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By Todd H. Green

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I will discuss the continental and revivalist inspirations behind the movement as well as its organization, composition, and operation. Two themes that will emerge in the discussion are the religious orientation of the female diaconate and the challenges and obstacles that deaconesses faced in their quest to wield influence in the public sphere. As for the first theme, I will argue that the diaconate maintained a strong religious profile in its activities even as it expanded its work in the course of the late nineteenth century.

Deaconesses devoted more and more attention to poor relief throughout the period and were employed not only by religious organizations, such as parish councils, but also by secular institutions, such as municipal poor relief boards. I will argue that the demand for deaconesses in the field of poor relief, particularly among employers in need of outdoor relief workers, was fairly strong from the early s onward, in spite of the various specialized institutions and professionals that had arisen to carry out this work.

The board turned to Theodor Fliedner at Kaiserswerth to explore its options. One idea it considered was to send students to Kaiserswerth to receive a deaconess education so that they could return to Stockholm to help begin the institution’s work. Another idea was to see if Fliedner would be willing to send a German deaconess to assist with the establishment of the Stockholm institution. Fliedner was in North America when the board made its inquiry concerning the second idea, and so it was his wife, Karoline, who responded to the request for assistance.

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