What was Katie Luther like?

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What was Katie Luther like


“We never hear much about Katie Luther. What did she do?” – ELCA Facebook follower

Brian: Katharine von Bora Luther’s life saw her filling a wide variety of roles. She was a fascinating and too-often overlooked figure, in her own day and ours. She was a former nun, a wife, a mother (six children of her own, four additional adopted), a businesswoman, a brewer, a nurse, an engaged participant in theological conversation, a widow, a refugee and much more. So much of her story is obscured because she was a woman and details of her life weren’t recorded (for example, of the letters between her and Martin, only those written by him were preserved). This is too brief a space to do her justice – find a biography (“Kitty, My Rib: The Heartwarming Story of a Woman of Courage and Devotion” or “The Mother of the Reformation: The Amazing Life and Story of Katharine Luther”) and enjoy.

Beyond what you can read on Wikipedia, here’s what I love about Katie Luther (Katharina Von Bora) – she was strong, smart, industrious and practical. She brewed beer and managed the family’s businesses and finances – Martin was always giving money away; Katie made sure they had enough to take care of their children. There’s a statue of Katie in Wittenberg; she’s captured mid-stride, walking through a doorway. Katie was always on the move.

We know very little about the life of Katie Luther, other than what Luther writes about her. It seems that she was sent at an early age to a convent to be educated and to become a nun. In her early 20s, she became discontent with the Roman Catholic Church and began to embrace some of the ideas of the Protestant Reformation. When she married Luther at the age of 26 (Luther was 41), she took over the management of the household. By all accounts, she was an administrator par excellence. She apparently bred and sold cattle, established a brewery and provided food and hospitality for the steady stream of guests and students that boarded and dined at the monastery. It is said that in times of illness her home became a hospital site under her management where she worked alongside nurses and others who cared for the sick and dying. 

Impoverished after the death of Luther in 1546, she was economically helped through the generosity of John Fredrick I, Elector of Saxony. She died on Dec. 20, 1552, in Torgau, where she is buried. Unlike the Lutheran Book of Worship, which made no mention of Katie Luther, the Evangelical Lutheran Worship commemorates her death on this date. 


Additional resource: Download – in Spanish or English – a guide for discussion and prayer developed by Women of the ELCA: A Bold Life of Faith: Katharina von Bora Luther)

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You might also want to read:
Katharine von Bora: What do we really know about her?
Katie’s last years
7 things you might like to know about Martin Luther

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