Title: Život evangeličky v Čechách na konci 18. století: obraz ženy v korespondenci tolerančních luterských kazatelů ze Slovenska

(The life of an Evangelical Woman at the end of the 18th Century: An Image of Women Cast by the Correspondence of Toleration Preachers from Slovakia) – pdf

Abstract: The article deals with the status of women in an evangelical community in Bohemia at the end of the 18th century. A letter correspondence between preachers and the Superintendent of the Lutheran Congregation in Prešpurk, Michael Institoris Mošovský, is used as the primary source for the research of this issue. The correspondence is archived in the Library of Evangelic Lutheran Lyceum in Bratislava. After the Patent of Toleration was issued (in 1781) – which made it possible to establish Lutheran and Helvetic Confession congregations in Bohemia and Moravia – M. I. Mošovský assisted with the mediation of the arrival of preachers to newly-founded communities and maintained written contact with the preachers afterwards. He helped the new preachers, who were mainly from the area of present-day Slovakia (Upper Hungary), to solve numerous problems occurring during the process of founding Lutheran congregations in the Czech lands. The correspondence thus contains a number of interesting pieces of information about the day-to-day running of these communities and, last but not least, there are many references to women. Correspondence of preachers from the Czech congregations in Prague, Habřina, Kovánec, Křižlice, Horní Dubenky, and Krucemburk from the period of 1782–1803 was used.

Women appear in the preachers’ letters in several different roles. They appear as members of the congregations, wives of the preachers, mothers of their children, but also as mothers of students who were sent to study in what was then Prešpurk, where M. I. Mošovský was taking over their patronage. Thus, studying of the letters sent by the Lutheran preachers offers a fairly comprehensive view on the position of women in Czech evangelical communities at the turn of the 18th and 19th century.

As emerged from the research, women played a relatively important role in establishing new communities, as after the declaration of the Patent of Toleration, they did not hesitate to proudly proclaim their Lutheran faith and demonstrated rigid attitudes in this regard. As members of the congregation, they were often in close contact with the preachers, providing them with food and minor domestic help. They enjoyed considerable trust for this. Among other things, the preachers did not hesitate to entrust them with delivering letters or money.

The studied correspondence also provides interesting information on the status of the preachers’ wives. Most preachers came married. Those who were not married or were widowed were usually seeking a lifetime partner who would help them bear the difficult service in a foreign country. When choosing a future wife, the pastors preferred the environment from which they themselves were from, that is, they were mostly looking for wives in evangelical communities in Upper Hungary, where they had their close ones. The fate of Lutheran women was in many ways similar to that of other women at this time, including both high birth rate and mortality rate at a relatively young age, most often as result of complicated childbirths or tuberculosis. It can be inferred from the correspondence that the preachers’ wives played a crucial role in the family, raising the children and shaping their religiosity. They also managed the running and economy of the household. Despite this, however, they had no major influence in matters of property and finance, even in cases regarding their own inheritance, for example. The letters do not fail to mention extramarital liaisons which the preachers most often had with their cooks or housekeepers. It was not uncommon for these affairs to be the cause of the preachers’ transfers to different locations.

It also seems that many of the preachers’ wives, as well as members of the congregation, were relatively well-educated. Sections of letters written by the wives of the pastors, mothers of the students who resided in Prešpurk, or by the members of the Lutheran communities themselves can be found in the correspondence. Who is particularly noticeable among these women is the wife of the superintendent Štěpán Leška. She was herself a writer and contributed some poems to Puchmajer’s Almanac. The research shows that the more educated women were those who were members of urban Lutheran communities, as well as self-employed widows.

In general, it can be concluded that evangelical women living in Bohemia at the turn of the of the 18th and 19th century received greater respect from pastors than women living in Catholic environments. Furthermore, the evangelical women played an irreplaceable role in the building and stabilization of congregations at the beginning of the Toleration period.

Author: STOKLASOVÁ, Hana

DOI: 10.17846/SHN.2023.27.1.17-37

Publication order reference:

Univerzita Pardubice, Fakulta filozofická, Ústav historických věd, Studentská 95, 532 10 Pardubice 2, Czech Republic, mail:

Source: Studia Historica Nitriensia, year: 2023, vol.: 27, number: 1, pages: 17-37

Keywords: 18th century;Evangelical Church; Augsburg Confession; status of women; protestant preachers, tolerance congregations;

Language: Czech