Biography of Susanna Wisinger Doucher

Susanna (Wisinger) Doucher
(From Anabaptist Women Leaders in Augsburg, August 1527 to April 1528 )
By John S. Oyer


Wife of prominent sculptor Hans Adolf Doucher, Susanna (Wisinger) turned Anabaptist against her husband's wish, or at least his better judgment. She was baptized by one Thomas, probably Thomas Waldhauser. Sometimes called Thomas of Grein, Waldhauser was a chaplain in Hapsburg lands; he turned Lutheran, but dissatisfied he turned toward the Anabaptists under the influence of Leonhard von Freisleben. He associated with Anabaptists in Styria, then took up an Anabaptist teaching ministry stretching from Bavaria to Moravia, where he was burned at the stake on April 10, 1528. He baptized at least one more person in Augsburg in November 1527, notably after the first restrictions against Anabaptists. She was baptized in the house of lacemaker Conrad Huber, in the absence of both Conrad and his wife Felicitas. Susanna's sister Maxentia Wisinger was baptized at the same time. Susanna knew none of the other people present, and she disclaimed further knowledge of itinerant baptizer Thomas. Most of the relevant information about Susanna Doucher's Anabaptism comes from her own Hearings, April 13 and 16, 1528. Other Anabaptists testified to her presence at meetings, and about her making her house available for the Easter Sunday meeting of Anabaptists, April 12, 1528.

Peutinger dragged out of her more information about other Anabaptist meetings, generally of a handful of Anabaptists only half of whom she knew, at the homes of people she usually did know. One short report after another tumbled reluctantly from her memory, most of them relatively insignificant. She had fuller knowledge than some of an April 11 meeting at Gall Vischer's house, but she reported none of the special activities of that occasion. But there was one meeting two months earlier, in mid-February 1528, that attracted 30 Anabaptists. They met first in the woods by "St. Ratha" (present-day Radegundis, a small hamlet at the edge of the "Rauher Forst," two kilometers west of G"ggingen), but that venue did not suit them well. Augustin Bader, Hans Leupold and J"rg Nespitzer were the teaching ministers. Susanna reported that she spent one day there, leaving Augsburg in the morning and returning before the gates closed in the evening. Here was a more daring attempt to gather a small congregation in worship, significantly more than the normal six to ten people, but outside the city walls in a forest. Other Anabaptists known to be present managed to avoid reporting this meeting.

Like all of the captives, Susanna tried to disclaim involvement, up to the limit of her integrity. Yes, she had given some small sums of money, or of goods, to one indigent Anabaptist, widow Gertraut Heisses; and, yes, she had bought wine and bread to feed those who gathered at her house on April 12. But she had not given money regularly to Anabaptist brothers and sisters; nor had she housed them except for two women overnight on April 11. She told Peutinger her husband would not have tolerated more charity; one suspects that she intended the comment as proof of her innocence, knowing that Peutinger knew Doucher was opposed. But the comment reveals her own courage and conviction, in the light of her husband's opposition.

Peutinger got little from her about the April 12 events, perhaps because he asked little. She knew nothing of attempts to mark her house with chalk to designate the place of meeting, until she learned of markings from fellow captives in prison. She knew of no special messenger who announced the venue to others; she thought news of place and time had been spread by common word of mouth. She reported lamely that Hans Leupold and J"rg Nespitzer preached. They spoke "from the word of God." I find her credible in reporting that she did not know of the chalk symbol on her house until someone told her when they met in prison. Obviously someone else put it on her door. Clasen, decided she put it there herself. 

Susanna's deviant activity housing and feeding refugees and using her house for an Anabaptist meeting called for the severe penalty of branding on both cheeks followed by exile. Since she was pregnant, the city omitted the branding and merely led her out of the city, presumably on the official pillory, bound in irons, a humiliating indignity. She was exiled for life, and we do not hear about her again where she went or anything about what became of her. One suspects that she was permitted to return to Augsburg after some time, because of the prominence of her husband. Augsburg's formal records call her absent husband Hans Adolf Doucher, but usually only Adolf. Historians of art name that Augsburg sculptor active in 1527-28 simply Hans Dauher. He was born around 1488 and died in 1538 in Augsburg. He was the son of an Adolf Dauher, and both of them were sculptors. Father Adolf had been born around 1465 in Ulm and died in Augsburg in 1523 or 1524. Adolf sculpted choir stalls for the Fugger chapel at St. Anne's in Augsburg. He was one of first artists to bring the Renaissance style sculpturing into Germany, and his son continued that style. Hans sculpted several figures in Augsburg and other neighboring cities including Munich. He lived in his own house "am hinteren Lech." In spring of 1528 he did indeed leave Augsburg to carry out an artistic commission in Vienna, then returned later. 


Return to Top


Copyright Notice