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

Amelia Bloomer vs. Philipp Melanchthon

  • Amelia Bloomer (74%, 5,315 Votes)
  • Philipp Melanchthon (26%, 1,846 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,161

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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. Do you mean Philipp?

      When apologizing, it is always important to pay attention to the person's name, otherwise you have to do it again.

  1. Wow, Bloomer's really taking the lead. I voted for her, too. I didn't know about her career as a journalist, that's awesome. Too bad that even though women got the vote in 1920, we're still not earning the same money as men in the same jobs, and we're still not treated as equal in many ways. Great to honor Bloomer in this way, and I'm glad to be inspired by her.
    Meanwhile, a good word for Melanchthon: He was the great-nephew of Hebraist and Christian kabbalist Johannes Reuchlin, and translated Hebrew into German. He resisted taking on the worst of Luther's anti-semitic and anti-Jewish attitudes: "Although Melanchthon was influenced by Luther's antisemitism, he avoided its cruder excesses and in 1539, at the Frankfurt religious assembly, publicly denounced the blood libel that had resulted in the martyrdom of 38 Brandenburg Jews in 1510." Source: The Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/melanchthon-schwarzerd-philipp-x00b0.

  2. Any theologians who end up with underwear named after themselves will always get my vote, especially a great reformer like Amelia!

  3. Leading the struggle for women's rights, speaking up against the effects of alcohol abuse, inventing bloomers....yes, Amelia B has my vote.

  4. All-in for Amelia Bloomer 19th C Reformer #WomensRights advocate Doesn’t create women's clothing style reform known as bloomer,s but her name became associated w/ it due to her early, passionate advocacy!

  5. Voted for Amelia before I put on my Levis and went out for the day. Would have voted for her twice if allowed (I didn't, I didn't) as a female journalist who has put up with a lot in my day. Had one editor who said "educating women was like giving a monkey a knife." Go Amelia!

  6. This was a hard one this morning because they both contributed so much. But I went with Amelia because we need strong women like her today--yet she persisted.

  7. Tough choice -- women's rights vs. the underpinning of a reform that I believe saved all of Christianity. I've got to go with my semi-namesake (the one with two "l"s )

  8. Many thanks to Phillip for the foundational work he did, and because I have worked with gifted students,I feel his frustration at having to wait four years to have his Master's work recognized, but Amanda is going to take it today, I think.

  9. For Amelia Bloomer and Philipp Melancthon
    Tune: Moscow, Hymnal ’82, 365 Come Thou Almighty King

    ‘Tis joy to sing your praise,
    God of amazing grace!
    For countless ways,
    You set your people free
    To live more joyously.
    And thanks especially
    For many saints.

    Amelia was no fool!
    She saw beyond the rules
    Of gender wrong!
    Writing and speaking she
    Worked for equality.
    Through prayer and constancy
    Sang your true song.

    Philipp’s strong, faithful mind
    Sought truth the wise can find.
    With Luther he
    Tried through theology
    To seek full verity;
    Tried with humility
    To keep your peace.

    For all your saints through time,
    Through whom your glories chime,
    Our thanks are owed.
    And for Lent Madness we
    Give thanks and sing “WHOOPEEE!”
    It’s sure our cup of tea
    This season long.

    1. Diana-you are really good at this! I look forward to your take through song each morning!

    2. I love these hymns. You're just so good at this! It would be so nice to have the whole collection in book form at some future date.

    3. Thanks to all for the kind words about my hymns. Much credit must go to RhymeZone.com for rhymes, near rhymes, synonyms, etc. It's a writer's best friend in the search for the perfect word. I don't think the hymns are worth publishing, though I appreciate those of you who have made the suggestion. I am, however, keeping them together and will send them to anyone who wants them after the Golden Halo has been bestowed.

      1. I really hope the SEC will gather them together at lentmadness.org, with your permission, of course.

        1. Me too - I'd love to see these all collected at lentmadness.org! Thank you for these lovely works.

      2. Oh, indeed, they are wonderful! And always leave me with a smile. What a great way to engage the saints. Had to write a hymn in seminary and your work reminds me of that. Great fun! Thank you!

    4. Wow! I will be singing that first stanza for the rest of the day. What a gift. Thank you.

    5. You've done it again, Diana. Thanks for sharing. Hoping to see your rhyme and verse again tomorrow morning.

  10. Martin Luther gets all the attention, but Melanchthon, working in his shadow, was incredibly important. He was, I suspect a more tolerant person as well (I just couldn't bring myself to vote for Luther for that reason.) And his comment about theologians rings true for this academic. It is clear that Amelia Bloomer will win this match, and that's fine since she is a wonderful role model as a woman of accomplishment, but I did want Philip to get some credit this time around.

  11. Would that Amelia from "that great cloud of witnesses" inspire all of us to stand for the rights of all who are not allowed their full rights.
    What a combination of faith and ACTION IN THE WORLD AGAINST HUGE ODDS she exemplifies.

  12. After a couple feet of snow I need some "bloomers" in my yard! Voting for Amelia today. If you have never been to Seneca Falls, the women's rights museum is well worth the visit. social and theology make good friends

  13. Tough call, but I went with Bloomer because her parent were devout Presbyterians. As a minister in the PC(USA) I felt predestined to vote for her (at least in this round).

  14. I went back and forth a bit, simply because Bloomer was a temperance supporter. But in the end she did so much for women in her time, I had to vote for her.

  15. A modern female social reformer against a 16th century male theologian (probably unheard of by many) voted on by modern, most likely progressive Christians...who could have seen Melanchthon's fall coming? (He's in for a drubbing.) It kind of reminds me of the hits he took after trying to reconcile Lutherans and Reformed Christians. Perhaps not fair, but his legacy will survive. He's not always adequately appreciated beyond Lutheran Christians but at least he had his day in Lent Madness. Congrats, Amelia.

  16. Too tough a choice. I'm voting for Melanchthon because he probably had to explain the spelling of his name often enough to test the best of saints, and to keep dear Amelia from getting too big for her britches. 🙂 I figure I'll be voting for her next round anyway.

  17. Have to vote for Melanchthon since I have an ancestor with that as a first name. What the heck, he wore pants too!

  18. I am voting for the feminist!! I have worked in a male majority field , so I have walked in those shoes. Good on her for the Lily, and yay bloomers!!

  19. If Amelia wins it all, I can't wait for her saintly swag! Here's to women fighting the fight and keeping the faith!

  20. I had to vote for Amelia today after reading that "she understood 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." Something that still happens today, when you think about it, from school dress codes that target girls' clothes almost exclusively so boys won't be distracted, to asking what female victims of sexual assault were wearing, to the recent targeting of women wearing hijabs, and on and on.

  21. In the past few days another well known athlete has been reported as acting inappropriately with a woman. Wealth, fame, and gender are not excuses for this sort of thing. "Will you strive for justice among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?" our Baptismal Covenant asks us, and we respond, "I will, with God's help" (BCP 305). Amelia Bloomer stood up for this standard of behavior, and she gets my vote today.

    1. I like the reference to Baptimal Vows. That's a great starting point for deliberation. Nice practice for Lent.

  22. I voted for Melanchthon, a humble theological and educational heavyweight. The poor Tenzing Norgays of the world need some love!

  23. Theology or women's rights. Ugh, difficult. Since we are still working on women's equality, I voted for theology/ Protestant Reformation.