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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

The remainder are parish deaconesses


many reasons Muelhausen was

well adapted for a field of labor for parish deaconesses. It is an old city, dating back to mediaeval times, having a population of about sixty thousand inhabitants, half of whom are workmen. It has long been known for its noble and successful endeavors to promote the well-being of the working class. One of the first building and loan associations was started here to enable the operatives to earn their homes by gradual payments. Other organizations whose object is the moral elevation of the employees have united the different social circles by strong ties of sympathy. It was an easy matter, therefore, to raise a subscription of two hundred thousand francs to provide a home for the deaconesses who were invited here from Strasburg in 1861. There are now fourteen sisters in the deaconess house. Half of the number remain at the home to nurse the sick, and perform house duties. The remainder are parish deaconesses, who go forth early in the morning, each to her own quarter of the city, where she is busy at her labors during the day. In the evening she returns to the central home. In each of the seven districts into which the city is divided is located a district house; a pleasant, well-kept place. This contains a waiting-room for the deaconess and a consultation-room for the district physician, who comes at stated hours during the week. The poor who are recommended by the sister he treats gratuitously, and, so far as the physician directs, she furnishes food gratuitously. She keeps
on hand a good stock of lint, bandages, and instruments. Each house has a kitchen and cellar. Every morning a woman comes in and prepares a large kettle of nourishing soup, and at 11 A. M. this is given out to the sick and poor.

In the store-room are rice, sugar, coffee, meal, and similar articles of food. From here she sends out at noon such portions as are needed for the most destitute of the district. In winter she also sells from her stores to the poor. Then there is a closet amply provided with sewing materials, and when the deaconess obtains work for seamstresses she furnishes them at a small price the necessary outfit to begin sewing. At two o'clock the deaconess ends her duties at the district house, and spends the remainder of the day in making visits in her quarter. To provide means to support the constant expenditure, there is in each quarter of the city a committee of fifteen ladies and three gentlemen, being in all more than one hundred ladies and twenty gentlemen, who are responsible for the administration of the charity. Each committee has a yearly collection in its district, and in this way about forty thousand francs are gathered annually. In each quarter nine hundred francs (one hundred and eighty dollars) is set apart for the maintenance of the sister and the rent of the district house. The remaining sum is expended by the deaconesses in their several districts in caring for the sick and destitute. Every month each one receives the sum allotted her from the treasurer, and in return reports her expenditure. The ladies on the committee often give personal assistance to the deaconess, and sometimes assume responsibility for individual cases, or for an entire street. The arrangements are constantly being improved upon as knowledge is gained by practice. The experience that has been gathered at Muelhausen is very practical, and therefore very valuable. Similar work could be undertaken in any of our large American cities, with the anticipation of like beneficent results. For that reason the above detailed description has been ventured upon, with the hope that the Old World example will find imitators in the New.[43] Similar institutions, although not so carefully perfected, are found in Gorlitz and Magdeburg.


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