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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Fliedner, Theodor

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FLIEDNER, Theodor, a German clergyman and philanthropist, born at Eppstein, Rhenish Prussia, Jan. 21, 1800, died at Kaiserswerth, Oct. 4, 1864. In 1822 he became pastor of the congregation at Kaiserswerth, to which his father had ministered until his death in 1813. Soon after his settlement his parishioners were suddenly impoverished by the failure of a manufacturing firm which had employed most of them. Refusing to take another church, he set himself the task of relieving his people, and visited the philanthropic institutions of other countries, particularly those of England. On his return he founded at Kaiserswerth an institution for the relief of the sick, the poor, and the fallen. In 1826 he founded a German society for the improvement of prison discipline, and in 1833 an asylum for discharged female convicts. This asylum at first consisted only of a summer house in his garden, which soon proved too small, and was exchanged for a more substantial edifice. His next idea was to reëstablish the ministry of women in the Protestant church, and in 1836 he inaugurated the institution of deaconesses which is still flourishing at Kaiserswerth. “We had no money wherewith to buy the house,” writes Fliedner; “my wife had been confined only three days before; but nevertheless she laid it upon me, in the name of the Lord, to buy the house, and the sooner the better. I bought it cheerfully on the 20th of April, 1836. The money was to be paid before Martinmas of the same year.” The money was paid before that time, although the price was more than $1,600—a large sum for that country and class. Two friends, single women, who offered themselves for nursing in the hospital, were the first Kaiserswerth deaconesses. In 1838 Fliedner first sent out deaconesses to work in other places. In 1849 he visited the United States, and established a “mother house” at Pittsburgh, Pa. (See Deaconess.) He also established at Kaiserswerth a lunatic asylum, a boys' school, and training colleges for schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, training his deaconesses as teachers in all of them. He himself frequently taught in them, and is said to have been fond of striking and often laughable illustrations, such as falling on the floor when telling the story of Goliah, or suddenly sending a boy under the table to represent the fall of a traveller over a precipice. De Liefda says that when he visited the Kaiserswerth establishment in 1864 it took him three hours to walk over the premises and peep into the principal apartments. From 1836 Fliedner published a monthly called Der Armen- und Krankenfreund, and was the author of Buch der Martyrer und anderer Glaubenszeugen der evangelischen Kirche von den Aposteln bis auf unsere Zeit (4 vols., 1852-'60).—See Winkworth's “Life of Pastor Fliedner” (London, 1867).