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Remembered Today:

Uniformed Nun or Christian Worker at Cologne Bridgehead Circa 1919


FROGSMILE
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Can anyone suggest what organisation the lady in the enclosed photo was a part of? It appears to be a Christian organisation as the lady has a cross and emitting sunrays on an emblem / motif, both, in her head dress, and at her throat.

She seems to have been connected with the troops ordered to the Cologne Bridgehead as an occupying force after the armistice, and might perhaps have been a canteen worker. It is possible too that she is German, although that seems unlikely. It is one of many photos of British and Canadian personnel held by the Cologne Archives.

I have tried to find online reference to any similar Christian emblem to that which she wears, but have so far been unsuccessful.

The letters around the motif in her head dress appear to be R above W left side, and D above V, right side. There is also something pinned above her left breast.

post-599-0-10284100-1401795237_thumb.jpg

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My two pennyworth. I think that she is a novice nun and that the R.W.D.V. will be the initials of her order (in German). One should remember that Continental nursing was not that organised or run on a basis of disease control (this was recognised as Edith Cavell was called to open a new civilian hospital run on British lines) and nuns were often nursing as much as to provide spiritual hope as well as practical care.

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I would agree from the habit that she is a novice. I am afraid I have no clue as to the order she belonged to.

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Thank you both for your replies. A German archivist did not recognise the lady as German, and it seems odd that she should be included in photos of the Cologne Bridgehead occupation force.

I am hoping that an expert in Christian organisations might recognise the motif / emblem, or the habit.

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I am sure, well pretty sure, that German orders of nuns have such abbreviations on their emblems.

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I am sure, well pretty sure, that German orders of nuns have such abbreviations on their emblems.

Thank you. That is the first clear clue so far and so very helpful.

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I have just checked the abbreviation of all RC orders currently extant and I can't find anything similar. A pm to Nigel Cave might elucidate some further information.

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I have just checked the abbreviation of all RC orders currently extant and I can't find anything similar. A pm to Nigel Cave might elucidate some further information.

Thank you for taking the trouble Keith, I will contact Nigel and see what he has to say.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am not too sure about this one. None of the obvious initials - M and J spring to mind (Mary and Joseph, often used as part of the titles of religiois congregations). Novice sisters more often than not in those days would have worn white, rather than the habit of professed members of the congregation (she would almost certainly have to be a sister - nuns are almost invariably 'enclosed' and do not, usually, engage in hospital works; just as monks belong in a monastery and take a vow of stability (which distinguishes them from 'apostolic' orders, such a Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans etc.). So, my inclination would be to say that she is not a religous and perhaps belongs to some sort of Christian set up. The overall outfit also seems rather too elaborate for anyone in a religous congregation of that era.

So, I doubt if it is RC - maybe some other denomination? - if you are considering a vowed religious organisation.

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I am not too sure about this one. None of the obvious initials - M and J spring to mind (Mary and Joseph, often used as part of the titles of religiois congregations). Novice sisters more often than not in those days would have worn white, rather than the habit of professed members of the congregation (she would almost certainly have to be a sister - nuns are almost invariably 'enclosed' and do not, usually, engage in hospital works; just as monks belong in a monastery and take a vow of stability (which distinguishes them from 'apostolic' orders, such a Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans etc.). So, my inclination would be to say that she is not a religous and perhaps belongs to some sort of Christian set up. The overall outfit also seems rather too elaborate for anyone in a religous congregation of that era.

So, I doubt if it is RC - maybe some other denomination? - if you are considering a vowed religious organisation.

Thank you Nigel. If she is German it might be a Lutheran organisation, although they were renowned for quite plain dress I seem to recall. It remains a mystery.

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Hello All,

Your mystery lady was quite likely a member of a women's Protestant Deaconess society. Her garb is characteristic of that worn by these specially trained church laywomen whose missions, large and small, were well-established across Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century and supported by Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist and Episcopal churches. Photos seem hard to come by on Google but the two links below are examples of the clothing type most particularly the dark fabric, white bow at the neckline and a dark head scarf or small cap.

http://www.bethesda-inc.org/about/our_rich_history/

http://saintpaullibrary.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/fisk-1903.jpg

Marjorie

USA

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Hello All,

Your mystery lady was quite likely a member of a women's Protestant Deaconess society. Her garb is characteristic of that worn by these specially trained church laywomen whose missions, large and small, were well-established across Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century and supported by Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist and Episcopal churches. Photos seem hard to come by on Google but the two links below are examples of the clothing type most particularly the dark fabric, white bow at the neckline and a dark head scarf or small cap.

http://www.bethesda-inc.org/about/our_rich_history/

http://saintpaullibrary.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/fisk-1903.jpg

Marjorie

USA

Thank you very much Marjorie. That is the best clue so far. Do you know of any websites that cover research into such organisations?

It seems that the modern movement began in Germany in 1836, when Theodor Fliedner and his wife Friederike Münster opened the first deaconess motherhouse in Kaiserwerth on the Rhine. The women obligated themselves for 5 years of service, receiving room, board, uniforms, pocket money, and lifelong care.

The uniform was the usual dress of the married woman with dark dress and cap and a white necktie. By 1890 there were over 5,000 deaconesses in Protestant Europe, chiefly Germany Scandinavia and England.
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So very sorry, I don't have any additional information to offer on the subject. I've done no reading on the deaconess topic beyond acquaintance with Florence Nightingale's biographers' discussions of Kaiserwerth as you've mentioned. Only by happenstance of prior browsing of digital collections did I recall seeing that type of dress in historical photos from American nursing collections.

Marjorie

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So very sorry, I don't have any additional information to offer on the subject. I've done no reading on the deaconess topic beyond acquaintance with Florence Nightingale's biographers' discussions of Kaiserwerth as you've mentioned. Only by happenstance of prior browsing of digital collections did I recall seeing that type of dress in historical photos from American nursing collections.

Marjorie

Thank you Marjorie. The German archivist concerned (Cologne City Archives) does not think she is a German Deaconess, as they wore a white cap. Perhaps she is Canadian or English, which seems more likely given the presence of the photo among an archive of 1918-19, Cologne Bridgehead occupation troops, from Britain and Canada.

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