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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Several nurse deaconesses and probationers


From four to six o'clock the mothers and older sisters and brothers, or perhaps some old lady who has been engaged to have the care of several children, come to take the little ones home. The influence of these children is felt beyond the school-room; it is a visible, constant force. Such a little girl has persuaded her grandmother not to work on Sundays. Another asks for a book that her father can read aloud to the family. And similar instances could be multiplied; they are always to be obtained where loving Christian hearts are interested in children, and when they remember that fine saying of Jacqueline Pascal; "_Parler a Dieu des petites ames plus qu' aux petites ames de Dieu._"[50]

There used formerly to be attached to this a "_Creche_," where a mother could bring her babe when she went to work in the morning, and could come for it at night. But the government has now started a day-home for this district of the city, so this part of the work of the deaconesses has been discontinued.

Passing by the vegetable garden, which is also a pleasure garden for the sick and infirm, we come to the hospital. This was opened in September, 1873, and can accommodate sixty to seventy patients. There are two large wards for women, one for children, a dormitory for aged women, and rooms with one, two, and three beds. All are perfectly heated, lighted, and ventilated. The medical inspector visits the house every month, and gives it due praise for meeting every condition of modern medical science.

A committee of ladies takes the hospital as an especial object of its care. They have organized a system of patronage, by which beds are furnished poor patients at a low rate, in some cases gratuitously. Fifteen subscribers give each two francs, or forty cents, a month; the sick man or his patron pays a franc a day, to which the Deaconess Home adds also a franc daily. These three francs represent the bare expenses of a hospital bed. Of course, sixty cents a day is far from meeting the entire cost of rent, food, baths, medicine, and service; but those patients who have been accustomed to a certain degree of comfort in life, when paying three francs, are freed from the painful impression of receiving charity.

Many of the patients, when sent forth from the hospital, are directed to the Convalescents' Home, at Passy. This is an inestimable benefit; what could this poor servant do, whose strength is not yet sufficient to undertake fatiguing labor? Or this mother of a family, who would certainly fall ill again if obliged to resume the heavy burden of housekeeping, accompanied by privations and wearing economies, were it not for the home at Passy? Such homes of rest and convalescence are a necessity in connection with every well-equipped deaconess institution. The pharmacy is in the charge of a deaconess trained especially for her duties. A deaconess director, several nurse deaconesses and probationers, with one or two aged women, constitute the working force of the hospital outside of the physicians. So many denominational hospitals are now arising in America that the arrangement of hospitals under the care of deaconesses in Germany, France, and England, cannot fail to have interest for us.

There are no nurses like the deaconesses. Other nurses, however well prepared in the best of training-schools, do not have the same high motive that lifts the service onto the plane of religious duty, where the question of self-interest is wholly lost sight of. It was the perception of this truth that led the authorities of the German Hospital in Philadelphia to send to Germany for deaconesses as nurses, and that has brought about the erection of the magnificent Mary J. Drexel Home for Deaconesses.

But let us return to Paris and our examination of the home on the Rue de Reuilly. Leaving the hospital, and turning in the opposite direction from that to which we came, we are at the house of correction. Bars of iron before the windows apprise us of the character of the building. There are two divisions of inmates; the one in which the discipline is more rigid is called the _retenue_. Those placed here are generally between fourteen and twenty-one years of age, although occasionally a child of precocious depravity is met with, who has to be separated from those under less restriction even at ten years of age. The _disciplinaire_ is the division of milder restraint. The twenty-five or twenty-six places in each of the two divisions are ordinarily applied for in advance. Pastor Louis Valette said: "We shall not have room enough until we have too much room."


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