A legacy of care: Hesse and the Alice Frauenverein, 1867-1918

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University of Alabama Libraries

Although scholars have considered the role of secular nursing associations in nineteenth-century Germany, they have focused on these organizations through the lens of nationalism and state-building or modernization and professionalization. As a result, the question of religiosity in secular nursing has been left largely unexplored. Focusing on the development of the Alice Women's Association for Nursing (Alice Frauenverein für Krankenpflege), which was founded in 1867 in the grand duchy of Hesse, this dissertation examines the ways in which this and similar nineteenth-century women's associations articulated a division between secular and religious forms of nursing, even while they drew on theological traditions associated with liberal Protestantism and on institutional models associated with the Catholic orders and Protestant diaconates. By following the model of the religious motherhouse, these secular Red Cross-affiliated women's associations were also able to provide their nurses with respectability and lifelong security, although adhering to this system meant that the nurses gave up much of their personal freedom. This study also highlights the ways in which nursing during the Kaiserreich continued to combine aspects of volunteerism and professionalism, and calls into question the tendency among nursing historians to view nineteenth-century developments primarily in terms of professionalization. Lastly it considers the relationship of the Alice Frauenverein to the mid-nineteenth century "woman question" (Frauenfrage), which in large part turned on the lack of employment opportunities for middle-class women.

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European history, Health Sciences, Nursing, Women's studies