She was Martin Luther’s wife. After their wedding, she was also referred to as, “die Lutherin” (“the Lutheress”). Following her mother’s death, when she was three, her father placed her in the cloister of Marienthron. She was there until she was 18. Soon, she began to feel like a prisoner and when Luther’s Reformation preaching found its way behind the convent walls, she wanted out.
With Luther’s help, she and other nuns who wanted to leave the cloister escaped. One evening, they were bundled into empty fish barrels in Merchant Kopp’s wagon which he used to delivered herring to the convent. Several of the nuns returned to their families and Luther helped others to find homes, husbands or other positions.
Two years later, all the nuns had been provided for, except Kate. Persuaded by friends and Kate herself, Luther married her. She was 26 and he was 42. Luther lived in a Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg which Kate soon had the place in shape. She cleaned it up and brought order to her husband’s daily life. A year after their marriage, Luther wrote in a letter to a friend, “My Katie is in all things so obliging and pleasing to me that I would not exchange my poverty for the riches of Croesus.”
Kate was a Godsend for Luther. Her managing the family finances freed him to write, teach and preach. He dubbed her, “morning star of Wittenberg” since she rose at 4 a.m. to carry out her many responsibilities which included, caring for the vegetable garden, orchard, fishpond, and barnyard animals and even butchering the stock herself.
Kate was a hardworking woman who helped her husband to raise their six children and four orphans and she nursed him when he suffered from illnesses. According to Scholar Roland H. Bainton, “He suffered at one time or another from gout, insomnia, catarrh, hemorrhoids, constipation, stone, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. Katie was a master of herbs, poultices, and massage. Her son Paul, who became a doctor, said his mother was half one.”
For centuries, the Luther family model for German families. Kate outlived Luther by six years and was able to see all of their children, except, their two daughters, Elizabeth who died young and Magdalena who died at age 13, achieve positions of influence. Kate was the woman behind the famed reformer and she is often considered one of the most important participants in the Reformation because of her role in helping to define Protestant family life and setting the tone for clergy marriages (Wikipedia). Unusual for its time, Luther entrusted Kate as his sole inheritor and guardian of their children in his will.
Luther wasn’t with his family when he died. He died of stroke on February 18, 1546, at the age of 62 during a trip to his hometown of Eisleben. Shortly after his death, Kate wrote the following in a letter to her sister-in-law, “I know that you take pity on me and my poor children,” Katherine wrote. “For who could not be deeply grieved and saddened over the loss of such a dear and precious man as my husband has been. He gave so much of himself in service not only to one town or to one country, but to the whole world. Yes, my sorrow is so deep that no words can express my heartbreak, and it is humanly impossible to understand what state of mind and spirit I am in . . . I can neither eat nor drink, not even sleep . . . God knows that when I think of having lost him, I can neither talk nor write in all my suffering.”
Kate was 53 when she died in Torgau after a terrible accident with her wagon and horses. It is reported that on her deathbed, she said, “I will stick to Christ as a burr to cloth.” She is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of some Lutheran Churches in the United States on December 20. In addition to a statue in Wittenberg and several biographies, an opera of her life now keeps her memory alive.
This remarkable woman was the beloved wife of Martin Luther who lovingly referred to her as, “Dear Kate.”