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.