—Benjamin F. Gue , Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Phillipp Melanchthon—Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public domain via Wikimedia


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242 comments on “Amelia Bloomer vs. Philipp Melanchthon”

    1. Okay today we would have elected her Bishop. She was a lady ahead of her time. We stand on her shoulders.

  1. I had to vote for Amelia this morning for her efforts for women's equality including the bloomers.

    1. Perfect, Anne. She did persist.
      Melanchthion got his due credit. She got laughs--recognition is overdue.

  2. While I completely appreciate Amelia's works, I looked at this as a battle between social and theological issues. I lean more on the theological with my bracket choices. I felt Philipp won handily.

    1. I, too, have consistently tried to use theology (but not always!) as the primary point in deciding on my vote. Also thought he was close to being a sure bet.

    2. I was impressed with Philip, but Amelia means a lot to modern women. She got my vote this time.

    3. Amelia was a theologian. She argued for the superiority and intent of the biblical theology of freedom and equality in Christ over the theology of privilege and oppression that was replete in the clerical class of her day and for much of history. Her arguments were Gospel-based and her actions were up there with any prophet's.

      1. I agree that Amelia's quest for equity is indeed biblical. I seem to lean more toward those who put their faith into action as well as the more contemporary figures.

    4. I had to vote for Amelia, if nothing else to send a message to the Supreme Executive Committee. I am still upset that less than a third of the saints on the bracket this year are women. We are not a minority! And if women are a minority in the world of saints, then we have a serious problem.

    5. I agree: I put more weight in the theologians than in social issues although I did like David Oakerhater.

  3. KUdos to Ms Bloomer, like her style and contribution and I don't mean the bloomers....but Philip is my main man for this round!

  4. Voted for Amelia. I remember wearing bloomers under my hockey kilt! Now, women can wear pants and not be put to the stake!!

    1. When I hastily read your comment I missed "remember" but saw "Now" and could only wonder where you were and what would put you in bloomers and a hockey kilt on a Thursday morn! LOL

  5. How could I possibly not vote for Amelia Bloomer when my grandmother shocked New York by riding a bicycle astride in bloomers and my daughter Amelua was named in her honor?

  6. A very difficult decision for me. Both stead fast in their faith wrote to defend it against strong opposition. I guess I voted for Amelia because she worked alone whereas Philipp had Luther.

    1. Alice, temperance was a huge issue in the nineteenth century for working class women. Very often husband's could only cash their paychecks in bars and saloons-- and as a result, families sometimes saw none of the pay! This is why my great great grandmother Mary Jane Williams fought for temperance.

      P.S.. I voted for Amelia. She persisted...

      1. On the other hand, however, the fact that the 19th c. temperance movement promoted abstinence (rather than moderate drinking) as the sole alternative to problem drinking was (IMHO) a factor in the development of the problematic binge drinking culture that exists in much of the English-speaking world today.

  7. In remembrance of those bloomers I wore under PE skirts on netball courts in the 70's, I vote for Amelia. Also she was a journalist and a fighter for women's equality. Go, Amelia!

    1. Yes! Bloomers were modest gym attire for the girls at Immaculata academy in 1959. We have come a long way.

    1. That's one of the major reasons I voted for Joan of Arc. Her mission was many times more difficult to fulfill than that of her double-umlautted competitor because she was a female, a young female, and a peasant in a world completely dominated by men and aristocrats.

  8. As the mother of a persistent young woman named Lily, I had to vote for Ms. Bloomer this morning!

    1. I was going to vote for Amelia anyway, but my crusading wünderkind is "Lisette," the diminutive of lily. So I cast my vote for Amelia in honor of my 16-year-old daughter, already an independent thinker and a person of great power and dominion over her own course in life.

  9. These tough matchups are continuing. Will SEC's selective matchups become yet more insidious with each coming Lent?

    1. Yes, this really was a tough one. Surely both deserve to be included. But it's like comparing apples and oranges ... or more like apples and turnips. There was an earlier comment that spoke of social vs theological, but even that distinction is not as straightforward as it seems because Amelia also tried (in a local way) to stand up to clergy who undermined women. The weight to tip the scale will have to be that Joan didn't make it yesterday. [People vote in national elections for sillier reasons!]

  10. I'm sticking with ladies who wear pants...didn't work out for me yesterday with Joan of Arc, but I know I'm right with Amelia!

    1. YES! she's the best Iowan on the bracket this year. Actually, she may be the best Iowan in Lent Madness ever.

      1. How many Iowans have there been in Lent Madness? Does SEC have an anti-Iowa bias? I call for an investigation, and I'm still waiting to see their tax returns.

  11. I voted for Amelia. She was before her times with her newspaper and fashion and women's rights issues. I didn't know bloomers were named after her. I wore bloomers too. Amelia all the way!!

    1. I agree. I'm Episcopal, and from upstate NY, and also saw the damage done by alcoholism.
      That convinced me.

  12. Where would we be without bloomers? Still wearing dresses, I'll wager!!! (I bet Amelia is rolling her eyes at that statement!) Anyway...Here's to Amelia and her bloomers!

    1. You bet your bloomers, as the saying goes!
      Amelia Bedelia!
      My 3 daughters have benefitted more than you can imagine from this brilliant and strong willed woman.
      Designer (early acceptability), Architect (another ceiling) and lastly my NetJets pilot, just off on her first assignment this morning. The light of Christ breaks through in the lives of pioneers and reformers like these.

  13. Amelia for the win..... and I'm sensing a pattern with my voting this year, heavily leaning toward the champion of rights, perhaps in response to our political climate.

  14. My vote is for Amelia Bloomer! Without her, I'd be sniffing smelling salts on my fainting couch with a corset cinching my waist to 17 inches, lacking the oxygen to think clearly or perform any kind of meaningful task. God bless Amelia Bloomer and dress reform!

  15. Before I read the bios, I was going to vote for Philipp. However, when I started reading about Amelia's issues with alcohol abuse and then how she fought for equal rights for women, I decided to vote for her. It was a difficult choice because great theologians have provided important foundations for our faith. I haven't been consistent, I didn't vote for Augustine of Hippo, but I did vote for Luther.

  16. I am truly stymied. Pants or education? Philip's work on school curriculum and freedom from Catholic absolutism may just get my vote, but women's rights and freedom? I am going to wait and pray on this one