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CLARA ENID ORWIG (Jan. 5, 1893-Jan. 5, 1976)
Deaconess Clara Orwig, who served at the Nevada Ft. McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Reservation, was set aside as a deaconess in 1936. Described as an “individualist” and “a very faithful worker in the mountains,” her 1943 report mentions a congregation of 106 for the Christmas Day service, as well as a pump house explosion that fell within 15 feet of the Chapel and a “siege of whooping cough” that postponed the Easter celebration. In 1946 she moved to Chicago, undertaking City Mission work in place of Deaconess Katherine Putnam, who had transferred to China. Her memorial service took place at St. James Cathedral; she is buried in Toledo, Ohio.
“Deaconess Clara Orwig,” in “Deaconesses at Work.” The Deaconess, June, 1943.
Obituary. Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1976, p. 12.
Rima Lunin Schultz, “Deaconesses in Twentieth Century Chicago.” Anglican and Episcopal History, 73.3 (September 2004), pp. 335-362.
HARRIET BEDELL (March 19, 1875 – January 8, 1969
Remembered in the Calendar of Saints, Harriet Bedell is known for her missionary work among the Cheyennes at the Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma and in Alaska, where she was set aside as a deaconess. During the Great Depression, she served in Florida at the Mikasuki-Seminole reservation. For mor information about her life, see resources below.
ADELINE BLANCHARD TYLER (Dec. 8, 1805-Jan. 9, 1875)
After her husband John Tyler died, Adeline Blanchard, raised as a Congregationalist, was set aside as an Episcopal deaconess in 1853. She received nursing training at the Deaconesses’ Institute in Kaiserwerth, Germany; then, in 1856 she was called to establish an infirmary for the destitute in Baltimore, where she became head deaconess at St. Andrew’s Infirmary. Four years later, in keeping with the sentiment of the times, she was replaced by a man appointed to take charge of the infirmary’s finances.
Her involvement in the Baltimore riots of April 1861, when she braved the displeasure of the guards on duty to help the wounded, and her insistence on feeding the hungry prisoners regardless of their political stance defined her personality. Health problems forced her resignation from head nurse at the Naval School Hospital in Annapolis, and after a vacation in England, she returned to become “Lady Superintendent” at the Boston Children’s Hospital. Retiring three years later, she died of complications from breast cancer in 1875.
Hay, Thomas Robson. “Tyler, Adeline Blanchard.” Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 3, pp. 491-493.
Photo (between 1861 and 1865) by Matthew B. Brady, from the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress).
LEONORA MARIE KELTON (May 16, 1875-Jan. 14, 1946)
Deaconess Leonora Kelton began her work as a missionary to Cuba, where she had family roots, after serving as an instructor in music at the Darlington Seminary in West Chester and training at the Philadelphia Deaconess School (1905-1907). She left for Guanatamo on the steamer Seguranca on Sept. 6th, 1907.
In Cuba she became head of the school at the Mission of Constancia, ten hours from Havana near Cienfuegos. he school, built on the plantation estate of the Colonial Sugar company, was initially housed in decaying Army barracks.Her article in the Feb. 11, 1911 issue of The Spirit of Missions describes the way the first group of poorly prepared children were taught to read bilingually and count, and given clothing and a religious education. Returning to New York, she spent time at Holy Trinity Chapel and then moved to Sacramento, where she was set aside as a deaconess by Bishop Moreland on May 16, 1917. She was the moving force behind the establishment of the St. Barnabas Community House, where she headed the first Interdenominational and Interracial Sunday School. She was also involved in the revival of the Home of the Merciful Savior for invalid children.
“In Memoriam.” The Deaconess, June 1946. Project Canterbury.
Kelton, Leonora M. “The Island of Sugar.” The Spirit of Missions, 76.2, Feb. 1911, pp. 133-135.
Letter. Journal of the Fourth Annual of the Church in the Missionary District of Cuba Held in Havana, Oct. 11, 1909, p. 69.
“A Nurse for the Phillipines.” The Spirit of Missions, 72.11, Nov. 1907, p. 906. (Photo)
EVA HAMMITT CRUMP
After graduating from the New York Training School, Deaconess Crump was set aside by The Rt. Rev. David H. Greer, Bishop Coadjutator of New York, at Grace Church on May 15th, 1907.
Deaconess Eva served in Spartanberg, where she was welcomed into the diocese by The Rev. W. H. Pendleton of the Church of the Advent. She was put in charge of St. John’s Mission and school in the Spartan Mill Village of High Shoals, North Carolina, where she served with her good friend Deaconess Mary Louise Kneeves. Both are described as “gentle Deaconesses” who “are loved by everybody for the good they do”; and in a newspaper article published in 1958, a family visitor to High Shoals remembers “how wonderful the deaconess was.” After retiring and living in England with Deaconess Kneeves, she returned to the United States. Because of a stroke in 1938, she moved to a nursing home until her death in 1941. She is buried in Dale Cemetery, Ossining NY.
The Deaconess, May 1941.
Journal of the 121st Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1911.
“Miracle of Prayer May Save the Church.” The Charlotte Observer, April 13, 1958, p. 14C.
“Parochial School Opens.” The Charlotte Observer, Nov. 20, 1907, p. 3.
(Photo: “St. John’s Mission School, High Shoals, N.C.” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)
JANUARY BIRTH DATE
PAULINE WEIDENSEE WHIPPLE (Jan. 1869-?)
Deaconess Weidensee spent much of her career serving St. Mark’s in Minneapolis. After graduating from high school and studying music, she completed the Deaconess Training School in St. Paul in 1897 and was set apart by Bishop Mahlon Norris Gilbert. She then became trained in a kindergarten teacher at St. Stephen’s Mission, and in 1903 became a staff member at St. Mark’s.
She was called by the Bishop of Puerto Rico to serve as a missionary, where one of her accomplishments was teaching large class of Porto Rican children. At St. John’s she was in charge of the Spanish Sunday School classes as superintendent. secretary, organist, and treasurer, and increased the attendance three-fold. After she left Puerto Rico, she married George N. Whipple in Aug. 1907.
“A Year’s Work at San Juan, Porto Rico.” The Churchman, June 9, 1906, p. 940.
The Churchman, Jan. 21, 1899, p. 121.
Memorial Volume and History of St.Mark’s Parish, Minneapolis, Minn.
The Spirit Of Missions, Jan. 1906, P. 28.
EDITH A. BOOTH (Dec. 20, 1905-Feb. 2, 1997)
In 1913, at the age of eight, Edith Booth came to Everett, Mass. from Oldham in Lancashire, England. After working as a secretary with General Electric in Boston, she attended the New York Training School for Deaconesses and was set aside in 1933 by Bishop William Manning. After a number of posts, she became the missionary in charge at St. Mark’s 1n 1937, and then, in 1943, the director of the Handicraft Guild.
From 1954 to 1968 she was in charge of the Central House of Deaconesses in Evanston, IL. There she and Deaconess Amelia Brereton led the movement to revitalize the deaconess calling; their goal was to confirm “the joy of dedication and vocation in the grace conferred” by the order, a movement that eventually led to the decision to admit women to the diaconate (Schultz). In 1972 she relocated to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kissimmee, FL.
Edith Booth. “Meet the Deaconesses A-F.” Fund for the Diaconate.
Shultz, Rima Lunin. “’To Realize the Joy of Dedication and Vocation in the Grace Conferred in Our Order’: Deaconesses in Twentieth Century Chicago.” Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Sept. 2004), pp. 335-362.
“Experiences in Learning.” The McHenry Plaindealer, Aug. 8, 1969, p. 1. (Photo)
ANNETTE RELF (July 12, 1840-Feb. 16, 1915)
The first to become an Episcopal deaconess in Minnesota, Sister Annette Relf spent her life in charity work.
Set aside by Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple at Gethsemane Church in Minnesota on Jan. 3, 1875,* she became the nurse at Cottage Hospital (which eventually became St. Barnabas Hospital in Minneapolis) and District Visitor for the parish. In 1882 she began work to found the Minneapolis orphanage Sheltering Arms, which she funded; two years later she began the Church Home for Babies. In 1894 she turned her attention to organizing what became the Episcopal Homes in St. Paul for children and older women. There she served as matron and nurse and in 1909 as resident.
“Charity Worker Passes.” Star Tribune, Feb. 17, 1915, p. 8. (*The obituary names Bishop Knickerbocker as presiding.)
Fotch, Marcia. “Episcopal Church Home Begins Its Second Century.” Ramsey County History, Fall 1995, pp. 22-23.
Prior, Brian N. “Sister Annette Relf Day.”
GERTRUDE BOUCHER MOSHER KNIGHT (Nov. 10, 1866- Feb. 20, 1948)
Set apart at Grace Church in New York on Oct. 4, 1896 by Bishop James Potter, Gertrude Mosher travelled with her brother, Deacon Gouverneur Mosher, to China. They left for London on Oct. 17th and arrived in Shanghai two months later. Both served under Bishop Frederick R. Graves, who ordained The Rev. Mosher to the priesthood in Hankow in 1898. While in China, the deaconess supervised St. Mary’s Orphanage in Shanghai until she was transferred to Wuchang, where she held weekly meetings for the women and visited them in their homes. She enjoyed writing, and on Oct. 30, 1897, published an article in The Churchman entitled “A Chinese Betrothal.” Ultimately, under her watch, a Woman’s Auxiliary was formed. In 1900 she returned to the United States and married The Rev. Franklin Knight, with whom she had four children. Her funeral services were held at St. Paul’s in Holyoke, MA.
Mosher, Deaconess Gertrude. “A Chinese Betrothal.” The Churchman, Oct. 27, 1897, pp. 556-557.
“Mrs. Hawley’s Legacy—the Deaconess and the Bishop.” Grain Once Scattered.
Obituary. “Mrs. F. J. Knight Dies at 81.” The Berkshire County Eagle, Feb. 25, 1948, p. 4.
KATE NEWELL [JONES] (1843-Feb. 21, 1914)
“Sister Kate,” as she was called, was in the first graduating class of the New York Training School for Deaconesses, along with Sarah K. Barker and Mary E. Greene. Before she became a deaconess, she was a patent lawyer; first employed in in Washington, she opened an office on Broadway in New York, becoming the only female patent lawyer in the city. The three graduates were set aside by Bishop Henry C. Potter at Grace Church on Oct. 2, 1892. Sister Kate served at Grace Church for twenty years. She also became the secretary to the new branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society, and along with Sarah Barker received in recognition for her work a gold medal from Bishop David H. Greer in Nov. 1912. She is buried in the Weed family plot in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.
“Deaconess Kate Newell.” Frugal Geneology.“The First Deaconesses.” Pittsburg Dispatch, Oct. 3, 1892, p. 4.
“From Bar to Church.” St. Paul Daily Globe, Nov. 26, 1892, p. 7.
“Medals for Deaconesses.” The Churchman, Nov. 9, 1912, p. 632.
EMMA BRITT DRANT (?-February? 1932)
Deaconess Drant, who graduated from the Philadelphia Training School, was set apart on April 3, 1895 by Bishop Boyd Vincent at St. Paul’s in Cincinnati, where she celebrated her thirtieth anniversary, with the Bishop presenting one of the addresses. In November 1897, before she became well-known for her ministry in Honolulu, she spent three years in Orlando, FL, supervising church missions among Native Americans, African Americans, and the elderly. she then served as the Bishop’s secretary. In 1902, under the auspice of St. Andrew’s, she helped organize a Maternity Society. She was then sent to Honolulu, where, along with volunteers from St. Peter’s Church in the Palama district, she provided vocational, language, and Bible classes at St. Elizabeth’s settlement house (two years later ground was broken for St. Elizabeth’s Church). Her moving story about converting a recalcitrant Chinese boy was published in the Cincinnati Times-Star, and another story about a celebration sponsored by the Honolulu branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society, established in Spring, 1902, appeared in the Hawaiian Gazette. Returning to California, she was instrumental in her work with the Chinese population. Based at Grace Church in San Francisco, she established the True Sunshine Mission for the Chinese population. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, she continued her work at Lake Merritt in Oakland, with hospital tents, rations, and a sewing ministry. On May 29, 1909, the new home for the mission was blessed in San Francisco. In her later years she was active in social service in Cincinnati.
Drant, Deaconess. “True Sunshine Chinese Camp, Lake Merritt, Okland, Cal.”Spirit of Missions, 1906, pp. 704-704.
Howe, The Rev. C. Fletcher. The First Fifty Years of St. Elizabeth’s Church.
“Retired Deaconess Dies.” The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 2, 1932, p. 3.
“Why Chinaman Wept.” Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 2, 1904, p. 5.
100 Years of History: Episcopal Church of Our Saviour (True Sunshine Mission). (Photo) See also Fund for the Diaconate, A-F.
GERTRUDE STEWART (March 26, 1881-March 11, 1965)
Graduating from the Philadelphia Church Training and Deaconess House in 1904, Gertrude Stewart traveled to Hankow as a missionary. Four years later she was set aside as a deaconess in Wuchang and until 1927 worked at the Hankow mission (in 1949 Wuchang was merged with Hankow and Hanyang to become Wuhan).
While there, she adopted either two daughters; records show a third adoption. She left invaluable records of her work, not only through letters but also articles, like her account of the first Chinese Deaconesses in the Spirit of Missions, one of whom was Deaconess Han (see December Commemorations). In 1927 she returned to the United States to serve as the director of the Philadelphia Training House for four years, and then spent another ten years as the director of Bible Women’s Work in Hankow. Retiring as a missioner but not as a deaconess, in 1928 she served on the Commission on Adapting the Office of Deaconess to Present Tasks of the Church and held numerous positions, despite her ongoing health problems. Living at the Leamy Home in Philadelphia, she continued to volunteer at Grace Church and the Episcopal Hospital in addition to serving on the Chinese Christian Church and Center committee, founding the Windham House Alumnae Association, and editing the newsletter. She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, in Vermont.
Multiple references to her status as a trustee and publications officer, as well as personal accounts of family and visits may be found here: Newsletter (Church Training and Deaconess House 1891-1938 and St. Mary’s House 1938-1952), May 1956.
“Gertrude Stewart Booklet” (Two letters describing her 1918 work in Hankow).
Donovan, Mary S. A Different Call: Women’s Ministries in the Episcopal Church, 1850-1920. (Photo, p.122).
ISABELLA MORRIS GILMORE (July 17, 1842-March 15, 1923)
Isabella Gilmore, the first Head Deaconess (Diocese of Rochester & Southwark) in the Church of England and sister of William Morris, spearheaded the deaconess movement under the auspices of Bishop Anthony Thorold, who ordained her on April 16, 1887. As Head Deaconess she instituted a rigorous training program in nursing, theology, and hands-on work with the poor and sick. She is remembered in a bas-relief at Southwark Cathedral as “A servant of the church” and “A succourer of many.” (See the complete listing in Ormond Plater, “A Calendar of Deacon Saints.”)
“Deaconess Gilmore: Memories Collected by Deaconess Elizabeth Robinson.” NY and Toronto: Macmillan, 1924.
Grierson Janet. Isabella Gilmore: Sister to William Morris. London: SPCK, 1962.
Hamey, Baldwin. “London Details: Isabella Gilmore.”
“Memorial to Deaconess Isabella Gilmore.” The Victorian Web. (Photo)
Sharp, Frank. “Isabella Morris Gilmore.” Morris Society.Hamey, Baldwin. “London Details: Isabella Gilmore.”
Maria Page Williams (Aug 11 1875–March 15, 1957)
Born in Lynchchburg, VA, Maria Williams, alumna of the New York Training School, was set apart as deaconess on May 11, 1911, by Bishop David Greer of the Diocese of New York.
She spent her career in the coal mining town of Dante, VA, where she served at St. Mark’s Mission and ministered to a disparate racial population of mountain people and Italians and Hungarians. The programs she initiated included children’s classes, including summer kindergarten, sewing classes, and ministry among the people of the area. She was highly regarded; at her retirement, over 1500 people signed a Book of Remembrance and contributed to a donation “an attempt to show how much they loved her and appreciated her many years of service and her many kind deeds.”
“Deaconess Williams Retirement.” The Deaconess, Feb. 1938.
Forty-five Years of the United Thank Offering. The Woman’s Auxiliary to the National Council. (Photo)
Obituary. The Living Church, April 21, p. 23.
ELSIE WILHEMINA RIEBE (Feb. 21, 1887-March 31, 1959)
After teaching for three years in the Public Schools of North Dakota, Deaconess Riebe attended the New York Training School for Deaconesses, graduating in 1912 as the only one from North Dakota to do so. She worked for two years in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts and at the Church of the Holy Communion in New York. Set apart in October 1914 in the Chapel of Church Missions House by Bishop Lloyd, President of the Board of Missions, she traveled to China to work in the Missionary District of Hankow, China, serving the Church at Ichang in Hupeh.
In 1942 The Secretary of State wrote that she and The Rev. Walter Morse “were taken without explanation to Japanese headquarters where she was struck many times with bamboo pole and he was beaten for 2 hours with iron rod one-half inch thick. These acts of cruelty were committed in presence of commanding officer of Japanese police in Ichang.” The response five years later by the International Military Tribunal is that the charges had “no foundation in fact.” Deaconess Riebe was furloughed in the U.S for four years during the war, returning as soon as she could after the Japanese invasion. She helped many refugees to escape; she helped many Church people to be released when they were arrested on trumped-up charges. Finally, her buildings, her supplies and medicines were taken from her, forcing her to be returned to this country again. She retired in 1952 and lived in Jamestown, ND, until her death seven years later.
International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Jan. 9, 1947.
The Living Church, Sept. 13, 1942 (Photo).
Office of the Historian, Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. 1.
“Only N.D. Episcopal Deaconess, 72, Dies.” The Bismark Tribune, April 1, 1959, p. 21.
ELIZABETH CATHERINE FERARD (February 22,1825 –April 18, 1883)
Elizabeth Ferard, founder of the Community of St. Andrew, was set aside as the first Anglican deaconess on July 18, 1862 by Archbishop Archibald Alexander Tait.
RUTH BYLLESBY (?1865-April 25, 2012)
Deaconess Ruth Byllesby was set aside as a Saint of Georgia on April 15, 2012, by Bishop Henry Louttit in a ceremony at Christ Church, Augusta. For accounts of her work with the Harrisburg textile mill workers, her founding of the Neighborhood House during the Great Depression, and much, much more, see below.
MARY ELEANOR LIBBEY (? 1859-April 26, 1946)
Mary Eleanor Libbey spent most of her career in Boston, MA. Born in the South End of the city, she graduated from the New York Training School for Deaconesses in 1901 and was set aside as deaconess on Ascension Day, May 16, by Bishop William Lawrence. She was based at the Washington National Cathedral, returning to Emmanuel Church in Boston in October 1905. There she was given the duty to “work among the poor.” As she says, agreeing with social reformer Jacob Riis, hunger takes many forms; and so In 1906 she writes not only of providing much-needed items like shoes to impoverished members of the congregation, but also of offering the warmth of companionship in Welcome meetings, Mothers’ Meetings, and Bible classes. In 1907 she became the House Mother for the Students’ House (retiring in 1931), and over the years published many moving accounts in the Emmanuel Church Yearbook of the work that was accomplished there as well as at Fay Cottage, a summer home for mothers and children. She died unexpectedly on April 26th; her funeral was held in the Lindsey Memorial Chapel of Emmanuel Church, in Back Bay on April 29, 1946.
MAUDE TRUXTON HENDERSON (Dec. 4, 1866-April 30, 1956)
On Sept. 29, 1903, Maude Henderson arrived at Shanghai, returning home on April 17, 1946, via the S.S. Marine Phoenix. Originally serving in Soochow for two years after experience as a nurse in Boston and a New York tenement worker, she transferred to Shanghai, leaving the church mission to establish the orphanage called St. Faith’s House.
Known as the “Grandmother Many Babies” by her Chinese friends, she rescued foundlings from streets, refugee settlements, and war zones. Coming from a family well-known in military history, she is buried at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington, VA.
Letters, papers, and images available at the University of North Carolina library.
“VA Woman Aids Babies in Shanghai.” The Bee, Dec. 10, 1937, p. 13.
“Virginian in China called ‘Grandmother Many Babies.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 25, 1936, p. 8. (Photo)