April 5, 2009 - Gertrude Reichardt

When Theodore Fliedner opened his deaconess training center in Kaiserswerth, Germany, (in October 1836) there was more than enough work for prospective deaconess trainees to do, starting with a sick servant girl, released female prisoners, and then a nursery for children.  Over time the Kaiserswerth village grew to include an orphanage, a girls’ high school, a home for mentally ill female Protestants, a home for invalid or lonely women, and a school for teachers.

The first woman to present herself to Pastor Fliedner for deaconess training was Gertrude Reichardt.  Gertrude was the 48-year-old daughter of a doctor, and Fliedner immediately noted that she possessed leadership qualities that could be utilized in organizing and guiding the work of a Protestant diaconate. 

Gertrude had a good set of nursing skills because she had assisted her father in the care of the sick, and she had experience in helping those who were poor and destitute.  She became the first superintendent of the deaconess training center and the accompanying hospital at Kaiserswerth, and appears to be the first deaconess to have been called “Sister.”  Deaconess Gertrude also encouraged spiritual devotion among the other deaconess trainees who came to learn and work at Kaiserswerth. 

When Pastor Fliedner installed Gertrude as the first Lutheran deaconess in Germany, he preached on Psalm 100:2a: “Serve the Lord with Gladness.”  These same words were written as a motto over the entrance of the first Deaconess Motherhouse established in Kaiswerswerth, where Deaconess Gertrude and the other trainees could see them daily, being reminded that it was their Lord that they served as they cared for those in need.

 

Photo taken from C. Goulder, History of the Deaconess Movement (Cincinnati:  Jennings and Pye, 1903).