May 17, 2009 - Friederike (Munster) Fliedner

Friederike (nee Munster) Fliedner was born on January 25, 1800, in the city of Braunfels, Germany.  During her childhood she experienced the evils of the Napoleonic Wars, fear of starvation, and the danger of epidemics.  When she was 16, her mother died of typhus, leaving her with the responsibility of five younger siblings and a large house to manage.  Her father lost his reputation and most of his money in a drawn-out legal scandal, which rendered Friederike even more important to the running of the household.  This somber upbringing produced a woman of self-sacrifice, who turned away from the popular Rationalism of the times and looked to God’s Word as her personal refuge and strength. 

Recognizing Friederike’s philanthropic skill, in 1826, the Margrave of Recke-Volmarstein summoned her to become the governess for neglected children in a house of refuge at Dusselthal.  She wrote to her brother, “Do you think it will be too hard for me sometimes; I tell you I could not find anything easier.  I am indescribably happy with the children, and it cannot be a false happiness for it has been proven.”1

In his letter of marriage proposal to Friederike, Pastor Theodor Fliedner told her that life at his side would be a life of self-sacrifice and service.  She accepted his proposal with gratitude to God, willing to be of service to Him in this way, even before she and her future husband met!   Indeed, Friederike’s life with Fliedner was marked by increasing responsibility for the growing mercy work and running of the institutions established by him in Kaiserswerth, particularly during his long periods of absence when traveling. Pastor Fliedner made three attempts at securing a Directress for his Deaconess Institution before he and Friederike both concluded that she was intended by God to direct the work.  Hence, in 1836, she became the very first Directress of Deaconesses.  Freiderike proved herself to be a master administrator and business woman, able to manage the affairs of all of the Kaiserswerth institutions as and when it was required of her.

During her fourteen years of marriage to Fliedner, Friederike gave birth to eleven children.   Only five survived into childhood.  She taught her children to be as self-sacrificing as herself, to the point of even taking small orphans into her home and asking the children to share their few precious toys.  In 1842, Friederike died in the middle of a “premature delivery.”  In tribute to Friederike, German author Anna Sticker wrote:

“Friederike Fliedner lived to be only 42 years old and yet her life and work was accomplished.  Anything greater and more the first Directress of deaconesses was unable to give to her successors than she did through service and suffering, as an example to show what Diaconate means.  Diaconate is:  entire, undivided, to the last sacrifice, ready surrender to God in service to the suffering neighbor.  She belonged in simplicity only to God and His will.  That helped her to be a real helpmate to her husband.  That strengthened her in her office as directress of the developing deaconess institution with its great burden of responsibility and labor.  That permitted her willingly to take upon herself the suffering in behalf of her children.  She lived from the praise (of God) from the depths.

1, 2. “Zeugen und Zeugnisse” Band 7 by Anna Sticker.  (Photo from the same source.)