Elisabeth Dirks (d. 1549)

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Elisabeth (Lijsbeth or Lijsken) Dirks, an Anabaptist martyr, perhaps the first Mennonite deaconess, was drowned on 27 May (not March, as van Braght erroneously states) 1549, at Leeuwarden, Dutch province of Friesland. As a child she had been taken to Tienge, a convent near Leer in East Friesland, Germany. At the age of 12 she was profoundly impressed when she heard that a heretic had been burned for repudiating the sacraments. She managed to get a Bible and as she read it she became more and more doubtful of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. She was later imprisoned for a year on a suspicion of heresy, but on the petition of the nuns she was released and kept under constant supervision, until she fled disguised as a milkmaid. She went to an Anabaptist home in Leer, and joined the brotherhood there. Later she was in Leeuwarden, in the home of an Anabaptist woman by the name of Hadewyck (Hadewych), the widow of a man who had had to beat the drum at the execution of Sikke Frerichs to prevent his addressing the crowd. Because he expressed his horror at the execution and his sympathy for the martyr, whom he had known as a friend, he had to flee and was never heard of again. The two women lived together quietly. Elisabeth apparently was much with Menno Simons, for she was mistaken by her captors to be his wife. On 15 January 1549, the women were arrested. Hadewyck escaped and lived to an advanced age in Emden. Elisabeth was cross-examined and gave a moving testimony of her faith. In spite of terrible torture she neither recanted nor betrayed the names of the brethren. A song was written on her death beginning “Twas een maechdeken van teder leden Elisabeth dat was haren naem.” It has 21 stanzas and is found in the Het Offer des Heeren (1562), and also in the Ausbund, No. 13. She is said to have composed a song, which was included in Sommige Stichtelycke Liedekens (Hoorn, 1618), but this song has as yet not been identified.


Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 481f., 546. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm.

Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, 1685: II: 81f., 156ff.

Brons, Antje. Ursprung, Entwickelung und Schicksale der altevangelischen Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten: in kurzen Zügen übersichtlich dargestellt. Amsterdam: Johannes Müller, 1912: 89.

Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht en Gelderland, 2 vols. Amsterdam: P.N. van Kampen, 1847: II, 211.

Dit Boec wort genoemt: Het Offer des Heeren, om het inhout van sommighe opgheofferde kinderen Godts . . . N.p., 1570: 91-97. Available in full electronic text at: http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_off001offe01_01/

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 449 f.

Vos, Karel. Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914: 5, 250, 332 f.

Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1965: 65.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Neff, Christian. "Elisabeth Dirks (d. 1549)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 28 May 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Elisabeth_Dirks_(d._1549)&oldid=162755.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1956). Elisabeth Dirks (d. 1549). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 May 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Elisabeth_Dirks_(d._1549)&oldid=162755.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 185. All rights reserved.

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