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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Just what the doctor ordered

Deaconesses tended to patients at Philadelphia Children's Hospital

A patient at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia, benefits from the care of Sister Emma Tobias

A patient at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia, benefits from the care of Sister Emma Tobias (right), an unidentified nurse, and a stack of comic books including Weird Fantasy #17 (January-February 1951).

Tobias was a Lutheran deaconess at the Philadelphia Motherhouse. It was founded in the 1880s after businessman John Lankenau brought deaconesses from Germany to fill a shortage of trained nurses at Philadelphia's German Hospital.

This opened the gates for a flood of deaconesses to come and provide care in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Omaha. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, deaconesses from the Philadelphia Motherhouse served at Lankenau Hospital, the Philadelphia Children's Hospital, the Mary J. Drexel Home for the Aged, the Lankenau School for Girls, ministries in the Virgin Islands, parishes and many more sites.

The Philadelphia Motherhouse and Lankenau Hospital shared a location until 1953, when their partnership ended.

When the ELCA was formed in 1988, the three geographic groups of sisters also came together, eventually forming the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. 


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