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From what we know of Katie, however, it appears that little could daunt her. If her marriage at first was not an affectionate one, she and Martin came to feel and express genuine love, appreciation, and concern for each other. And though Martin was unfortunately one of those male Christian leaders prone to putting down women in public, at the same time he freely admitted that his wife ruled his home, even playfully calling her “lord.” One quote Tucker gives us nicely captures the contradiction between Martin’s words and his actions: “My wife can persuade me anything she pleases, for she has the government of the house in her hands alone. I willingly yield the direction of domestic affairs, but wish my rights to be respected. Women’s rule never did any good.”

Sorting out the contradictions inherent in this statement could bring on a migraine, but there is no indication that Katie ever bothered to do it. She simply went her own way and did what was necessary to support her contradictory husband in every way she could.

An Indispensable Woman

The book is at its strongest when Tucker gives us plenty of well-researched historical background and detail to help flesh out what we know of this strong, enigmatic woman. If she sometimes crosses the line into speculation, that’s understandable, given the paucity of straightforward biographical information about Katie Luther. Unfortunately, she also sometimes veers into excessive repetition, as when she tells us over and over that “Katie worried,” or when she twice tells the same story: the well-known anecdote about Katie dressing in mourning to remind Martin that God was not dead and jolt him out of a gloomy mood. It’s a good story, but it didn’t need to be told all the way through more than once.

The other main flaw in the book is Tucker’s occasional habit of identifying too closely with her subjects and their views, instead of maintaining a biographer’s professional distance. For instance, I was caught completely off-guard by this: “Roman Catholicism is and was wrong regarding married clergy.” Whatever one believes on that subject, it hardly seems the place of a biographer to take such a categorical stand. Tucker continues: “The implication that true holiness requires celibacy has led to serious sexual abuse within the priesthood. Sure, Protestants have had their own sex scandals”—an understatement if ever there was one—“but it has not been fostered by a false requirement for celibate clergy.”

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The (Other) Lord of Martin Luther’s Life