Margaret Blaarer


How often do we focus on the soloist or the pastor, yet ignore the ministry of the quiet saints who exist in practically every church. They labor without fanfare, or earthly recognition, but we may be assured that their godly works are known in heaven. Church historian J.I. Good had a special burden for uncovering and chronicling the lives of such people so that future generations might remember and be encouraged by their example. In his Famous Women of the Reformed Church, he briefly mentions one such lady who, indeed, needs to be remembered.

Not only were the wives of the reformers a great aid to the Reformation, but their sisters also. We have an illustration of this in Margaret Blaarer the sister of Ambrose Blaarer, the great reformer of Constance and Wurttemberg. In this city Huss had been burned at the stake prophesying that the Reformation would rise from his ashes. In 1527 that city rose, Phoenixlike, from his ashes to throw off the yoke of Rome; as many as twenty-three ministers preaching the gospel in the churches. In this Reformation the Blaarer family became very prominent. Ambrose, the reformer, had been a monk, but left the monastery disgusted with its vices. His brother Thomas became burgomaster of the town and Margaret became the female reformer of the Swiss Reformation.
Many, however, were the difficulties that arose to impede the Reformation there. Drought, plague and earthquakes came over after the other. During all these trials Margaret was the excellent helper of her brother Ambrose. She was a scholar in those days, when few women were educated. She read the old authors in the original tongues, had correspondence with many learned men in Latin and was highly honored as a poetess by Erasmus and Bullinger. Bucer, the reformer at Strasburg, having attended the conference at Berne in 1528, returned with Blaarer to Germany by way of stance. He there learned to know Ambrose’s sister, and afterwards kept up correspondence with her, no less than seventy-nine letters of Bucer to her being shown in the Zurich library. He addressed her as “sister” and “mother”, although he was three years older than she. But then she was a mother to Israel because of her good works. But it was her piety that shone above all her gifts. For though so honored by men, and so well acquainted with the sciences of the day, she clothed herself, says a writer, “in the greater ornament of modesty, that she had not only found the pearl of great price, but was a pearl herself (Margaret means pearl) and through the splendor of her piety and her example of good works.” And not only this but also an ornament to her city.
In doing good she was untiring. Many were the poor children she taught to read. Many were the widows and orphans she visited in their sorrow. While her brother Ambrose swung the spiritual sword, the Word of God, and her other brother Thomas swung the worldly sword as a leader of the Reformation in the city council, her work was the quiet, still labor of a love that reached all. The first woman’s society to care for the sick was organized by her. She thus became the founder of the first woman’s society in the Protestant Church. When the plague broke out in 1541 she labored most assiduously and self-denyingly among the sick at the rick of her own life. Her brother Am-brose thus wrote to Bullinger November 5, 1541, “Margaret, the best of sisters, behaves life an archdeaconess of our church in that she puts her life and all in danger. Daily she visits the houses where the patients of the pest are cared for. She has just taken a little girl whom she has supported for ten years, into her home. Pray, I beseech you, to the Lord, that He does not permit her who is our only comfort to be torn away from us.”
Ambrose’s wish was answered. She did not die of the plague, but she did not live long after; for she died of a fever, November 15, 1541, at the age of 47 years. After her death, Ambrose re-ceived many letters full of sympathy and mourning from all the leading reformers as Bucer and Bullinger. Am-brose wrote a beautiful hymn on her death, full of Christian hope; for he was one of the earliest hymn-writers of the Reformation, as for 150 years after the reformation they sang mainly psalms.
She was a genuine sister of mercy, not one shut up in a convent, but one who entered the far wider sphere of everyday life, busy in acts of mercy wherever opportunity was found. If her brother has been called the Apostle of Wurttemberg, she might well be called the Angel of Mercy of Constance.
Well was it for her that she died when she did. It was a mercy of God that she did not live a few years longer, for then she would have seen the Reformed driven out of Constance and her brother Ambrose compelled to flee to Switzerland for safety. When the storm burst on Constance, she was safe above the storms in the bosom of her Lord in heaven.