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First Wives' Club

Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of sixteenth century women

Clare Heath-Whyte


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First Wives' Club

Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of sixteenth century women

Clare Heath-Whyte


The Reformation was a time of exciting and radical change. The leaders would have been under great pressure as they stood firmly for their convictions in the face of danger and threats. What would it have been like for the women who stood beside and supported them? Although many of these pressures are totally alien to us today, we still face the same challenge of standing firm for the gospel in a world which is against the God of the Bible.

In this companion to Old Wives' Tales Clare Heath-Whyte once again shows us the importance of learning from the past. She tells the stories of six Reformation wives including Katie Luther, Katharina Zell and Idelette Calvin. She honestly portrays how they endeavoured to live godly lives during this tumultuous period in history. Get to know the fascinating stories of these six courageous, hard-working wives. Learn from their mistakes and struggles, and be encouraged by their examples. Anyone who has ever listened to a (male) speaker and wondered about his wife will enjoy First Wives' Club.

Stimulating, diverse and well-researched, this book is a very readable way-in to Reformation history. ~ John and Ann Benton

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Overall rating

5.0 based on 7 reviews

Engaging, encouraging and challenging

I found this book engaging, encouraging and challenging. It describes the lives of several extraordinary women in the turmoil of Reformation Europe. Amongst others, these include an escapee nun who married Martin Luther; a wife who helped her husband to mediate in doctrinal disputes; and a four–time widow, married in turn to three prominent reformers, who undertook dangerous journeys from Strasbourg to England. All the women featured in this book managed huge routine workloads; supporting friends, family and husbands, caring for the sick and sheltering refugees. They lived through epidemics, religious wars and political upheaval while furthering the spread of Biblical Christianity, persevering in personal faith and growing in their relationship with God. Their stories challenge us to do the same.

Bea Rankin

Read it all!

You'll probably have heard of some of their famous Reformation husbands - Luther, Calvin and others - but here, Clare Heath-Whyte turns the spotlight onto their wives. I have to admit that I started this book slightly reluctantly. These women lived so long ago - what could I possibly have in common with them? Would they be perfect, gorgeously godly women that left me feeling totally inadequate?! Don't miss out on their stories. Turn to chapter 1 now and keep reading till you've finished it! Be informed, encouraged and inspired by the way these women loved and served Christ 500 years ago; learn both from their godliness and from their mistakes.

Mary Davis, St Nicholas Church, Tooting

Highly recommended!

If, like me, you hated history at school, and know precious little about the Reformation, have no fear! I found "First Wives Club" a great way to spend time with 6 very different Christian women who lived in the early 16th century, and to learn about the Reformation through their lives, marriages and home situations. Some showed great godliness and courage in the public arena of church politics alongside their husbands, others served quietly behind the scenes, giving generous hospitality and compassionate care; some were exemplary in their Christian life and witness, others were far from being ministry models! Each biography is followed by a short suggested Bible passage and questions for study and reflection, which will help the reader to view the Wives lives through "Bible eyes" and see the challenges for their own life and faith. Highly recommended!

Christa Moll

I loved reading this book!

In The First Wives Club, Clare Heath-Whyte writes about the lives of 6 sixteenth century wives who lived in Europe during the Reformation. Each woman's experience of marriage and family life was different. Each of the women experienced different hardships and tragedies. But each sought to live their lives according to the Bible's teaching rather than the culturally acceptable practices of the day. Some of the women Clare writes about are well known; some I hadn't heard of before reading this book. A couple were exceptionally gifted; most were ordinary. Each enhanced their husband's effectiveness for the gospel by their support and sacrifice. Each has something to teach Christian women today about how to live whole-heartedly for Jesus in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Him. Clare portrays each character warmly and with appreciation for their strengths and struggles. Her love of history and sense of humour is evident in each account. She is honest about the failings of the wives and their husbands - some of the details she records are shocking! She challenges the reader to be obedient to God's word in their own lives and provides helpful Bible study questions that encourage further reflection on the issues raised in each chapter. Sixteenth century Europe was not an easy place to live as a follower of Christ. The Reformers and their wives faced much hostility, and at times danger, as they believed and taught that the Bible was the authority by which Christians were to live and not the traditions of the church. This book will certainly inspire readers to stand firm in their faith and to maintain a gospel focus in each area of their lives. I loved reading this book and recommend it as a valuable resource for personal encouragement or group study.

Carolyn Lacey

I absolutely loved First Wives Club

I absolutely loved First Wives Club - couldn't put it down! This book, beautifully written, was a joy to read. It gives us the portraits of six women who lived in the most dangerous but exciting time in history from a Christian point of view. Their relationship to the Reformers gives the human interest to the book, but they were courageous godly women in their own right, whom God was able to use in a complementary way in the recovery of the true gospel of Christ and its progress in Europe. Great role models for today!

Christine Gobbert

I couldn't stop reading!

I couldn't stop reading about these six women! I loved their passion to read the Bible when they were allowed to read it for themselves for the first time. Some had to wait while their husbands translated it for them! They were scorned in society for marrying priests and all around them was persecution, controversy, plague and death yet they showed hospitality in a way that blew my mind. Some were quiet and some outspoken but Jesus used them to change their world. They changed mine, too.

Liz Cox

Challenging and enlightening

Standing up for Christ in our post Christian society can feel difficult and demanding. Clare's book introduces us to women who sought to apply the bible to their lives in a culture that had neglected God's word for generations. These sixteenth century women who were married to leading reformers began to work out what it meant for them to trust scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone for God's glory. We have inherited much from the faithfulness of Christians at that time but we too are tempted to neglect God's word and live by the values of our society. Reading the stories of these women not only brings the Reformation alive but it also exhorts us to be similarly grounded in God's Word. This is a great book for individual reading, book groups or even to study on a women's weekend away - it is both challenging and enlightening.

Karen Soole

Also in this series

Old Wives' Tales
For Richer, For Poorer
Ministry Wives Biography Pack

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