In 2002 Marie Dentière’s name was carved into stone adjacent to the famous Wall of the Reformers in Geneva, the first – and so far only – woman to be commemorated in that place. She had in her youth been an Augustinian nun, rising rapidly to be prioress of the Covent at the Abbey of Saint-Nicolas-des-Près; almost as rapidly, however, she converted to Luther’s gospel and left the convent. She married an ex-priest, Simon Robert, and they worked with the reformer William Farel; Simon died leaving her with five children and she married again, this time Antoine Froment. Marie and Antoine moved to Calvin’s Geneva in 1535.
Calvin was, for a little while, open to suitably gifted women preaching, but soon changed his mind. Marie was active in promoting the cause of reform, arguing with nuns and even preaching when she could, generally on street corners or similar impromptu contexts. She wrote two short books, one a history of the triumph of Reform in Geneva, La guerre et deslivrance de la ville de Genesve (1536), and the other, l’Épître très utile, a defence of women’s ability to preach addressed to Marie’s friend Queen Margueritte of Navarre. This was considered so scandalous that copies were confiscated and the printer was imprisoned.
In 1540 she and Antoine, who was then serving as a pastor, opened a boarding school for girls with the express intention of teaching girls Greek and Hebrew so that they could become Biblical scholars.
She died in 1561, and has been largely forgotten since; her learning was formidable, and deployed in support of the cause of Reform. Sources for her life can be found here.