Fembio Special: Famous Women from Hanover, Germany
Born 11 November 1798 in Herzberg/Harz
Died 24 September 1863 in Hanover
German pioneer of social work; founder of the Friederikenstift in Hanover, Germany
160th anniversary of her death on September 24, 2023
Ida Arenhold was 42 years old when she, together with seven other well-to-do women, founded the “Frauenverein für Armen- und Krankenpflege” (Women’s Association for the Care of the Poor and Sick) in 1840. Unmarried, she still lived with and kept house for her father, who had not remarried after the death of his wife in 1822. Ida had taken on the role of lady of the house and accompanied her father at social events.
Born on 11 November 1798 in Herzberg, she moved in 1799 to Hanover, the royal residential city to which her father, a high official at court, had been transferred. After the early death of her mother it fell to her as the oldest daughter to care for her seven younger siblings and take on the responsibility of running the large household.
Since the end of the 18th century charity for the poor had increasingly become a public concern. With the impact of industrialization and urbanization the problems associated with poverty intensified in the cities. In many towns, therefore, middle-class women took on the tasks of caring for the poor and the sick and established charitable support associations for this purpose. The “Frauenverein für Armen- und Krankenpflege” was based on the Hamburg model of Amalie Sieveking and had the goal of supporting the needy in the spirit of „helping towards self-help.“ The work of the organization was financed by donations. Led by their director Ida Arenhold, the members met regularly and deliberated on how individual cases should be handled. A so-called „Protocollenheft“ or log in which the ladies noted what they had observed on their house visits formed the basis for their decisions about active assistance.
King Ernst August was highly impressed by this initiative and donated the „Weisshaarschen Hof“ to the organization; first and foremost, most likely, he granted it to the especially dedicated Ida Arenhold herself. At the expense of the King, this complex of buildings was redesigned for its new purposes by the court’s master builder Georg Laves. There were hospital rooms for sick adults and children, residences for the poor, a soup-kitchen, a kindergarten, and a store. The store offered products made in the knitting, spinning and sewing schools and various workshops on the premises, as well as produce from the attached farm. Later on a nursing school was added. King Ernst August recognized the association house and its hospital on May 23, 1844 by naming it the „Friederikenstift“ in honor of his late wife Queen Friederike, who had died in 1841. Today the Friederikenstift is a modern hospital, an organization of the Diakonische Dienste (Deaconal Services) in Hanover.
Ida Arenhold supervised her father’s household for nearly a quarter-century. Not until 1847, when she was 49 years old and her father had died, did she move into the Friederikenstift completely. Here she was better able to carry out her responsibilities as head of the association, house mother and Protestant „Mother Superior“ to the resident sisters. She presided over a female community which provided a place to live and work for girls and women wishing to dedicate themselves to a life of service to the association. They were trained in care of the sick, worked in the hospital, and lived in the sisters’ house. Often such a woman spent her entire life here.
The major impetus for Ida Arenhold’s active engagement was the Christian injunction to „love one’s neighbor.“ She liked to cite as her life’s maxim the Biblical verse: „Anything you do for one of my brothers here, however insignificant, you did for me“ (Matthew 25:40).
When she died on September 24, 1863, she was deeply mourned. Her grave is located in the Gartenfriedhof (Garden Cemetery) in Hanover. The date of birth cited on the grave’s cross is incorrect, according to information from the Evangelical-Lutheran Church records office. Ida Arenhold was born, not on October 11th, but on November 11th, 1798. (trans.: Joey Horsley)
Author: Barbara Fleischer
Literature & Sources
Fesche, Klaus (1993): Der Meister gehört in seine Werkstatt, Ida Arenhold. In: Dinghaus, Angela (Hg.): Frauenwelten. Biographisch-historische Skizzen aus Niedersachsen. Hildesheim: Olms.
Ködderitz, Walter; Quantz, Friedrich (Hg.) (1965): 125 Jahre Friederikenstift Hannover. 1840 – 1965. Hannover: Friederikenstift.
Schroeder, Hiltrud (1990): Ida Arenhold, Beten und Arbeiten sind die Grundpfeiler allen Gedeihens. In: Schroeder, Hiltrud (Hg.): Sophie & Co. Bedeutende Frauen Hannovers ; biographische Portraits. Hannover: Fackelträger Verl.
Schütze, Albert: Ida Arenhold, Gründerin des Friederikenstifts Hannover. In: Heimatblätter für den süd-westlichen Harzrand, Ausgabe 54 (1998), S. 187–192.
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