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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Had long desired a deaconess home in Berlin


Gradually every variety of institution that could furnish active practice to the deaconesses took its place here, and the whole might be denominated a great normal training-school for Christian women. The refuge for discharged female convicts, which was the starting-point of the movement, still continued its good work during all these years. The last report[32] states that nine hundred and nineteen women of different ages and different degrees of wrong-doing have been its inmates. Parents send insubordinate girls; societies forward those who profess penitence; magistrates sentence degraded creatures often too late for any reasonable hope to reform them. The old experience of the refuge is repeated in this last report: one third are saved, one third are irredeemable, and the judgment as to the remaining third, doubtful. There were two buildings erected during the later years of Fliedner's life in which he took great interest. One of these was a cottage among the neighboring hills, where deaconesses who had become exhausted by long days in the sick-room, or whose health was suffering from over-toil, could retire for a few weeks of mountain air and quiet rest during the summer months. This pleasant retreat was well named Salem. Soon afterward was laid the corner-stone of the second building, regarded with peculiar favor not only by the good pastor, but by all friends of the institution. This was the "Feierabend Haus," the House of Evening Rest, where, somewhat apart from the busy activity of the great household, those deaconesses whose best strength had been given to faithful labor in the service could pass the evening hours of life in quiet waiting for the last great change, while using the experience they had gathered and the strength still remaining in behalf of the cause they had faithfully served.

Such are the main features of the great establishment that year by year grew up in this village on the Rhine. But from this as a center had gradually branched off manifold lines of service, and many daughter-houses both in Germany and foreign lands. It was only a year and a half after the home was opened that the first appointment of deaconesses to work outside of Kaiserswerth was made.

This was an important victory for the new institution. It took place January 21, 1838, on Fliedner's birthday, when he and his wife escorted two of the sisters to Elberfeld, where they were to act as trained nurses in the city hospital. From that time to the present the hospital has continued under the management of the Kaiserswerth deaconesses.

Soon afterward sisters were sent out to nurse in private families, and in 1839 two more were sent to superintend the workhouse in Frankfort. As the institution became known there was a constant demand for superintendents, and matrons for public reformatories, prisons, and charitable establishments. Between 1846 and 1850 more than sixty deaconesses were at work at twenty-five different stations outside of the mother-house. About the same time deaconesses began to work in connection with special churches which called for their services, having the duties which in England are assigned to those called "parish deaconesses."

King Frederick William IV., from the beginning Fliedner's faithful friend and supporter, had long desired a deaconess home in Berlin. This was finally obtained, and set apart under the name "Bethanien Haus," or Bethany House, October 10, 1847, at a special dedicatory service, at which the king, with his court, was present. It was while seeking a superintendent for this home in Berlin that Fliedner learned to know Caroline Bertheau, of Hamburg, a descendant of an old Huguenot family that was driven from France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He led her home as his wife in May, 1843, and she became to him a true helpmeet for his children, his home, and his institution. She is still living, having survived her husband over twenty-five years, and in an advanced age still retains a place on the Board of Direction at Kaiserswerth.


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