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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Its first and most virulent outbreak took place at Gartrop


epidemic of nervous fever was raging in two communes of the circle of Duisburg, Gartrop, and Gahlen. Its first and most virulent outbreak took place at Gartrop, a small, poor, secluded village of scarcely one hundred and thirty souls, without a doctor, without an apothecary in the neighborhood, while the clergyman was upon the point of leaving for another parish, and his successor had not yet been appointed. Four deaconesses, including the superior, Pastor Fliedner's wife, and a maid, hastened to this scene of wretchedness, and found from twenty to twenty-five fever patients in the most alarming condition, a mother and four children in one hovel, four other patients in another, and so on, all lying on foul straw, or on bed-clothes that had not been washed for weeks, almost without food, utterly without help. Many had died already; the healthy had fled; the parish doctor lived four German leagues off, and could not come every day. The first care of the sisters, who would have found no lodging but for the then vacancy of the parsonage, was to introduce cleanliness and ventilation into the narrow cabins of the peasants; they washed and cooked for the sick, they watched every night by turns at their bed-side, and tended them with such success that only four died after their arrival, and the rest were only convalescent after four weeks' stay. The same epidemic having broken out in the neighboring commune of Gahlen, in two families, of whom eight members lay ill at once, a single deaconess
was able, in three weeks, to restore every patient to health, and to prevent the further spread of the disease. What would not our doctors give for a few dozen of such hard-working, zealous, intelligent ministers in the field of sanitary reform?"

The Schleswig-Holstein war of 1864 was the first in which Protestant deaconesses were active as nurses. Already in the Crimean war the Greek Sisters of Charity among the Russians, the Sisters of Mercy among the French, and Florence Nightingale and Miss Stanley among the English, had wakened the liveliest gratitude on the part of the soldiers, and secured the respect and approbation of the surgeons.

In the Austrian war of 1866 two hundred and eighty-two deaconesses were in the hospitals and on the battle-fields, fifty-eight of whom were from Kaiserswerth. The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 was on a greater scale, and afforded wider opportunities for the unselfish, priceless labors of these Christian nurses. Neatly eight hundred deaconesses, sent from more than thirty mother-houses, cared for the sick and wounded in the camp hospitals or on the field. The willingness of a number of boards of administration to release sisters who were in their service, and the voluntary offers of other women to take their places, enabled Kaiserswerth to send two hundred and twenty of the number. Their experience in improvising hospitals, in aiding the surgeon in his amputations, and in ministering to the wounded and dying, throws a tender glow of compassionate sympathy over the terrible scenes of war.[41]

The importance of trained deaconesses in times of war is now well understood by the military authorities at Berlin. In the winter of 1887, when war seemed imminent, the directors of the German deaconess houses were summoned by the government to a conference at the German capital to take measures for supplying nurses in case war should be declared.

Deaconesses are now thoroughly incorporated into the religious and social features of the German national life, as must be admitted by any one who has weighed the facts that have been given.

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