In 1836, in Germany Pastor Theodor Fliedner and his wife
They were part of a movement called the Inner Mission, which aimed at re-activating the ancient role of men and women to serve the lost, the crushed, and the poor.
By 1884, there were 56 deaconess communities in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Scandinavia with a total of 5,653 deaconesses. They ministered with vagrants, epileptics, those in prison, those recently released from prison, the sick, orphans, and anyone in need.
Florence Nightingale experienced nursing in Kaiserswerth with the deaconesses.
Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, pastors and deaconesses came to America from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and various parts of Germany.
They began hospitals and other institutions of mercy, and motherhouses in which to train deaconesses for service. In 1894 the close ties between these groups became official with the organization of the Lutheran Deaconess Conference in North America, the first inter-Lutheran agency in the land.
It has been said that in the origins of every Lutheran Social Service agency in the USA one may find the name of a deaconess. Rev. W.A. Passavant opened the very first Lutheran Deaconess hospital (in fact, the first Protestant hospital in America) in Pittsburgh.
In 1852, in his periodical, The Missionary, Passavant wrote:
“We have seven theological seminaries, four classic schools, five colleges for the education of our young men, and for our women two seminaries on paper. That shows what little importance is attached to the education of women. Our attitude so far in this question is neither Scriptural nor just to the female sex or the Church of Christ itself.”
Passavant’s words are certainly a precursor and foundational for the attitude and work of this Deaconess Community over the years.
Pastor E.A. Fogelstrom created Immanuel Hospital and Deaconess Motherhouse in Omaha in 1890, a brief six years after the early beginnings in Philadelphia. He had sent women to Philadelphia and Sweden for training as deaconesses. Immanuel Hospital was opened in 1890,...read more
In 1889, just five years after the arrival of the Philadelphia sisters, the General Synod of the Lutheran Church (USA) created a Board of Deaconess Work, designating deaconesses as persons holding an “office of the church”. They opened a Motherhouse in Baltimore in...read more
Before the summer of 1884, John Lankenau’s friend and fellow hospital board member, the German Consul in Philadelphia, Charles H. Meyer, traveled to Germany to inquire about the availability of deaconesses from Kaiserwerth motherhouse and other motherhouses to staff...read more