Historian wins national book award for research on women’s role in Dutch Reformed Church

History Department chair Amanda Pipkin recently received the 2022 Best Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender.

“Dissenting Daughters: Reformed Women in the Dutch Republic, 1572-1725,” published by Oxford University Press, is the first book-length study of women within the Dutch Reformed Church. Through compelling, detailed case studies of women, Pipkin reveals the vital contributions women made to the spread and practice of the Reformed faith.

The awards committee noted, “This exceptionally well-researched and carefully written book demonstrates how some early modern women creatively drew upon the power and authority accorded to them as wives, mothers and sisters to advance their own beliefs.”

Book illuminates how people cope through religion

According to Pipkin, one takeaway from the book is that many people — then and now — cope with loss and insecurity by turning to religious devotion and creating tight-knit religious communities.

“I wrote much of this book during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we faced uncertainty, economic upheaval and increased mortality rates,” she said. “This experience helped me better understand the appeal 16th- and 17th-century Dutch people found in joining devout Christian communities as they faced unpredictable economic busts and booms and frequent loss of loved ones to illness and accident.”

As these women dedicated themselves to a life of intense devotion and patriarchal subordination in Reformed Christian communities, they found opportunities, even within the socially restrictive circles in which they lived and worshipped.

“They were able to attain the education, training, economic and social status that allowed them to thrive as devout authors, songwriters, printers and organizers of informal religious gatherings,” said Pipkin.

The book offers insights for scholars, avid readers of biographies, religious descendants of these early Protestants and others.

Earning the prize is an overwhelming honor, said Pipkin, who completed a doctoral degree from Rutgers University, a master’s degree from Leiden University, The Netherlands, and a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University.

“Among the members of this society are the most impressive and well-known scholars who study women and gender from different disciplinary perspectives,” she said. “These impactful scholars are historians, literary scholars, art historians, linguists, museum studies experts and others. The society’s leaders cultivate a culture of inclusion, interdisciplinarity, diversity, and toleration that allowed me to find a professional home.”

The Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender is committed to interdisciplinary, intersectional approaches that are historically sensitive and theoretically exploratory and to teaching that reflects this scholarship. Members include university faculty, students and independent scholars.