Fliedner, Theodor

Fliedner, Theodor a German philanthropist, was born at Eppstein, Rhenish Prussia, in 1800, where his father was pastor. His early education was conducted by his father, and he entered the ministry with some misgiving, rather doubting his fitness, and choosing rather the function of teacher. But in 1820 a call to the pastorate of the little village community of Kaiserswerth, a small town on the Rhine, opened his way, and he diffidently began his work in the place now forever associated with his name, and which became, under his hand, the centre of an influence approaching that of Wesley himself, whose power of endurance, faith, and incessant labor Fliedner rivalled. The inhabitants of Kaiserswerth were chiefly supported by a large manufactory, which failed in 1822. Fliedner devoted himself to the work of helping his flock instead of being supported by them. "Never did a man begin to ask for help with a heavier heart, nor with worse success, till a brother pastor at Elberfeldt took him home to dinner, and told him that the three requisites for his work were patience, impudence, and a ready tongue.' The receipt, to which Fliedner added much prayer and much faith, proved so successful that he was spoken of before his death as the most accomplished beggar ever known in Germany. England, America, and many distant regions learned to pour their contributions into his wallet, and often his worst necessities were relieved by what seemed almost miraculous unsolicited gifts, which exactly answered the demands upon him." In 1823 he visited England on a begging excursion, and there became acquainted with Elizabeth Fry and with her benevolent movements. SEE FRY, ELIZABETH. On his return he examined the prisons of his neighborhood, and found them in a wretched state. "The convicts were crammed together in narrow, dirty cells, often in damp cellars without light or air; boys who had fallen into crime from thoughtlessness were mixed up with hoary, cunning sinners; young girls with the most corrupt old women. There was absolutely no classification; even accused persons waiting for trial, who might soon be released again as innocent, were placed with criminals who might be undergoing a lengthened term of imprisonment. There was as good as no supervision at all; as long as the jailers allowed no one to escape, they had fulfilled their duty." For more than two years Fliedner tried to bridge the gulf which lay between this criminal class and the rest of the community in his own person, visiting, teaching, reorganizing, and in 1826 he founded the first German society for improving prison discipline. " Seeking a matron for the female wards at Dusseldorf, he found his wife, whose parents refused to let her take the position first offered to her, but approved her acceptance of the young pastor himself, although the second involved all the duties of the first. In 1833 he took a poor creature released from prison into a summer-house in his garden, and so practically started a scheme which had for some time been in his mind, to provide a refuge for such women as desired to reform on the expiration of their sentences. A friend of Mrs. Fliedner's came to take charge of this minute beginning, and assumed the title of deaconess. The summerhouse gave way to a house, the deaconess got companions, and the establishment grew. Then the thought of founding an order of deaconesses for the care of the sick poor dawned upon him. He bought a house in 1836, having no money, but a vast amount of faith. The same may be said of all his subsequent enlargements of his borders. His hospital was started with one table, some broken chairs, a few worn knives and two pronged forks, worm-eaten bedsteads, seven sheets, and four severe cases of illness. The effort soon flourished under royal favor." In .1838 Fliedner first sent deaconesses from his establishment to work in other places; they spread, fresh mother-houses multiplied, till now there are 139 stations. (For statistics, SEE DEACONESSES, vol. ii, p. 709.) In 1849 he visited America, and travelled widely. He founded a " house" at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. " In the course of his life Fliedner established at Kaiserswerth schools, training colleges for middle-class school-mistresses as well as for governesses, a lunatic asylum, a boy's school, and a training college for schoolmasters. The hospital, the asylum, the schools, are all utilized for the training of deaconesses, whom Fliedner frequently taught himself by the example of his wonderful gifts for interesting the young. Comical stories might be told of his doings in his infant-schools, where he would fall prostrate by way of illustration of the story of Goliath, distribute bread and honey to fix the excellence of the heavenly manna on the children's minds, or suddenly send a boy under the table to vivify his tale of the fall of a traveller over a precipice. His labors lasted till his death. He died at Kaiserswerth, Oct. 4,1864, worn out by journeys' in Germany, France, Great Britain, and America. which had brought on disease of the lungs To the very last day of his life, he continued, in spite of painful weakness, to exhort those near him to a re-a li~ious and earnest life, took keen interest in the details of daily work going on around him, and died a day or two after taking the communion with his whole establishment and family, including two sons,' whose entrance into the Church he specially rejoiced to see." Fliedsner published (after 1836) annual reports of his institution, and a monthly periodical called Der

Asrmeaund Krasmkensfreund. He also wrote a work, in four volumes, on the martyrs of the Evangelical Church, Bech der Martyrer unat anderer Glaubenszeagen der evangel. Kirche vons den Aposteln bis auf unsere Zeit, 1852-1860, 4 vols.-London Quarterly Review, April, 1868, p. 247; Spectator, April. 11, 1868; Winkworth, Life of Pastor Fliedner (Lond. 1867); Appleton, Am. Cyclop. (1864), p. 377.

 
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