Tainted Images: Attitudes Toward Women During the Thirty Years' War

Student Author(s)

Julie Oosterink

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Janis Gibbs

Document Type


Event Date



This project examines primary visual and textual documents representing women during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe in order to reveal changing attitudes toward women. Many pamphlets and broadsheets portrayed women in cartoons and propaganda. Women cast as temptresses, warriors, rulers, angels, demons, and peasants visually reflected the fears and attitudes of Europeans. Sometimes printers presented women as allegorical figures representing peace or victory or as comedic figures who upset gender conventions. Before the Thirty Years’ War, many of these female figures were not representatives of any particular religion. However, during the Thirty Years’ War, both Catholics and Protestants used violent or sinful images of women not of their confession to undercut the virtue of religious groups different from their own. Therefore, Catholic and Protestant attitudes toward women became increasingly negative during the war. These attitudes, revealed through propaganda, shaped women’s lives as guilds, camp communities, and individual cities increased restrictions on them. The most significant changes for women during this period were limitations to economic opportunities, restrictions of cooking and trading roles in the army, and an increased stress on women’s virtue as representative of a virtuous Protestant or Catholic society. The image of morally weak women in broadsheets and woodcuts sheds new light on changing gender roles within and between the contending religious groups of the Thirty Years’ War. It reflects the complex relationship between propaganda and social change.

This document is currently not available here.