Sr. Anna Baumgarten


Anna Baumgarten was born in Waldheim, Germany on August 4, 1859. According to her obituary, “she came to this country as a young woman with a personality developed by a thorough religious and practical training.” She joined Zion Church, Wilmington; the record does not say which Wilmington, although it probably was Wilmington, Delaware, which was only about thirty-five miles from Philadelphia. She entered the Philadelphia deaconess community on February 2, 1886, only two years after the first deaconesses had come from Germany. The Philadelphia motherhouse had not yet been built. In addition to nursing, the basic requirement for all deaconesses at that time, she trained in correct conduct, Scripture, singing, and English. She was invested on January 13, 1889, and consecrated on October 3, 1889, the sixth deaconess to be consecrated in Philadelphia. After two years nursing in the German Hospital (now Lankenau Hospital) of Philadelphia, she moved to the hospital kitchen, where she worked until 1905, when she moved to the kitchen at the motherhouse.

Sister Anna was a true Martha, but she did not neglect her spiritual life. She often barely had time to attend chapel, but she kept her hymnbook near her in the kitchen, although she knew most of the hymns by heart. A revealing glimpse of her life is found in a letter of condolence sent at her death by the Rev. G.H. Bechtold:

“In the face of modern equipment I often wonder how she managed to do so much with so little. Her hours were endless, frequently at ten or eleven o’clock on Saturday nights she would still be working and making preparations for the next day.

Saturday night was always a busy time in the night dispensary. For many years Sister Maria Roeck was in charge. After Sister Anna had finished her work in the kitchen she would come up with coffee and cake carried under her apron. Sister Maria would bring the cups and saucers in that “big pocket” and the night Staff would sit around for a half hour eating and talking, waiting for the next patrol wagon to come in.”

After retirement Sister Anna spent several years as “housemother” of the sisters’ vacation cottage in the Pocono Mountains. Sister Anna became bedfast at the motherhouse in July, 1942, and she died peacefully the night of March 21, 1944. Her obituary says that her “service was like one of the great foundation stones—out of sight, but indispensable,” and that “her body rests in Woodlands Cemetery with others of the pioneer group.”