Swaen Rutgers (16th century)

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Swaen Rutgers (Zwaan, Zwaantje) the wife of a certain Rutger, who was living at Emden, East Friesland, Germany, about 1555. Both Rutger and his wife were members of the Mennonite congregation of which Leenaert Bouwens was the elder. In 1556 or shortly before, Bouwens banned Rutger for some unknown reason and ordered Swaen to avoid her husband, which she refused to do. Bouwens thereupon threatened also to cut her off from the church, and some time later actually did so. Before Swaen was banned, Menno Simons tried to intervene. He had been informed of the conflict and had been requested to give his opinion on marital avoidance; in response Menno wrote a letter to Emden, dated 13 November 1556, urging moderation and peace. Leenaert Bouwens, however, refused to yield, in spite of the wishes of a large part of the congregation and Menno's kindly advice, and banned Swaen Rutgers. Dirk Philips, after Menno the most influential elder of the Mennonites, also championed marital avoidance. Menno Simons received letters not only from Emden, but also from Franeker in Friesland, where Joriaen Heyns and Hendrik Naeldeman opposed marital avoidance.

Thus it became necessary for the elders to discuss the question. A meeting for this purpose was held at Harlingen, Friesland, in the spring of 1557. Here Menno was won over to the strict practice of Leenaert Bouwens and Dirk Philips. This issue in the Dutch brotherhood caused the withdrawal of the moderate Waterlanders and also the separation of the High Germans, who were not willing to follow Menno on this point.

Karel Vos's opinion that Swaen Rutgers lived at Franeker is an error, since old writings state explicitly that she lived in Emden.


Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: v. VII, 54, 58 f.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1876): 22; (1894): 35, 40, 43, note 3, 57.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932: 317 f.

Ottius, J. H. Annales Anabaptistici. Basel, 1672: 118 f.

Vos, Karel. Menno Simons. Leiden, 1912: 132 f.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Swaen Rutgers (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 Jul 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Swaen_Rutgers_(16th_century)&oldid=117542.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Swaen Rutgers (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 July 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Swaen_Rutgers_(16th_century)&oldid=117542.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 665-666. All rights reserved.

©1996-2018 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.