Abstract

The article argues that the way Anabaptist history and theology is commonly narrated needs to be reshaped. A fundamental question is asked: Did women have positions of power in the early Anabaptist movement? Two points are considered: 1) How is power understood? and 2) On what premises can the history of Anabaptist women be written? These two points are put in relation to portraits of three women – Margret Hottinger, Helene von Freyberg, and Elisabeth Dirks – who represent three fundamental ways in which women related to power and authority in the early years of the movement. The article concludes that the way the stories of early Anabaptist women have usually been told are often both highly tendentious and failing to assess the authority of women on the basis of an Anabaptist theology of power. At the same time, the early movement employed a flat biblical hermeneutic that lead to a failure to process the subversive use of power and authority and the theological potential of the Anabaptist critique of the sword in relation to their own families and communities.

Keywords: Anabaptism, power, leadership, biblical hermeneutics, women’s history.