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The Charlottenschrank. Born Out of a Nursing Shortage

  1. Dr. Heike Krause ORCID iD Diarchiv Schwäbisch Hall

Abstract

Helping hands have always been in short supply, so in order to provide the late nineteenth-century rural population of southwest Germany with a minimum of medical utensils, a pastor came up with the idea of providing communities with a cabinet that became known as the Charlottenschrank.

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1. The Charlottenschrank in southwest Germany

The Charlottenschrank was a half-height (170 cm high, 90 cm wide and 45 cm deep) cabinet made of softwood. It was similar to a sideboard and had a door and a small drawer below the shelf. Next to the drawer was a small sign with the words ‘Charlottenpflege’ (Charlotte nursing unit). This cabinet was found in southwest German villages.

Fig. 1: Charlottenschrank, Diakoneo, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall

In the nineteenth century, the sick and those in need of care lived in sometimes catastrophic conditions. This was especially true of rural communities, including those in the southwest German Kingdom of Württemberg. Relatives rarely had any time for care, as every person was needed for agriculture. Single people in need of care were dependent on the charity of the community or their neighbours. It was therefore not uncommon for those in need of care or bedridden to be left to oneself, without being washed or bandaged, or provided with a bed or food. The hygienic conditions were also extremely poor. [1]

Nurses could usually only be found in cities, and had, as a rule received no training in nursing. From the mid-nineteenth century, it was mainly church institutions and charitable associations that wanted to provide support. [2] But there was a shortage of nurses during that time, and some communities could not afford to employ a community nurse. In order to provide some help, Pastor Karl Joseph Johannes Gastpar (1865–1933) [3] invented the Charlottenpflege in around 1898. In 1900, he was awarded the Silver Karl Olga Medal by King Wilhelm II of Württemberg for ‘services in the field of community nursing’. [4]

Gastpar called his ‘cabinet for the improvement of nursing in rural areas’ the ‘Charlottenpflege’ (Charlotte nursing) in honour of Queen Charlotte of Württemberg (1864–1946, Queen from 1891), who had assumed patronage for Gastpar’s initiative. [5] Popularly known as the Charlottenschrank (Charlotte cabinet), it was half-height and was equipped with various utensils for nursing the sick, e.g. crutches, thermometers, bandages, sippy cups and spittoons. The equipment sometimes also included close stools and hip baths, but no medicines were to be found in the cabinets. [6] Funding for the furnishing and equipping of the cabinets was provided by the Amtsversammlung (Official Assembly) of the Kingdom Württemberg or the central management of charitable associations. [7] In most cases, however, both the church and civil communities conducted local collections to raise the necessary funds. [8]

The cabinets were usually placed in parsonages or sometimes in the house of the Ortsvorsteher (head of the local community) or the teacher. [9] If there was a doctor in the rural community (which was the exception in the nineteenth century and even up to the 1950s) the cabinet was best kept on his premises, as he also assumed medical administration of the cabinet. [10] Otherwise, “a trained nurse, deaconess or a Sister of Mercy, or a former male nurse (military hospital assistant) [should] after some instruction on the part of the doctor, be quite capable of the proper administration and application of the means at the bedside”. [11] The utensils themselves were obtained from the Zentralmagazin für Gesundheits- und Krankenpflege ‘zum roten Kreuz’ von Dr. Lindenmeyer in Stuttgart Königlicher Hoflieferant (Central Magazine for Health and Nursing Care ‘zum roten Kreuz’ belonging to Dr. Lindenmeyer, Supplier to the Royal Court, in Stuttgart), while bandaging materials were also purchased through local pharmacies. [12] If care products were used on contagious persons, for example, those with diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever or tuberculosis, these products had to be packed in the formalin disinfection box that was available in every Charlottenschrank and sent to the Königliche Hofwaschgebäude (Royal Court Cleaning Facilities) in Stuttgart or disinfected by doctors in the communities themselves. [13]

Although the communities had to pay a monthly rent for the cabinet and its contents, the use of the items was free of charge to people in need of care. [14] Money donations could, however, be placed in a small drawer in the cabinet.

Fig. 2: Donation box in the Charlottepflege, Diakoneo, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall

It is possible to find out about how the Charlottenschrank was used by looking at the logbook that each administrator of the cabinet had to keep. The logbook begins with a list of contents followed by a description of how each item was used: i.e. the name of the borrower, his or her illness or the medical reason, the item borrowed, the day it was borrowed and the day it was returned, as well as whether the patient had recovered or died (marked with a cross). The logbook therefore provides important and interesting insights into the cases of illness and their outcomes within a rural community over a period of time. [15]

Fig. 3: Logbook for the Charlottenpflege Neuenstein, which was kept from 1898 to 1965, Diakoneo, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall

The Charlottenschrank could be found widely throughout Württemberg. [16] Parishes in which a parish nurse was already employed also usually acquired a Charlottenschrank. For example, a deaconess from the Diakonissenanstalt Schwäbisch Hall (Schwäbisch Hall Deaconesses’ Home) worked as a parish nurse in Neuenstein from February 1890. [17] She then looked after the newly established Charlottenschrank from November 1898 and handed out the medical equipment to the patients. [18] Although this Charlottenschrank remained there until 1965, most were abandoned in the late 1940s and 1950s. Improved medical care provided by doctors and the increasing mobility of the population in rural areas rendered the Charlottenschrank in its original form obsolete.

2. Bibliography

3. Unprinted Sources

Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis

Gemeindearchiv Mainhardt: Bestand Mainhardt A 699

Landeskirchliches Archiv Stuttgart: A 127 No. 744, A 127 No. 1209/21

Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg: E 162 I Bü 1478, E 191 Bü 3272, F 209 I Bü 621, Finding aid E 191

Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart: J 150/156 No. 35, J 150/358a No. 60

Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall: 267/17

4. Printed Sources

Hopf, Ludwig: Gesundheit und Krankheit. Gemeinverständliche Abhandlungen über Gesundheitspflege, allgemeine Krankheitslehre und Krankenpflege. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der ländlichen Bevölkerung. Stuttgart 1881.

Merz, H.: Gründung und Wirkung des Armen-Vereins in Hall. In: Blätter für das Armenwesen 3 (1850), p. 221–255.

Sick, Paul/Konrad Sick: Die Krankenpflege in ihrer Begründung auf der Gesundheitslehre mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der weiblichen Diakonie. Stuttgart 1922.

5. Secondary Literature

Krause, Heike: ‘Einem Menschen Nächster sein’. Die Geschichte des Evangelischen Diakoniewerks Schwäbisch Hall. Schwäbisch Hall 2005.

Maisch, Andreas/Heike Krause (ed.): Auf Leben und Tod. Menschen und Medizin in Schwäbisch Hall vom Mittelalter bis 1950. Schwäbisch Hall 2011.

Schumm, Adelheid: Entwicklung des Medizinalwesens in der Grafschaft Hohenlohe. Mit einem Überblick über medizingeschichtlich wichtige Bestände des Hohenlohe-Zentralarchivs in Neuenstein. Tübingen 1964.



[1] Lecture by Pastor Hermann Faulhaber on 13 June 1881 at the parish meeting in Crailsheim, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall, 13/2, cf. also Merz 1850; Hopf 1881; Schumm 1964; Sick/Sick 1922; Maisch/Krause 2011; Reports by the parish nurse Deaconess Lisbeth Weidner on the parish work 1887, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall, 25/1; Krause 2005, p. 14.

[2] Krause 2005; Maisch/Krause 2011.

[3] Personal file of Karl Joseph Johannes Gastpar; Christian Sigel: Das Evangelische Württemberg – Seine Kirchenstellen und Geistlichen von der Reformation bis auf die Gegenwart. 1910 (with handwritten additions until 1959), No. 1209/21, State Church Archive Stuttgart, A 127, No. 744.

[4] Personal file of Karl Joseph Johannes Gastpar; Christian Sigel: Das Evangelische Württemberg – Seine Kirchenstellen und Geistlichen von der Reformation bis auf die Gegenwart. 1910 (with handwritten additions until 1959), No. 1209/21, State Church Archive Stuttgart, A 127, No. 744.

[5] Prospekt der Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege) 2nd edition 1901, Gemeindearchiv Mainhardt, Bestand Mainhardt A 699; Einführung von Krankenpflegekästen in Landgemeinden/1898–1910, Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg, E 162 I Bü 1478. Including 1 Aufruf an alle Freunde unseres Landvolks von Pfarrer Karl Gastpar in Unterriexingen (=Call to all friends of our Landvolk by Pastor Karl Gastpar in Unterriexingen), Schriftführer des Komitees zur Einführung von Krankenpflegekästen in Landgemeinden (=Secretary of the committee for the introduction of nursing boxes in rural communities), no date (around 1898). Einführung von Krankenpflegekästen (Charlottenpflegen) in Landgemeinden, Allgemeines 1898–1926 (= Introduction of nursing boxes, (Charlottenpflegen) in rural communities, general 1898–1926), Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg, E 191 Bü 3272. Including: Rundschreiben des Komitees zur Einführung von Krankenpflegekästen (Charlottenpflegen) in Landgemeinden betr. Einführung, Verwaltung und Pflege der Charlottenpflegen (=Newsletter of the Committee for the Introduction of Nursing Boxes (Charlottenpflegen) in Rural Communities concerning the Introduction, Administration and Maintenance of the Charlottenpflegen), 1902; Einführung von Krankenpflegekästen (Charlottenpflege) in den Gemeinden des Oberamtsbezirks Vaihingen (1898–1910) (= Introduction of nursing boxes, (Charlottenpflegen) in the municipalities of the Oberamtsbezirk Vaihingen (1898–1910)), Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg, F 209 I Bü 621; Rundschreiben betreffend die Einführung der Krankenpflegekästen „Charlottenpflege in Landgemeinden 1902 (= Newsletter concerning the introduction of the „Charlottenpflege“ nursing boxes in rural communities in 1902), Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, J 150/156, No. 35 and J 150/358a, No. 60.

[6] Prospekt der Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 3rd edition, July 1902, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[7] Prospekt der Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 1rst edition January 1900, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[8] Donation list from May 1900, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[9] Prospekt zur Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 1rst edition January 1900, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[10] Letters of 18 May, 8 June, 24 July and 19 August 1905, Gemeindearchiv Mainhardt, Bestand Mainhardt A 699.

[11] Translation from the German original by the author. Prospekt zur Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 1rst edition January 1900, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[12] Prospekt zur Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 1rst edition January 1900, as well as invoices, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[13] Prospekt zur Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 1rst edition January 1900, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[14] Prospekt zur Charlottenpflege (=Prospectus of the Charlottenpflege), 1rst edition January 1900, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[15] Logbook for the Charlottenpflege Neuenstein, 1898 to 1965, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall 267/17; Logbook for the Charlottenpflege 1900 to 1949, Evangelisches Kirchenarchiv Bubenorbis.

[16] Zentralleitung des Wohltätigkeitsvereins bzw. für Wohltätigkeit, Beihilfen für Krankenpflegestationen, Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg, Finding Aid E 191.

[17] 28. Jahresbericht der Diakonissen-Anstalt […] in Schwäbisch Hall 1913 auf 1914. Schwäbisch Hall 1914, p. 15, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall.

[18] Logbook for the Charlottenpflege Neuenstein, 1898 to 1965, Diakarchiv Schwäbisch Hall, 267/17.

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European Journal for Nursing
History and Ethics (ENHE)

Official Publication of the
European Association for
the History of Nursing

ISSN 2628-4375
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