Sieveking, Amalia

Sieveking, Amalia, the founder and long the head of the woman's union for the care of the poor and the sick of the city of Hamburg, belonged to one of the most respected senatorial families of that city, and was born in 1794. She lost her parents an early age, and was received into the home of an elderly relative of her mother, where she began, when scarce seventeen years of age, to display the qualities which stamped her a born deaconess. Her earliest efforts were expended on an uninstructed girl living in the same house with herself, and five other girls were soon added to her school. She devoted three hours a day to instruction in elementary branches, omitting nothing but religion, which she did not at the time either possess or understand. Kempis's Imitation of Christ first directed her thoughts towards the Bible, and A. H. Francke's Manuductio ad Lectionem Script. Sacr. (q.v.) taught her to find the sense of Scripture by comparing its parts together, and also to transmute all that should be found into experience, through prayer and personal application. She claims, accordingly, that her faith was grounded on no human authority whatever, but solely on that of the Lord. The doctrine of the atonement continued to trouble her, however, until an enlightened Bible student, who had been the school friend of her early-deceased brother, was able to relieve her doubts. Religion was now given a prominent place in her curriculum, and a weekly "Bible-hour" was added to her labors, for the benefit of such as had by confirmation been removed from school into the walks of common life. These Bible-hours yielded fruit also for a wider circle through a publication issued in 1822, and entitled Betrachtungen iub. einzene Theile d. heil. Schrift, upon which followed, in 1827, Betrachtugungen mit d. heil. Schrift, and in 1855 Unterhaltunagen iub. einzelne Abschnitte d. heil. Schrift. These schools for girls were continued, with rare interruptions, down to the last year of her life, the sixth class being admitted in 1854; and it became a desirable thing in the eves of her neighbors, even when they differed from her in religious opinion, to have their children placed under her care.

The disposition to give and help in every way was too strong in Amalia's nature to be confined within the limits of her school. She thought at first of organizing an evangelical sisterhood after the pattern of the Romish orders. Her way was made clear, however, by the first breaking-out of the cholera epidemic in Europe in the summer of 1831, when she offered her services to the cholera hospital, which were accepted. She was at last placed over the entire corps of male and female nurses. The experience so gained was practically utilized afterwards in the forming of a woman's society for the relief of the poor and the sick instead of the proposed sisterhood; It was composed of women belonging to the middle and higher classes of society, at first thirteen in number- (1832), and was placed under stringent rules of administration. - Direct visitation was made a duty, certain families being: assigned to a number of members, who were required to visit in succession and record the results of the visits in books provided for that purpose. No case of chronic poverty was received, and the most careful inquiries were made with reference to applicants for aid, covering the business, number of persons in the family, their age and sex, attendance on schools, the home, and its appearance as to neatness and order. A weekly meeting was held in which the claim of such applicants to admission was discussed, and at which they were placed under the care of certain members if received. It was also a principle never to visit the poor empty-handed, but never to give them money, orders on tradesmen or provisions in kind being preferred; and if want of work was the occasion of the suffering, the effort was made to secure employment. The union even erected a number of manufactories itself, and had them managed under its control, for the purpose of affording employment to the poor; and its reports show that this part of its business was not conducted at a loss. Nor was the spiritual welfare of its clients neglected. Every visitor was expected to use all proper effort to secure the moral and religious improvement of the persons under her care, no less than to minister to their temporal needs. The workings of this union caused its fame to spread, not simply throughout an appreciative city, but over wide areas, so that when a terrible conflagration laid Hamburg low in 1842, contributions from women's unions in numerous German cities, all of which called themselves daughters of the union of Hamburg, were forwarded to the parent society for its use. Amalia Sieveking's life purpose was thus fully realized, and crowned with blessing beyond all her expectations. The last two years of her life were shadowed by pulmonary troubles, which destroyed her strength and compelled her gradual withdrawal from the work whose supervision had become to her a second nature. She died April 1,1859. For her life, see Denkwuirdigkeiten aus d. Leben von Amalia Sieveking, etc. (Hamb. 1860).

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