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The Female Diaconate In Nineteenth-Century Sweden

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Chapter Summary

This chapter orients the reader to the history and work of the nineteenth-century female diaconate in Sweden. The first section presents a chronological account of the diaconate's history until the turn of the twentieth century. The remaining sections offer a closer look at the diaconate's organization, composition, and operations. Two themes that recur in these sections are the diaconate's religious profile and the challenges deaconesses faced beyond functional differentiation in their quest for social significance. The chapter argues that the diaconate successfully addressed many gender-based concerns to its activities by organizing and interpreting female diaconal work as an extension of the household sphere and thus in conformity with the Lutheran construction of gender. It maintains that while the diaconate's struggles with recruitment limited the range of its public influence, demand for the services of deaconesses among prospective employers and "clients" was not adversely affected by these challenges.

Keywords: deaconesses; diaconate's religious profile; Swedish deaconessate



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