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. Today I abandon my intellectual pretensions and vote for Amelia, not for her formidable intellectual gifts but . . . yes . . . because of the pants.

    One fine day, while riding my motorcycle (the modern pony) and enjoying the feeling of 175 horses between my legs, I realized that the original, fundamental purpose of forbidding women to wear trousers had to have been to prevent them from riding horses. That, until the advent of the automobile, was not only to immobilize them but to deny them access to what was both a source of actual power and a potent expression of male sexuality. The connection may be old hat to many feminists, but for me it was one of many revelations on the never-ending road to male liberation. While in googling "Bloomers" I haven't found a statement that, like many words that have become merely descriptive, it was first used in deprecation by a male-dominated press, I strongly suspect that to have been the case.

    So those are my theories and I'm sticking to 'em. They're at least as plausible as many of the saintly stories we've been reading in our Madness.

    1. Women in skirts rode horses sidesaddle--much more dangerous, really. As a woman who often wears skirts, I can tell you that pants really are much less cumbersome. Remember the pants in The Color Purple?

  2. With Joan of Arc defeated, I just have to vote for another woman wearing pants! Thank you, Amelia!

  3. If we didn't already have Martin Luther in the brackets, I would have voted for Philipp. But I would hate for Martin and Philipp to end up competing against each other! The early women struggling for equal rights were valiant and faithful, so I voted for Amelia in their honor. Not sure I consider her a saint.

  4. I was torn--finally I voted for Melanchthon--it seemed appropriate as we celebrate 500 year anniversary of the Reformation and well I am German and so is he--not to mention
    he had to put up with Luther who might not have been all that easy to get along with some times--he deserves to be recognized.

  5. I sense a trend in my voting this year. I seem to vote for people bucking the system. When one sticks to one's faith and meeting cultural expectations, but to stick to your faith and overturn the tables? Jesus was a rebel.

  6. My grandfather was secretary for the Temperance Union and Amelia's writing of a newspaper earned my vote for her today. Also loved learning about "bloomers"! But most of all, a big WHOOPEE for Diana. Today's hymn was the best so far. I had to sing it out loud!

  7. I voted for Amelia thinking about my mother. She was born in 1920 and continued the fight for equality for women in her own way (WAAC and WAC in WWII). I also voted for her because her work and influence went beyond the church and theology.

  8. My Grandma was a suffragette, and I have great respect for Amelia Bloomer. However, I vote for Melanchthon because of his theological contributions to the Reformation. His work seems more directly related to the development of faith for all of us.

  9. "A devoted Episcoplian, challenging clergy who oppose women's rights" is a bit confusing. Agree with Ron, "a battle between social and theological issues."

    1. Why is it a theological issue when men argue, but a social issue when women argue back?

      1. And aren't social issues theological, anyway? "Love thy neighbor as thyself" ... "Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God" ... "Whoever has two coats, let him give to him who has not, and whoever has food should do likewise" ... etc. ad inf.

  10. I voted for Amelia Bloomer she fraught for equality for women even tho that was taboo. I often wondered how women did their housework with the dress of that era. She is my hero.

  11. Amelia is one of our spiritual mothers--in today's world she would be a bishop along with ++Susan Goff and ++Dee Dee Duncan-Probe. To not vote for her, even with an opponent of such stature, is unthinkable.

  12. Both of these people are amazing. What got me especially, however, was the fact that Amelia was a feminist WAAAAY before it was cool, way before it was an assured accomplishment, and it would seem that her cause was driven by a profoundly religious orientation. She worked almost alone against the juggernaut of sexism, and she advanced her cause. And then, of course, there is the Bloomers.
    I usually go for the underdog, and this lady was the underdog to the underdog.
    Don't know that Amelia will go all the way, but it certainly would not surprise me.

  13. Poor Philipp up against Amelia. Will some theologian ever catch a break in this face off.

  14. Anyone who helped make clothing more confortable for women and an Episcopalian to boot has my vote hands down. Do bloomers come in blue denim by the way?

  15. Ah, Amelia was ahead from the get-go. Definitely not a "late bloomer"! (Corny, I know..... )

  16. Well, you had me when I learned the bride chose to admit the part of her vows that cites "obey". So forward thinking for that era.
    My vote goes to Amelia.

  17. A a feminist and a former Presbyterian (now an Episcopalian for 41 years with a Maters in Theological Studies) how can I not vote for Amelia? That, added to the fact I am distantly related to Elizabeth CADY (my maiden name) Stanton and Susan BROWNELL Anthony (my Mother's maiden name), women rule!

  18. For me this was the toughest choice so far. Both had such a great influence toward reforming religious thought among Christians.

  19. Had to vote for the woman who left out "obey her husband" in her wedding vows. You go, girl!

  20. I am 80. I was a "feminist" long before many of these responding were born. I wanted equal pay for equal work -- was a Ph.D college professor. But I am somewhat frustrated with the women of this age since women pretty much run our western world. Yet so many are still choosing saints because they are women! Theology trumps feminism in my choices for saints:)

    1. Thanks, Rose; I was thinking this, too. The point of feminism--or any movement that seeks to treat an underclass as equal to those with influence--is that we should see individuals, not classes. When we are judged on our merits rather than by our group, we are truly equal.

      Philipp toiled in obscurity while others took credit for his work. Sounds like . . . many women in history.

  21. Amelia reminds me of my grandmother who was active (bigly) in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. I'm sure she was a fan of Amelia's! So, #GoAmelia

  22. I don't think Amelia Bloomer would like to be on a pint glass so I voted for the German Reformer.

    1. 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!

  23. How could we not vote for Amelia? She began a battle that still hasn't progressed as fast as she or we would like. She is a role model for how we all should work to improve equality.

  24. Amelia had my vote today, though the match up was again another example of the Madness. Seneca Falls is just two towns down from my childhood home.

  25. For those who fault Amelia for her stance on temperance, it should be remembered just how much of a problem alcoholism was in her day. In Cincinnati, where bars vastly outnumbered churches, many wage earners, almost all men, stopped off at a bar on the way home from work, only to arrive home tipsy and broke. Their wives and children bore the brunt of the problem.

  26. Amelia benefited from living in Seneca Falls, where the women's rights issue came to her. Lucky for us. I voted for her, despite the fact I do like folks who work behind the scenes holding up other folks.

  27. You had me at "right to vote," but then you had me again at "systematic theology." These matches are becoming impossible. She persisted . . . but then so did he. I appreciate Bloomer's concern for alcoholism; it seems an early effort (but very 19th century, very Victorian) to address substance addiction. Today we have people dying daily of opioid addictions. If only our society took drug addiction and guns seriously; how many people couldn't we save? These scourges are as bad as smallpox and yellow fever and typhus, surely. (And Bloomer is from Iowa? A certain congressman, no relation to ML King, should be bombarded daily with information about early feminism. It might not get him into the 21st century, but perhaps it could lift him out of the racism of the 19th century.) But I went with Melanchthon as an author of the Augsburg Confession. I need to read the Theological Commonplaces now. Melanchthon reminded me of the need to find one's team. To do major reform and transformation, whether personal or political, you have to work together. I am reminded of the need both to transcend one's native condition but also to "find one's tribe." That is, gather a team and prepare together to build some small piece of the city of God.