This commemoration is a 2018 addition to A Great Cloud of Witnesses.
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Last updated: 16 March 2019
ANNA MARIA VAN SCHURMAN
SCHOLAR AND POET, 1678
Anna Maria van Schurman (November 5, 1607 – May 4, 1678) was a Dutch painter, engraver, poet, and scholar, who is best known for her exceptional learning and her defence of female education. She was a highly educated woman, who excelled in art, music, and literature, and became proficient in fourteen languages, including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Aramaic, and an Ethiopic language, as well as various contemporary European languages.
Van Schurman was born in Cologne, a bright daughter of wealthy parents. Between 1613 and 1615, her family moved to Utrecht. In the 1630s she studied engraving with Magdalena van de Passe. Combining the techniques of engraving with her skills in calligraphy, it was her renowned engraved calligraphy pieces that gained the attention of all who saw them, including her contemporaries. In 1636 she became the first female student at the University of Utrecht.
In her 60s Schurman emerged as one of the principal leaders of the Labadists. In the 1660s Schurman had become increasingly disillusioned with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands andmade the reformation of the church her goal. Aside from corresponding with ministers she travelled throughout the country and organised meetings with them. She lamented the lack of spiritual devotion, and "exhibits of the ecclesiastics" that occupied the church's pulpits.
Many of Schurman's writings were published during her lifetime in multiple editions, however some of her writings have nevertheless been lost. Schurman's The Learned Maid or, Whether a Maid may be a Scholar had grown out of her correspondence on women's education with theologians and scholars across Europe. Schurman argued that educating women in languages and the Bible will increase their love of God.
In the final years of her life Schurman was housebound due to severe rheumatism. She died aged 70 in 1678.
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