Annemarie van Schurman, Utrecht’s Star Anne R. Larsen writes for SSEMW (January 2017)

“Transnational research is all the rage,” said Allyson Poska on the SSEMW blog in September 2016. Exactly. We are continually on the search for early modern female writers, philosophers, scientists, and artists who participated in worldwide literary communities.

Van Schurman and Jan Lievens

In this case, Anna Maria van Schurman, a German-born Dutch scholar and linguist, crossed frontiers (1607-78).

The Republic of Letters has learned a lot about the extraordinary networking that ‘The Star of Utrecht’ was able to establish with male and female scholars, writers, artists, and royalty of Europe through her extensive correspondence in several languages—mostly Latin, but also Greek, Hebrew, French, and Dutch, with Arabic citations.

Her ramblings show her vast variety of interests, from religion to philosophy, medicine, literature, art, embroidery, and needlepoint.

It also helped her gain fame since she was the first woman to attend a university, albeit in a curtained booth. She pushed for women’s college admittance. Her letters, poems, and spiritual memoirs have been widely published and translated. But we need a thorough edition.

This article will examine the women she dated and how they saw her as a child prodigy, a celebrity, and a tourist attraction. She was reared in the Dutch Reformed Church until she joined the charismatic preacher Jean de Labadie’s sectarian home.

I looked up to her as a role model. Van Schurman fascinates me because she met so many women academics from all over the world. Many of them will be recognizable to frequent readers.


Van Schurman’s Learned Maid, 1659.

Lady Dorothy Moore contacted Van Schurman in April 1641. They’d previously corresponded in Hebrew. Moore, a newly bereaved man, needed spiritual advice.

Then Van Schurman had an unexpected notion. “I have no doubt that we would be able to encourage one other towards virtue, especially in such great concord of loves and studies,” she continued.

Her objective was to provide a learning and growing environment for her children.

We can observe how Van Schurman utilized her networking skills to enhance her studies and deep religiosity.

This is supported by Carol Pal’s convincing argument in her Republic of Women (see list of suggested reads below) that the educated women in Van Schurman’s network were not isolated or excluded from the greater worldwide Republic of Letters.

Van Schurman’s letters, poetry, and self-portraits show her desire to form a broad circle of friendship with women who talked directly to her and each other.



His own rich Netherlands United Provinces (commonly known as the Dutch Republic) was the beginning point for such a vast network. She resided in the same home on Achter de Dom (behind the cathedral) for almost 50 years and became a role model for other educated women in Utrecht. Their willingness to connect with her reflected their yearning for intellectual support and mutual recognition. This is a placeholder page for Johanna Hoobius, which means this person is not currently on this site. We feel proud when you stand tall among men (in Riet Schenkeveld-van der Dussen, 44). Simply stated, she was praised as a pioneer.

a Netherlands map

She became a household figure in Europe after publishing her inaugural Latin ode for the University of Utrecht (1636) and her impassioned advocacy for women’s higher education in Paris.

Her 1640s correspondence included letters to the Catholic Marie Jars de Gournay, the Huguenot Princess Anne de Rohan, her Reformed soeur d’alliance Marie du Moulin, and three Catholic queens, Marie de Medici, Anne of Austria, and Henrietta Maria; Latin and French letters to Elisabeth of Bohemia; Greek and Hebrew letters to Bathsua Makin; Hebrew and Latin letters to Dorothy Moore; and Latin letters to the Dane

Christina, 1653

Louise-Marie de Gonzague-Nevers, Anne-Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, Madeleine de Scudéry, Anne-Marie d’Orléans, and Princess Christina of Sweden, among others, knew her renown and works.

Many of these ladies were encouraged by Marie de Gournay’s devotion to women’s networks at court, salons, mondain academies, correspondence networks, and schools.

Others include Bathsua Makin, Dorothy Moore, Marie du Moulin, Marie de Gonzague-Nevers, and Hannah Wooley. [[ii]]

Van Schurman’s efforts also brought together a number of significant male admirers and mentors, as well as other creative women. During the Joan of Arc quarrel (1646-47), du Moulin corresponded with Madeleine de Scudéry and Valentin Conrart.

Dorothy Moore, influenced by Van Schurman’s letters to her tutor André Rivet about women’s duties, wrote to him about the church’s expectations.

Van Schurman garnered a broad array of female artists and musicians owing to his talent. Magdalena van de Passe, from a famous family of engravers in Utrecht, instructed her, prompting her to engrave both her own self-portraits and others. Lady Swann, an English soprano of Dutch ancestry, was a lifelong friend and musical collaborator.

A keen observer of her female peers’ intellectual and creative activities, Van Schurman Her female relatives were her epistolary friends. As important as their male relatives.

In addition to Sir Simonds D’Ewes, an English antiquary and Parliamentarian, she communicated with John Morris, an English Anglo-Saxon scholar.

Bathsua Makin, about 1645

Her female correspondents’ education and publishing were important to her as a mentor. She pushed Marie du Moulin to study Hebrew, admired Bathsua Makin’s mid-1640s treatise on virtue, and taught poetry to Sara Nevius, a religious sister whose posthumous spiritual reflections were published posthumously.

Van Schurman continued to network even after she moved into the Labadist home at the age of 62.

She, however, pursued them in a unique manner. With the small group’s close-knit family environment and adherence to Labadie’s Christian simplicity, she joined.

These were not only well-educated citizens.

Elisabeth of Bohemia

Her academic contact was primarily for her dissident family’s advantage. During the community’s itinerant life, she communicated with the future Electress of Hanover, Sophia von der Pfalz, and the German Pietist Lady Johanna Eleonora Peterson. Refuge was provided by Elisabeth of Bohemia, abbess of Lutheran Damenstift monastery in Herford.

The English divine John Owen suggested she go to England following Labadie’s death at Altona, near Hamburg. Since her death, Labadie has contacted Owen.

According to David Norbrook, she would have been able to meet Lucy Hutchinson, Lord Henry Wooster’s longstanding confidante.

Van Schurman’s achievements became known after his death. Cotton Mather featured her alongside the poet Anne Bradstreet in his Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion (1692). In his Magnalia Christi Americana, Or, the Ecclesiastical History of New England (1702), he defends women’s intelligence.

Van Schurman’s connections, acquaintances, and peers may cooperate and communicate globally. They often relocated throughout the globe. They shared a passion for knowledge with the Republic of Letters. So they facilitated cross-national exchange of ideas. Their paintings span a broad spectrum of experiences and opinions.


Betty and Lavern De Pree Anne R. Larsen taught French at Hope College. The Star of Utrecht: The Educational Vision and Reception of a Savigne (2016) by Anna Maria van Schurman, and the SSEMW-awarded Early Modern Women and Transnational Communities of Women (with Julie Campbell, 2009), Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England (with Diana Robin and Carole Levin, 2007). (2006).

She is editing and translating Van Schurman’s manuscript letters and poems for “The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe” series with Steve Maiullo.


Further Readings

Mirjam de Baar, you are a crown of magnificence for all ladies!’ Anna Maria van Schurman’s global network of learned women ‘I’ve heard of you.’ Ibid., pp. 108-35. Verloren, Uitgeverij, 2004.

Van Pieta Beek The First Female University Student (1636). Utrecht Publishing & Archiving Services, 2010.

|||||||||||||||||||||||| (1649-1655). No. 4 in Provily Pers, Ridderkerk, 2015.

‘The Star of Utrecht’: A Savante’s Educational Vision and Reception. Early modern women’s history collection London’s Routledge published it in 2016.

Karen Lee (Bo Lee)

Anna Maria van Schurman and Jeanne Guyon: Sacrifice and Joy. This book was released in 2014 by ND Press.

Authorship and the Republic of Letters: Michèle Le Duff, Anna Maria van Schurman, and the History of Women Intellectuals David Norbrook

Salutation: Carol, my good buddy.

The 17th Century Republic of Letters: The Republic of Women

Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Author: Riet Schenkeveld-van der Dussen. Women’s Writing from the Low Countries 1200-1975 An Anthology of Short Stories. 39-63, Lia van Gemert Dutch Academic Press (AUP)

Anna Maria van Schurman

Greek and Gallic Opuscula My two favorites. Elzevier, 1648 (also 1650, 1652, and 1749).

Other Writings from Her Intellectual Circle on Educating Christian Women. Trans. Joyce L. Irwin The book was released in Chicago in 1998.

Jane Stevenson Poems Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority. Oxford University Press released it in 2005.


Van Schurman knew Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac (or Aramaic), Persian, Samaritan (or Ethiopian), and six modern languages (French, German, Italian, Flemish or Dutch, English, and Spanish).

Her Spanish fluency is mentioned by non-Dutch thinkers Jean le Laboureur, Father Louis Jacob, and Rotger zum Bergen, but not by Dutch contemporaries.

348 for Le Laboureur and Jacob; Beek 2015, 57 for Bergen. Bergen may have obtained the information through Van Schurman’s cousin, Anna Margaretha van Schurman.

This essay was published in 1673; Moore’s “Of the Education of Girls” (about 1650) is lost; and Du Moulin wrote “De l’éducation des enfants” anonymously (1654, 1679).

According to Francesco Clodoveo Maria Pentolini in Le donne illustre, Gonzague wrote a Latin essay on whether or not women should be educated (Livorno, 1776). Van Schurman is the greatest intellect ever, according to Wooley, author of The Gentlewoman’s Companion; or, a Guide to Female Sex (1673).

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