Srs. Ingeborg Sponland and Caroline Williams

ca. 1870-1951 (Sponland) 1870-1961 (Williams)

Sr. Ingeborg (right) and Sr. Caroline (left)

Sr. Ingeborg (right) and Sr. Caroline (left)

Sister Ingeborg Sponland was born in Hevne, Norway, and consecrated as a deaconess in the Oslo, Norway, motherhouse 125 in 1886. In 1891 she came to America and was called as sister superior at the Lutheran Deaconess Home and Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This institution had been started by Sister Elizabeth Fedde in 1888. Sister Elizabeth left because of a dispute with the board, and eventually Sister Ingeborg had the same problem. She insisted that there was a need for a new hospital, but the board disagreed. She resigned in 1904 with broken health. (A new hospital was built in 1910.)

After regaining her health, Sister Ingeborg came to Chicago as sister superior in 1906. She was not impressed with the Chicago property which she called “a lone little building in the midst of swampland.” But she went right to work and served as sister superior for 30 years, 1906-1936. “Mother” Ingeborg’s distinguished leadership is considered chiefly responsible for the growth and success of the motherhouse. She also served as superintendent of Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Chicago, 1906-1926. In 1926 she made a world tour, visiting deaconesses who were missionaries in China. (Chicago was noted for its many missionary sisters who served in China, Madagascar, India, Alaska, and Camaroon, West Aftrica.)

While Sister Ingeborg was in China, civil war was raging and at one point, she was caught in the midst of it. She escaped when her Chinese companions told the soldiers that she was in charge of all medical work in America and from her institution had come the doctors and nurses in China! From China, she sailed to Europe via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal. She visited the Holy Land and Norway. Sister Ingeborg’s autobiography, My Reasonable Service, was published in 1928. Also that year, she received a gold medal from the King of Norway, “for splendid service she has rendered the Norwegian people in America.”

When Sister Ingeborg first arrived in Chicago, she was met by Sister Caroline Williams, who had been the first probationer of the Chicago motherhouse. She was born in Kristiansand, Norway in 1870, and was consecrated in Chicago in 1901. She served primarily in child services in several institutions, and she started the Lutheran Day Nursery in Chicago. From 1919 until 1945, she represented Lutheran Child Welfare Services in Chicago in the juvenile courts of Cook County, Illinois, seeking to help children caught in the legal system. When Sister Ingeborg retired in 1936, the deaconesses wanted Sister Caroline as sister superior, but the board refused. They wanted someone who was more closely associated with the hospital. Sister Ingeborg and Sister Caroline remained close friends all their lives. Sister Ingeborg became totally blind and very feeble, and Sister Caroline helped care for her. Sister Ingeborg died in 1951 and Sister Caroline in 1961. Together they gave 102 years of active service to the diaconate.