Exciting progress on the Moravian Lives project!

Progress report

The project development team at Bucknell University has been very busy in the last few months.

As was reported on the Bucknell University DPS blog at the beginning of the summer, work is continuing on a couple of fronts. Our Bucknell student “super transcriber”, Carly Masonheimer ’21 has been doing a fantastic job of transcribing the English language materials and now, thanks to generous support from both the Bucknell Unversity Center for the Humanities and the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem this June Carly was able to attend the German Script seminar at the Moravian Archives and is transcribing the German script materials! Further transcription work has been done by Marita Gruner, doctoral candidate at the University of Greifswald, Germany.

This fall, Sarah Kannemann, a doctoral student in the field of Church History at the University of Mainz in Germany, will be coming to Bucknell as a visiting scholar to learn “the Bucknell DH method,” and work closely with project leaders, Faull and Jakacki. She will also carry out archival research at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, PA. Thanks go to Prof. Craig Atwood at the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Seminary for supporting Sarah’s stay in Bethlehem.  Further cutting-edge platform development is planned this fall at the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz where as part of this exchange, our project developer, Michael McGuire ‘07, will also be teaching a module of the Mainz DH summer school, focusing on the Bucknell “Moravian Lives” project.

New UK Materials

In March 2018, Katie Faull travelled to the Fulneck archives in Yorkshire, UK.  Fulneck was one of the most important Moravian communities in the UK in the 18th century, visited at its founding by Zinzendorf, Anna Nitschmann, Spangenberg and other leading figures in the early church.  The archives there are well-organized, thanks to the work of Rev. Hilary Smith.  While at Fulneck, with the help of her volunteer research assistant, Jane Faull, she was able to digitize the whole as yet uncatalogued collection of Single Sister’s memoirs, as well as a part of the other Choirs’ memoirs.  We are very excited to announce that this collection of Single Sisters memoirs is now available for transcription on the transcription desk!

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This new Fulneck collection joins the other UK materials on the site. In January 2017, Faull digitized a sizeable proportion of the memoirs in the Fetter Lane collection at Church House, Muswell Hill, London. These have already been partially transcribed and form part of the primary materials corpus for Faull’s HUMN 100 The Humanities Now! course at Bucknell in fall 2018.

Latest Scholarly Output

Faull and McGuire will be using the transcribed materials from the Moravian Lives website as their research corpus for a jointly presented paper “Analyzing Moravian Feelings: Using Computational Methods to ask Questions about Norms and Sentiments in Moravian Lebensläufe” at the 5th International Pietism Congress in Halle, Saxony later in August 2018.  We will also be using the opportunity of the Congress to hold our first International Steering Committee meeting for the Moravian Lives project, on which scholars from Germany, the US, Australia, Sweden, and Labrador sit.

Financial support for the Moravian Lives project has come (on the US side) from Bucknell Univesity’s L&IT, the President’s Office, the Bucknell Humanities Center and funds from Faull’s Presidential Professorship. In Sweden, the project has been funded by the Center for Critical Heritage Studies at the University of Gothenburg and also its Center for Digital Humanities; and in Germany funds have come from the federal state of the Rheinland-Palatinate awarded to the University of Mainz’ Professor Wolfgang Breul.

Moravian Lives research collaborators include the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, PA, the Unity Archives in Herrnhut, Germany, the Moravian Archives in London and Fulneck, U.K., the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Students who are involved on the project include Carly Masonheimer ‘21, Marleina Cohen ‘21, and Bucknell graduates Khoi Le ‘18 and Michael McGuire ‘07.

 

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Resolving the Polynymy of Place: or, how to create a gazetteer of colonized landscapes

Katherine Faull, Bucknell University, Diane Jakacki, Bucknell University

Paper delivered at DH 2018 Mexico City June 27-30, 2018

ABSTRACT

This paper will explore the problem of creating a gazetteer of colonized landscapes, specifically those of the mid-Atlantic in the 18th century, in which the name of a place (toponym) changes depending on the person or political entity who is describing that place. In colonized landscapes, there can be multiple names for one place. Maps of this period are veritable palimpsests of conquests and defeats; and travel diaries, mission records and letters contain accounts of human experience of places that are multiply identified. The task is made more complicated still when one factors time into the equation: when competing spatial identities persist across generations.

The paper proposes a two-phased approach to developing the Moravian Lives gazetteer, which will expand geographically to places beyond North America and will need to resolve polynymic complexities in Central Europe, the Arctic areas of Greenland and Newfoundland, the Caribbean, South Africa and Australia.

This paper is published at http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6BG2H91J.    All rights reserved.

Resolving the Polynymy of Place: or, How to create a gazetteer of colonized landscapes

Katherine Faull, Bucknell University, Diane Jakacki, Bucknell University
Slide 2. Introduction 

This paper explores the problem of creating a gazetteer of colonized landscapes, specifically those of the North American mid-Atlantic in the 18th century, where the name of a place (toponym) changes depending on the person or political entity who is describing that place. Maps of this period are veritable palimpsests of conquests and defeats.

Slide 3 Mattheus Hehl’s Itinerant Preachers Map

They also are the result of travel diaries, mission records and letters that contain accounts of human experience of places. The task of compiling a historical gazetteer is made more complicated still when one factors time into the equation: that is when competing spatial identities persist across generations.

Slide 4 Naming Mountains

Here a detail of the previous map where the mountains are renamed as they are crossed by German Moravian missionaries.

Slide 5 Moravian Lives Gazetteer 

Using the case study of the research project “Moravian Lives” we ask how we can create a gazetteer of places using authority IDs, when that very authority is itself the product of a political-historical struggle. Facing the problem of polynymy (multiple placenames for one location) how can we satisfactorily reflect the multiple perspectives and presence or absence of agency of those who name place? If one of our objectives is to make our gazetteer ready for linking with other projects, can we use this approach to create a system of “triples” that will align our place names more effectively.

We argue that the addition of a variable that allows for the designation of agency helps to resolve that problem.

The construction of an historical gazetteer for Moravian Lives involves complexities that arise from not only the naming of places but also how their spatial identities reflect respective, concurrent relationships to those places by Native American peoples, Moravian missionaries, and colonial representatives. There are multiple names for a single place as well as multiple understandings of place names, and these differences depend on who it was who did the naming.

  • How can we recognize spatial multivalence (or “polynymy”) in the Moravian Lives gazetteer?
  • How does the scholar act responsibly while acknowledging their own potential complicity in political-historical renegotiations and multiple cultural understandings of place?
  • Must we not push back at the idea of *an* authority, and work toward a system that recognizes and synchronizes multiple authorities?

Slide 6) Moravian Lives Database 

This is the current state of the personography and gazetteer–the metadata of the 60,000 records are in an intraoperable database but not interoperable LOD system, either with the person and place entities in the transcribed memoirs or with a digital cultural heritage infrastructure.

Slide 7 Setting scoped by Period and Place 

In examining models for the creation of digital historical gazetteers we have found the one proposed by Grossner, Janowicz and Kessler to be particularly helpful. In order to prepare a gazetteer for broad data linkage, they adapted Peter Bols’ list of requirements for digital gazetteers to consider the complexities of place over time. They employ the term “Place” in a contextual sense, where geographic space provides the location for events as well as artefacts and Earth features. They then use the term “Period” as related to time spans – “containers”, as they explain, for discrete “events or an interval of time.” Grossner and his co-authors then apply the concept of “geosetting” proffered by Michael Worboys and Kathleen Hornsby to account for the complexities of the spatial-temporal.

As shown in their diagram we can, therefore, see the subject/predicate/object structure in which Setting is scoped by both Period and Place where each has a specific type and name. Setting, therefore, provides Temporal and Spatial Scope, supporting a framework for W3C OWL Time and Geospatial ontologies.

While this historical expansion is incredibly useful for distinguishing place names that change over time, it also reifies placename authority in a linear geographical narrative predicated on socio-political understandings of possession. For example, 17th-century Eurocentric names for the areas that would ultimately comprise Pennsylvania were connected to land claims and treaties among Dutch and English powers, all of which had beginning and end dates, and were defined by particular geometries. The “Setting” model as set forward here does not take into account the complexities of socio-cultural understandings and namings of place – often in concurrent and sometimes competing timespans.

Slide 8 Case Studies 

Slide 9 Shippen’s Shamokin 

An example of this challenge is the town of Shamokin in 18th-century Pennsylvania. From the end of the 17th century to the mid-18th century, Shamokin was known as the capital of the Woodland Indians.  Lying at the confluence of the two branches of the Susquehanna River, intersected by over 11 major paths used by American Indians, it marked the southern limit of Iroquoia and was considered by both the Iroquois and the colonial powers to be a location of great strategic significance.

Slide 10 John Smith’s Quadroque

Before the Iroquois Shamokin, this place was the probable site of “Quadroque,” one of the Susquehannock forts marked on Captain John Smith’s 1612 map of his journeys around the Chesapeake.

Slide 11 Shippen detail

Shamokin encompassed the shores of both branches and an island at the river’s fork for Shikellamy, the Oneida emissary of the Six Nations of the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee, who oversaw the Algonquin-speaking nations of the Lenni Lenape, Shawnee, and Mahican in Iroquoia (present-day Pennsylvania and New York), and who lived in the town in the 1740s.

Slide 12 Heiden Collegia

To Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravian Church who visited Shikellamy in 1742, “Shamokin” represented an opportunity to proselytize Christianity to the Iroquois. Shamokin had already loomed large in Zinzendorf’s mind as he planned his  “Heiden-Collegia” in Pennsylvania and New York.

Slide 13 Plan of the Western Front

To Conrad Weiser, Palatinate German settler and negotiator between the colonial government in Philadelphia and the Indian nations, “Shamokin” represented a strategic and ultimately military outpost that would become the site of Fort Augusta during the French and Indian War. These “Shamokins” co-existed, with Native American, Moravian, and Colonial inhabitants and visitors relating to it in discrete yet overlapping ways.

A further complication is the existence of present-day Shamokin, founded in the late 18th century, which lies 18 miles to the east of the historic town.

Slide 14 Modification of Grossner’s model 

This is a simplified diagram of “setting” defined by Period and Place

Slide 15 Adding Agent 

Drawing on the recent work of scholars of new gazetteers (Berman et al 2016), we propose a modification of Grossner et al’s model through the inclusion of consideration of the “agent” of an event that occurs within a particular setting (defined by temporal and spatial scope). By including an agent within this model we thus can deepen the “geosemantic” approach to place that recognizes that a place may be the setting for many events of significance, that significance being dependent on the view of the naming agent. Following Doreen Massey’s dictum that “place is the meeting up of histories in space” (Massey 2005) the inclusion of agent, whether a person or an organization, foregrounds the historical aspect of geo-spatial mapping without imposing a hierarchy on the naming authority of that place. Thus, the colonial practice of renaming “unfamiliar” places with familiar names (Paul Carter, “The Road to Botany Bay” and Faull, “Smooth Rocks in a River Archipelago”) can be recorded and presented as a polynymic practice without granting that colonial name primacy.  Pulling on a more metonymic naming practice, the addition of “agent” facilitates the mediation between historical discourse and the spatial world. We reject the suggestion that a historical gazetteer should create a hierarchy of definitions of place, from the mainstream to the marginal (Shaw, 2016) but rather we propose that addition of agent as an entity will allow for the aggregation of naming practices in a metonymic string.

Slide 16 Shamokin Determined as Authority Name 

Shamokin offers us an excellent example of how we can benefit from the modification of “agent” in the Setting model. As demonstrated above, there is no one “Shamokin” in the contact period; however, there are multiple names for the place(s) that constituted the geographical area during that timespan – all connected to people or groups of people who lived in or associated with the space, often at the same or in overlapping periods of time. As we develop the gazetteer we are trying to resist the temptation of claiming a naming authority for ourselves that is, resolving to one authority name that we have determined for digital expediency’s sake. Just as we are conscious of the need to recognize different cultural heritage claims to place names, we are concerned about reifying “variants” or in some way deprecating or subordinating others to one name.

In this case, the names we are working with are Shamokin, Fort Augusta, Otzinachson, Sunbury, and Chenastry. Those names are associated with multiple Native American nations, administrative powers and settlers/colonists, and there is no discrete linear temporal distinction between place names (as Grossner’s model asks).  

Slide 17: Adding Metonym

The concept of creating “metonyms” works well within our project. While we create unique identifiers for each place name within the Moravian Lives taxonomy we can extend our TEI schema to include an attribute of @metonym under the @naming class. Therefore, we can connect these place names so that:

Shamokin is a metonym of Fort Augusta is a metonym of Otzinachson is a metonym of Sunbury, etc.

Slide 18: Considering Existing Unique IDs 

As we create the Moravian Lives entities, we negotiate the difference between place names that need to be “minted” and those that have already been assigned a VIAF, Wikidata, or Geonames ID. So far we have not found such IDs for Otzinachson or Chenastry, so we can establish a Moravian Lives ID and make them unique identifiers on the web (via Wikidata, etc.) Because Fort Augusta already has a Wikidata ID of Q5470761 we can associate our Moravian Lives Fort Augusta with that Fort Augusta via “sameAs”. If we do the same with Sunbury, it has a Geonames ID of 5214814. However, in the Geonames entry Sunbury has an alternative name of “Shamokin” – but without citation or date-range indicator. For the historical and cultural studies scholar, it is inaccurate, misleading, and in some ways, irresponsible then to equate Sunbury with or consider Shamokin to be its variant.  As digital humanities projects move into a phase where historical place data is linked, we want to find ways to resist the givenness of authority names; we believe that the metonymic chain of place names need not be fully recognized but is available to all people.

Slide 19: Polynymous Shamokin 

Once we have established the idea of metonymy, we can return to the idea of “agent” and how it is through these eighteenth-century agents that we can effectively integrate the gazetteer within the larger Moravian Lives project and then more broadly to other DH projects. As outlined above, our agents are individuals and groups of people.

Mme Montour and Colonial/metis traders ~ Chenastry

Shikellamy and Iroquois nation, Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians ~ Shamokin

Conrad Weiser ~ Otzinachson

British Colonial powers ~ Fort Augusta

Northumberland County administrators ~ Sunbury

As we create our Moravian Lives entities and relationships, therefore, we need to be explicit about establishing links between the Moravian Lives gazetteer places and persons and organizations. So we create a bi-directional link between ML Shamokin and Shikellamy, Zinzendorf, Moravians, and Iroquois; Fort Augusta and John Sullivan, etc.

Slide 20 Conclusion

We recognize that this is just a beginning and we eagerly look forward to further conversation.

Slide 21 Bibliography

Original slide show viewable at http://bit.ly/2yUIEzc

—————–

 

Translating the Holocaust: The Ethics of Memoir

Paper delivered at the conference, “Holocaust Writing and Translation” Institute of Advanced Study, University of London, Feb. 2011.

In his provocative 1998 study of the theory and practice of translation, critic Lawrence Venuti makes the following claim for the power of translated texts to disrupt the target culture’s literary and ideological hegemony.  Although “foreign literatures tend to be dehistoricized by the selection of texts for translation, removed from their foreign literary traditions where they draw their significance”(Venuti 1998, 67), translation, he asserts, “simultaneously constructs a domestic subject” (Venuti 1998, 68) who can be transgressive or conservative.  Translation possesses for him “an identity-forming power” that can change canons and concepts of self-identity by forming new domestic subjects through “a process of “mirroring” or self-recognition: the foreign becomes intelligible when the reader recognizes himself or herself in the translation by identifying the domestic values that motivated the selection of that particular foreign text and that are inscribed in it through a particular discursive strategy.” (Venuti 1998, p. 77)  In other words, translated texts, although removed from their historical context in the source culture, retain a transformative power in the target culture because that which was seen to be relevant to the target culture is identified by the new audience.

Venuti takes as case studies two canon-changing translation trends in Classical and Japanese literature.  However, I would like to test this claim on perhaps the far thornier literary and historical phenomenon of Holocaust memoir.  To what extent could Venuti’s insight help us to understand the complexities of reception of the translated text of personal testimony in Holocaust literature.  To what extent does a target culture recognize itself in the translation of the text of witness?  To aid me in this inquiry, I will draw on the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, in a brief examination of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, and the publication history of Ruth Klüger’s weiter leben (1992) and its English version Still Alive (2001).

Recent critical studies of Holocaust memoir have made, what is euphemistically known, as the “linguistic turn”, using either speech act theory, or recent trends in linguistic pragmatics to examine the implicit and explicit assumptions about the truth-value of the utterance of witness and testimony in Holocaust memoirs.  Such an approach can be found in Ruth Franklin’s A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, newly issued from Oxford University Press, in which she bravely points out that even “the canonical work of Holocaust literature, involves some greying of the line between fiction and reality.” (p. 11)  Alan Rosen in his Sounds of Defiance: The Holocaust, Multilingualism and the Problem of English (Nebraska UP, 2005) problematizes the use of English, both within the camps and in immediate post-war texts of testimony as well as in the proliferation of Holocaust memoirs now written with English as their first language.   Piotr Kuhiwczak’s “The Grammar of Survival.  How do we Read Holocaust Testimonies” (in Translating and Interpreting Conflict, (2007) pp. 61-73 examines the fascinating phenomenon of using how English, with its status of non-Native language, can access memories of trauma that remain inexpressible in native tongues. (P. 67)  All these studies problematize the use of English in critical literature on the Holocaust as well as, for Rosen, examine the potential liberatory value of English in the camps.  However, as Franklin’s title would suggest, what is also at stake here is the question of authenticity; the authenticity of the speaking and writing “I” in testimony, the authenticity of the memoir (most famously disproven in the scandalous case of Wolfgang Koeppen’s “ghost-writing” of Jakob Littner’s first-person account “Journey through the Night”) and the examination of the power of, what critic Philippe Lejeune has famously termed the “autobiographical pact.”  This pact, he has theorized, is the necessary agreement between reader and author that the grammatical, speaking “I” of the autobiographical text is the same as the experiencing “I” who is the principal character of the memoir.  This equation constitutes the classical autobiography.  There are variations: where the speaking “I” is not the experiencing “I” and the text, therefore, becomes a “biography in the 1st person;” in other words, a homodiegetic narrative of witness, approaching what Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben  posits in his examination of the impossibility of writing the testimony of the “Muselmann” in his brilliant study of the ethics of witness and the Holocaust Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (Zone, 1999).  Or, the writing grammatical subject can be referred in the second person but still be identical with the writing subject, in which case we have an autobiography in the second person, such as we find in Christa Wolf’s Kindheitsmuster.  The choice of grammatical speaking and witnessing subject is crucial to the testimonial nature of Holocaust memoir.  Given that many critics, from Adorno to George Steiner, consider Holocaust testimony to reside outside the realm of aestheticization or fictionalization, we arrive at a demand for a kind of “radical authenticity” in Holocaust memoir that, as Agamben argues, carries the impossible and tautological burden of bearing witness to the gas chambers, an experience that one cannot survive.  For Agamben, “ the value of testimony lies essentially in what it lacks; at its center, it contains something that cannot be borne witness to and that discharges the survivors of authority.” (Agamben, 1999, p. 33)  If then, one cannot bear witness to an event, such as being inside a gas chamber and survive it to write of it, the meaning of testimony has to be sought elsewhere. For Agamben, that meaning is to be found in the ethical decision to write of the (untranslatable) Muselmann, the state of simultaneous being human and non-human.

Let us return momentarily to Venuti’s claim with which I began this paper, namely that the potential for cultural disruption that the translated text possesses lies in its ability to “enable a process of self-recognition”.  Now, Venuti here is arguing for a model of [re]cognition that stems from the German Romantics and has been most thoroughly examined in terms of translation studies by Antoine Berman in his work, L’épreuve de l’étranger: Culture et traduction dans l’Allemagne romantique. [Paris: Gallimard, 1984] .  Berman identifies in his work the twelve deforming tendencies of translation

  • Rationalisation,
  • Clarification,
  • Expansion,
  • Ennoblement,
  • Qualitative impoverishment,
  • Quantitative impoverishment,
  • the destruction of rhythms,
  • the destruction of underlying networks of signification,
  • the destruction of linguistic patternings,
  • the destruction of vernacular network or their exoticisation,
  • the destruction of expressions and idioms,
  • the effacement of the superimposition of languages

Of these tendencies, the ones that might prove to be of most conceptual use to the study of Holocaust memoir and translation are the “destruction of underlying networks of signification” and those deforming tendencies that deal directly with the inter-lingual translation as also an inter-semiotic one.  For example, what would be the linguistic patternings of the source text, the vernacular network, expressions, idioms, the multi-layering of language in Holocaust memoir?  In Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, the author makes frequent reference to the “Babel” of the carbide tower of the Buna works, built with its “Ziegel, briques, tegula, cegli, kamenny, mattoni, téglak”, (p. 73) the ziggurat of linguistic brickwork preserved in Stuart Wolf’s translation.  German in the camps is a language of survival, English the language of potential liberation, signified by the grinning English POWs in their fur-lined jackets, clandestinely giving the extra-linguistic Victory sign as they pass the lines of slave workers.

But what must also evade deformation in translation is the untranslatable, the sign that cannot be deciphered, to which no equivalent may be found in any target language:  the Muselmann.  Again, avoiding the deformation of the loss of vernacular networks, Stuart Woolf lists the labels one could assume within the camp system, the “Organisator, Kombinator, Prominent” and if one cannot become one of these, one soon “becomes a musselman” (p. 89)  Strangely, Woolf decides to attempt a translation of Muselmann and produces a deformed term—“musselman”, what is this, a collector of mussels? Not even using the lexical equivalent of the German term “Muselmann”=muslim, Woolf produces a neologism, perhaps to exoticize, to alienate, to make the reader stumble over the term.  But, I would argue this is not satisfactory, which also seems to be Woolf’s judgment as he switches on the following page between his newly coined and deformed term and the German original.

The “Muselmann” provokes much discussion in both Holocaust literature and criticism.  For Agamben, Levi’s account embodies the paradox of witnessing the “Muselmann” in that the ethical moment of Holocaust memoir comes in self-recognition of the witness in the human/non-human whose gaze has now become milky, whose skin has developed sores and whose body displays the edema of severe malnutrition: that gaze of self-recognition that produces the guilt of the survivor and the exhortation to witness.  The subversive tendency of translation in this perversely Lacanian mirror-moment would then consist of a disruption of the radical anti-semitism of the Nazis that pro- and re-duces the human to the non-human, that translates the Jew into the “Muslim”, the “Muselmann.”[1]  What is left, as an act of permanent restitution, in the sense of Steiner’s fourth hermeneutic motion, would then be to give the “drowned their story” to quote Primo Levi.  The untranslatable “Muselmänner” of Auschwitz, etymology better left unknown, present themselves as “the anonymous mass, continually renewed and always identical, of non-men who march and labour in silence, the divine spark dead within them, already too empty to really suffer.  One hesitates to call them living: one hesitates to call their death death, in the face of which they have no fear, as they are too tired to understand.” (Primo Levy, Survival in Auschwitz, p. 90)

The ethical question that Agamben poses, and on a much wider cultural plateau that Venuti echoes, is how to bear testimony to “this inhuman impossibility of seeing.”  (Agamben, p. 54) Is then what is recognized as the “tohu-bohu” of preconscious existence?  The chaos of the existent world before God moved upon the waters?  That state of non-being of which each of us is capable, that is beyond the ethical, the moral, the conscious? And what does that then make of the witness? Not only one who recognizes that this state is present in the other and the self, but also that the presence of this state radically disrupts the moral fabric of those who survive, of the world that continues on after the “non-death” of the Muselmann.

How, then, does the survivor “weiter leben”?

In 1992, Ruth Klüger published her Holocaust memoir, weiter leben.  Wildly successful in Germany, selling over 250,000 copies and on the bestseller lists, the book actively engaged the German reader in an interrogation of the Nazi past.  Immediately translated into Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese, the book did not appear in English until 2001, after the death of Klüger’s mother.  However, as Caroline Schaumann has pointed out, Klüger’s English Holocaust memoir was an act less of textual self-translation than a substantive cultural translation.[2] Schaumann has already painstakingly traced many of the linguistic and stylistic changes from the German version to the English and has linked the changes to specific events in the ensuing years after the appearance of the German volume.  For example, Klüger’s mother dies, new facts arise as to the actual end of Klüger’s father (in fact from a reader of the German version), Klüger writes the English version in America and not in Germany.  There are multiple places within the work where Klüger performs deformations à la Berman of either expansion or clarification, whether dealing with German terms, Jewish, or allusions to American parallels.   Schaumann examines the comments made by the author that are specifically targeting her audience, either in Germany or in the US and comes to the conclusion that Klüger’s text is “the first Holocaust testimony devised as a specific dialogue with a culturally specific readership.” (p. 336)  Putting the question of primacy aside, I would like to focus on one culturally specific change to the Holocaust memoir that caused Klüger to rewrite the whole work as an English memoir and not as a translation of a German memoir, bearing in mind Venuti’s claims for translation’s potential to form cultural identities.

Klüger was also in Auschwitz.  The argot of the camp produced, from nowhere, the term “Muselmann” as referenced above in Levy’s work.  In the German text of her memoir, Klüger writes of the importance of not giving up hope in order that one did not become like the Muselmann:

Es gibt eben außer der Hoffnungslosigkeit, die Mut macht und die Borowski über die  Hoffnung stellte, noch die apathische Hoffnungslosigkeit, verkörpert in dem Phänomen “Muselmänner”, Menschen, denen der Selbsterhaltungswille im KZ abhanden gekommen war, und die nun wie Automaten reagierten, fast autistisch.  Sie galten als verloren, kein Muselmann könne lang überleben, versichterte man mir.  (weiter leben, p. 106)

Echoing Primo Levy, Klüger defines the Muselmann as the non-living, the autistic, non-communicative existent, soon to be memorialized in her “aalglatte[r] Kindervers” Der Kamin, which follows, transcribed from memory as the poet had in Auschwitz, of course, neither paper nor pencil.

In the English version, as though suddenly faced with the ontological paradox of translating the phenomenon of the Muselmann, Klüger omits the remembered children’s verse, and writes the following:

Maybe there are two types of despair, the kind that enables you to take risks, as Borowski thought, and which he held in higher esteem than hope, and then the kind of despair that makes you listless, sluggish, impassive.  There was a type of prisoner who had given up, whose will to live had been destroyed, who acted and reacted as if sleepwalking.  I don’t know the source of the moniker Muselmänner, Muslims, which was used to describe them, but no racial slur was implied, since Islam wasn’t an issue either for the Nazis or for the inmates of the camp.  The Muselmänner were walking deadmen who wouldn’t live long, I was told. (Still Alive, p. 90)

Bearing in mind her politically sensitive American audience, Klüger removes the reference to autism, and performs a quantitive and qualitative deformation by substituting “listless, sluggish, impassive”  (hardly a PC way out for the readers who knew the German as well as the English!).  Faced with the “épreuve” of translation, of the foreign, Klüger (like other prisoners in Auschwitz) denies knowledge of the source of the term “Muselmann,” at the same time as she assures us of its non-racist intentions, removing from its conceptual grid the very irony commented on by others (Mansoor et al).  Klüger’s  American version has been deformed, with the destruction of the underlying networks of signification, of the vernacular network of the KZ and its idioms.  Schumann has identified the places in the American text where Klüger has drawn sometimes uncomfortable parallels between the experience of anti-Semitism and American racism, places that she, Schaumann elevates to the status of a direct interrogation of the target audience.  I would disagree.  To return to Venuti: the phenomenon of racial discrimination may well be that which the target audience (of which Klüger herself has become one, as an American not German author) sees reflected in the translated text and recognizes as the reason the text speaks to them.  But, the ethical moment of translation, is to endure the “épreuve” of the foreign, the gaze of the slave worker, the non-death of the Muselmann.

[1] See Parvez Manzoor “Turning Jews into Muslims: The Untold Saga of the Muselmänner” Islam21 (April 2001) pp. 8-12.  Accessed on 2/5/11 at http://www.algonet.se/~pmanzoor/Muselmann.htm

[2] Caroline Schaumann, “From weiter leben (1992) to Still Alive (2001):  Ruth Klüger’s Cultural Translation of her “German Book” for an American Audience” in German Quarterly 77 (Summer 2004), pp. 324-339.

The Hidden Work of Moravian Wives

The Hidden Work of Moravian Wives:

A Conversation with Anna Nitschmann, Eva Spangenberg, Martha Spangenberg, and Erdmuth von Zinzendorf

Moravian Archives, Bethlehem

February 13, 2018

 

Katherine Faull, Bucknell University

 

Introduction

Thank you for the invitation to talk this evening on the subject of Moravian women’s work and how it has been “hidden” in the records and from the eye of those who study labor history. I am going to talk tonight about the concept of “labor” in the colonial period of the Moravian Church, with a special focus on where women’s work was deemed to occur, how it was described and valued, and how in the historiography of the church this work has been described. I am going to look at the role that female leaders of the church played in defining what constitutes work in the church and how that contribution was later obscured.

The notion of concealed labor or hidden work is nothing new to scholars of gender and race where in the historiography of knowledge making and invention, the work of women and minorities has been regularly elided. One only needs to look at the history of discoveries in the field of science to repeatedly come across the trope/meme of the white male scientist working with a lab team that is remarkably male and white in a Nobel Prize winning discovery. See, for example, the discovery of the structure of DNA at the Cavendish laboratories at Cambridge University in 1953, credited to James Watson and Frances Crick which in their own relations of the discovery, hid the contributions of Rosalind Franklin’s earlier research into the crystallography . Or the case of the discovery of the Epstein-Barr virus that can lead to lymphoma also leaps to mind, where the hours of work done by both microbiologist Yvonne Barr and Trinidadian electron microscopist Burt Achong in the laboratory also go without recognition.

Within Moravian historiography the contributions of Zinzendorf’s first wife, Erdmuthe Dorothea, have certainly been recognized, probably a product of her class position coming from the nobility. Her contribution to the history of Pietism is investigated in the thoroughly researched, if dated, work of Wilhelm Jannasch. This 1915 biography of the Countess tells the story of her life, marriage with Zinzendorf, her mostly hands off approach to the establishment of the early Gemeine, her willingness for numbers of the Moravian exiles to be employed in her household, her gradual assumption of a working role in the leadership of the congregation, her growing role in the financial management of the church, her assumption of fiscal leadership during the time of Zinzendorf’s exile from Saxony, her assumption of leadership during his time in America, with the travels to London, Denmark, and the Baltic states and then her withdrawal, as Jannasch terms it, upon his return and the ascension of Anna Nitschmann to the role of “Mutter” in the church. etc. Although Jannasch’s work has been more recently supplemented by the appearance of Erika Geiger’s short volume (translated by Julie Tomberlin Weber) it is heavily derivative of the earlier work.

Of far more significance to the revised appraisal of the Countess’s work is the scholarly focus on the correspondence networks and the importance of the Reuss family that is being carried out in the University of Jena by Martin Prell; and also the research being carried out on the Countess’ and Benigna von Watteville’s correspondence, performed by Marita Gruner at the University of Greifswald.

Erdmuthe von Zinzendorf’s willingness to open her household to the members of the fledgling community directly benefited the three other leading women of the early Church I am discussing today. Best known is her support of Anna Nitschmann, who was employed in the Zinzendorf household as a servant and errand girl and then as companion to Benigna von Zinzendorf with whom she later travelled to America. At the same time as Anna Nitschmann is in the Berthelsdorf household, both of Spangenberg’s future wives are also in the fledgling Herrnhut community. Eva Immig, as she was then, was already widowed, was employed as nursemaid to Christian Renatus, and was counted among the first “Laboresses” of the community among the widows. Like Anna, Martha Spangenberg (or Miksch as she was then) came into the service of the Zinzendorf family in 1727. It is interesting to imagine all four of these leading women in the Moravian church living and /or working under one roof in the late 1720s.

As I have outlined in several of my other lectures in Bethlehem last year, evidence of Anna Nitschmann’s work was, after 1760, deliberately hidden by destroying records that pertained to her central role in the leadership and development of the church. Anna’s work consisted of both labor in a material and spiritual sense.

In a series of miniatures, presented to Anna to celebrate her 30 years as Eldress to the Gemeine, Anna is depicted as spinning while also receiving the visitation of several leading male theologians of the time. As I discussed in my Zug lecture, this trope is significant as a representation of the intersection of both material and spiritual realms of work. The image of Anna receiving the two prominent churchmen at the spinning wheel and in front of the floor loom encapsulates the idea, promoted by Zinzendorf, that the choir houses were the workshops of the divine. In the SS choir houses the spinning and weaving of cloth were two of the most prevalent economic and artisanal activities. I would also argue that in addition to producing vital goods (and income) for the Gemeine and the Choir, spinning and weaving as traditional tropes of women’s wisdom, also were imbued with spiritual worth.

Is this idea put into practice within the congregation? Let us turn to Spangenberg’s first wife, Eva Maria. Maria, as she known within the Gemeine, had been born in Dresden and married her first husband Dr. Christoph Immig, a lawyer, before coming to Herrnhut in 1727. They had two children, one of whom “went astray” and the other died. Eva Maria was one of the first 12 Laborers in the new community and then became the nursemaid to Zinzendorf’s son, Christian Renatus. When her first husband died at the age of 77, Eva Maria became the Pflegerin of the Widows Choir for 12 years. During Zinzendorf’s exile Saxony she became the Vorsteherin of the whole Gemeine, assisting Martin Dober for two years. In 1739, she left Herrnhut and went to Wetteravia, where she married Spangenberg in 1740.

Alongside Spangenberg, she was central to the foundation of the Moravian congregations in London and Yorkshire, and worked extensively in England and then in America where she was General-Ältestin from 1744-1749. According to her memoir, which was written by Spangenberg, she was much loved among the mission populations in America, and in the mission diaries and travel journals, Spangenberg is repeatedly asked by members of the Iroquois and Delaware nations alike, where his wife is and how she is doing. When Eva Maria and Spangenberg left Bethlehem in October 1749, the Brothers and Sisters bathed the streets in tears (to quote from her Ll). Eva Maria died in 1751 in Herrnhuth. Before she died, her lost child, the daughter, came back to her and tended to her in her final illness. She was in her 55th year.

So what would have made Eva Maria so beloved to the Bethlehem congregation (although there are signs that this was perhaps not such a universal emotion)?

The Spangenbergs arrived in America in October 1744 and came straight to Bethlehem. Anna Nitschmann had left at the turn of year 1742-3, so the memory of her work at the Forks of the Delaware was still strong, and had been regularly kept alive by the reading of her letters from London and Yorkshire. According to the Bethlehem Diary for 1744, Eva Maria immediately travels to Shekomecko (following in the footsteps of Anna) and celebrates a Love feast with the mission workers (the Büttners and Macks) with rolls and chocolate (which we presume she had brought with her from Bethlehem/New York). Upon her return to Bethlehem on December 2, Eva Maria conducts her first Married Sisters ¼ hour service, and then a blessing for pregnant sisters and nursing sisters, and finally a ¼ hour service for the German and English sisters in Bethlehem. Eva Maria’s work also includes conducting the Speakings for the sisters (of all marital status’), leading Lovefeasts for the children, married sisters, and widows.

All of this is quite expected for a woman leader in the Moravian church at that time. However, Maria also conducts Lovefeasts for specific groups of women workers. Sisters who work in the laundry, or who spin, or weave, or knit, or sew also have a lovefeast dedicated to them respectively, and this appears to have been Maria’s own idea. In Oerter’s translation of the 1745 diary he states, “Mary made some orders and regulations for the Sisters spinning wool, cotton, flax and tow.” (Jan. 4 1745) At these lovefeasts for the different forms of women’s work, Maria apparently speaks so powerfully that the Sisters’ production is significantly increased (for example, on January 29 1745 50 sisters at a spinners lovefeast produced record amounts of yarn and also volunteered to strip feathers for the beds of the newborn).

Putting to one side the resonant echoes of Ernst Troeltsch and Max Weber’s appraisal of the Moravians economic activity, (Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) for one moment, I would like to think about the spiritualization of women’s work not in terms of how to produce more for the community but as a foregrounding of the work that the SIsters did. This work, noted in the Diary, is seen as a form of “Gottesdienst”, a service to God and is valued as essential to the mission of the whole community as spiritual work as well as encouraging the ethic of production.

Does this concept of women’s work operate outside the choirhouses? What effect does it have on the missions, for example? I would now like to draw on the manuscript material that informs my work on the Shamokin mission diary. Shamokin, on the forks of the Susquehanna River, was a strategically important point for Native Americans, colonial agents and traders, and Moravians alike. Zinzendorf, Anna Nitschmann, Benigna, and Spangenberg had all visited this place, not least to foster a relationship with Shikellamy, the vice-regent of the Six Nations.

In a conference held at the confluence of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River in August 1747, the Moravian married couples, Nathaniel and Anna Hagen and Anton and Catharine Schmidt sat down to discuss how the blacksmith’s shop that was to be established there was to be run. The first article on the agenda that had been drawn up by Spangenberg was the stipulation that “When the Indians bring something for our Sisters to sew, they will accept it with thanks, and willingness and require nothing as payment.”FOOTNOTE: Footnote Five months later, when they were joined by the married couple Joseph and Martha Powell, this same topic appeared as the first item of business in their conference. The Sisters were to accept sewing from the Indians and require nothing in return.

While this might seem like a small incidental detail in the larger artisan economy of the Pennsylvania Backcountry, I would argue that the work and skills of the Moravian Married Sisters who came with their husbands to the “frontier” country of Pennsylvania in the first half of the eighteenth century were central to the Moravian and Native American understanding of how an exchange of services and goods, whether it be sewing, blacksmithing, shoe or mocassin making, grinding corn and baking could take place. The Married Sisters’ participation in an artisan economy both extends the previous notion of “women’s work” that I have outlined and also challenges the long held notion that women’s role in this early settlement period was primarily as part of the “household economy,” in which women were employed in the raising of crops, production of food and clothing, within an autarkic economy of the settlers’ log home.

Because of the Moravian notion of the “marriage militant,” many of these Brothers took their Sisters (wives) with them into the mission field to work with the female indigenous populations .  However, the Moravian mission in Shamokin, Pennsylvania (1747-55) was not set up as a mission village but rather as a blacksmith’s shop to serve the Iroquois and their protected tribes, the Delaware, Tutelo, Conoy, and Shawnee. The Moravian smithy at Shamokin was established because of its usefulness to the Six Nations, and, as such, its existence at the confluence of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River, the intersection of eleven Indian paths, offers an interesting and anomalous microstudy of the artisan in the backcountry.

Shikellamy was quite explicit in his expectations of how the smithy would be run. In a slightly earlier conference with Brother Martin Mack in April of 1747 held at Shamokin, the Oneida chief and emissary of the Five Nations, stipulated that the work done at the smith for the Five Nations should be done for free when the Iroquois are travelling down river to war with the Catawba. He stated explicitly, “I desire, T’girketonti (Spangenberg’s Iroquois name) my brother, that when something is done to their flints that it is done for free, because they have nothing with which to pay. However, when they return, and they have something done, then they would have to pay for it.”FOOTNOTE: Footnote

In August 1747, at the conference held at Shamokin to set down the conditions of the establishment of the smithy there Spangenberg prescribed that the Moravians were to maintain themselves there “auf Indianisch Art.”  That meant that only the Three Sisters (beans, corn, squash) could be planted, no wheat, rye, or oats, and nothing that would make the place seem like a European plantation. All accounts were to be held by Brother Hagen or Joseph Powell; the blacksmith Anton Schmidt had to meet with him at the end of every day and go through the transactions of the day. The price of services had to be set so that one Indian does not get charged more than another, and the accounts were then sent on to the Sozietät für die Heyden (the Society for the Heathen), that paid for the blacksmith’s supplies.

At the Confluence, there was also the presence and agency of the Moravian sisters. In the literature on Moravian artisans and missionaries there is plenty of discussion of the role the men played in the development of settlements, a rural economy that goes beyond that of exchange, but almost no mention of what their wives were doing, what kind of work did they have and did it contribute to this rural economy? While the literature on Moravian missions is large, the multiple challenges and opportunities for cross-cultural trade and knowledge transfer that the Moravian sisters enjoyed, has only recently become the focus of study for historians such as Jane Merritt, Amy Schutt, Gunlög Fur, Rachel Wheeler, and Alison Duncan Hirsch.FOOTNOTE: Footnote In the Shamokin Diary we find evidence of Native, métis and Euro American women’s involvement in trade, care, and mission on an intimate level. Despite the dearth of official records of women’s activities, speech, and agency, from mission diaries we are able to delineate women’s experience as moving beyond the traditional notion of them as refugees for financial, religious, or ethnic reasons or as silent companions of fathers, husbands, masters, or maybe brothers. In Merritt’s discussions of Anna Mack, Anna Smith, and Rowena McClinton’s studies of Moravian women’s mission to the Cherokee women, and Alison Duncan Hirsch’s study of some of the women around the Susquehanna Confluence, the discussion focuses on women and cross-cultural communication, the inter-relation of religious concepts, notions of gender, and medical and pastoral concepts of the body.

Based on evidence from the Moravian mission diary from Shamokin I argue that there existed an artisan economy of sorts in which the skills of both the brothers and the sisters were sought after and exchanged with the Native American and Euro-American population. From the archival records, it is clear that the Married Sisters participated in an exchange economy, where sewing skills, for example, were vital in order to receive gifts of food and medicine from the local Native population. Married Sisters were central to the mission both because of their knowledge of Native American languages, their ability to communicate with the Native women around the blacksmith’s shop, and also because of their own artisanal skills, such as sewing and baking. These skills brought them into an economy of trade and also knowledge.

So how might this relate to the lovefeasts for the knitters, spinners, weavers, and launderers? In her 1995 book on artisans on the North Carolina backcountry, Johanna Miller Lewis argues (somewhat controversially) that women who practiced traditionally female skills such as spinning, sewing, weaving, or knitting for profit commonly have not been classified as artisans by historians.”FOOTNOTE: Footnote Miller Lewis ascribes this to the fact that women did not receive the same training as male artisans, and if they did, it was within the home, invisible to the historical record of craftsmen’s books, journeymen’s passes, and guild records. Furthermore, many historians considered women’s artisanal skills as “merely” part of the housewife’s duties and therefore not an income-generating skill. However, recent studies of rural populations in, for example, Ireland during the Great Potato Famine, have shown that women’s skills were central to the survival of rural populations in times of crisis and famine (Irish famine and women lace makers, for example).  Challenging the dominant notion of the “household economy” that has held sway over early modern economic history and its autarkic self-sufficiency, Miller Lewis argues for a more nuanced understanding of women’s participation in a backcountry economy where their skills in textile production and repair was also key to the survival of the family and also the community.FOOTNOTE: Footnote I would like to argue that what is presented as a paradigm for women’s work in the image of Anna Nitschmann spinning as she receives the eminent theologians, and in Maria’s institution of lovefeasts celebrating the work of women, provided many of the Married Sisters at Shamokin (and elsewhere) with precisely the model of work as Gottesdienst that women outside the Moravian church might have received within the household economy. The difference in the Moravian training was that women’s artisanal skills were taught not for the benefit of a more nuclear “household,” but rather for the larger “oikos” of the mission settlement; and, as such, these skills were both a form of women’s spiritual knowledge and income generating.

So, how crucial were the women’s contributions to this artisan economy? Did the sewing, the baking, the interpreting and negotiating help the mission in Shamokin?

Towards the end of the existence of the mission at Shamokin, the picture of the place has changed. The Moravians now have livestock, cows and calves, and are thinking about getting a bull. A new mission house has been built further from the river and closer to a spring. Letters between Shamokin and Bethlehem talk of the need for sugar and tea (for the Moravian Lovefeasts), of wine and bread for communion; new trousers and shirts; the skins received in payment (racoon and deer) are being transported back to Bethlehem through intermediaries, such as Michael Schäffer, a shoemaker who lives 5 miles down the Tulpehocken Path.

The Married Sisters have gone. The mission has become a plantation, it services the flints of the traders and white settlers and its original purpose has been lost. Spangenberg wonders if they shouldn’t just shut up shop, sell the house and its contents that are no longer needed to Conrad Weiser, slaughter the livestock and sell the meat.

The end of the Shamokin mission almost coincides with the arrival of Martha Spangenberg in America. In the little literature that exists on her, scholars such as Beverly Smaby and Hartmut Lehmann concur that she understood “women’s work” in a very different manner than her husband’s first wife. Where Eva Maria was seen as a leader, much after the model of Anna Nitschmann and Erdmuthe von Zinzendorf, Martha is described as quiet and staying in Spangenberg’s shadow.

Martha Elisabeth Spangenberg was born in 1708 in Berthelsdorf and came into the service of Benigna von Zinzendorf 1727. In 1730 she married Mattheus Miksch and they had two children. In 1733 Mattheus was sent to St. Croix as one of the first missionaries there but Martha was very reluctant to go and preferred to stay behind with their two children in the congregation in Herrnhut. When Mattheus died in St. Croix in 1734 Martha moves into the Widow’s House as their Laboress for sixteen years until in 1750 she is called to London in 1750 to work with the widows there. Then in 1752 it is suggested that she marry Spangenberg. Martha is initially reluctant because she is very happy living and working with the widows. However, she finally agrees and in 1754 proceeds to work with him in North America. As Craig Atwood has outlined in his article on Spangenberg in colonial America, Martha and Joseph worked here to stabilize and consolidate the community’s affairs through the difficulties of the French and Indian War and after the deaths of Zinzendorf and Anna, the dismantling of the General Economy. They return to Europe via Philadelphia in 1762.

As I have argued in the introduction to my recent translation of the Instructions to the Choir Helpers, it is clear that Martha worked with her husband in the composition of the Instructions for the Single, Married, and Widowed Sisters. In 1764, she is one of the Sisters who is given the task of discussing women’s issues in the synod when they come up. However, Martha’s work with her husband appears to have not always been so welcome to the sisters. For example, in 1771 after the Spangenbergs have returned to Herrnhut, the Single Sisters write a letter to the Unity Elders Conference complaining that Brother Spangenberg and Martha are conducting the monthly Speakings with them rather than their Choir Helpers. Although I need to examine the archival record still to unearth more of Martha’s work, it is already clear from the Instructions and then this letter, that it consisted in implementing the Choir Principles and Instructions that she and her husband were formulating. At the close of her wonderful article on Female Piety in Bethlehem, Beverly Smaby makes the point that the dismantling of women’s power and valued work as spiritual leaders was the work of Spangenberg, and that if it was a man, Zinzendorf, who gave women this power, it was also a man, Spangenberg, who took it away. I would refine this claim somewhat and argue that the positive and vital value ascribed to women’s spiritual and material work was modeled and encouraged by Erdmuthe von Zinzendorf and followed by a multitude of extraordinarily talented women and also integrated into the economic and spiritual economy of the congregations and missions. And it is also a woman who helps to redefine what women’s work should consist of after Anna Nitschmann’s and Erdmuthe’s deaths, and that seems to be Martha Spangenberg.

Anna Nitschmann in the World

Anna Nitschmann in the World: Leader, Preacher, Sister

Zug lecture

Bethlehem, October 2017

At the news of the deaths in May 1760 in Herrnhut of both her closest companion and colleague, Anna Nitschmann and the leader of the Renewed Church, Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf. Anna Piesch Seidel writes in her memoir,

“Now I was completely orphaned, and the grief and worry in my poor soul was great, not only because of these two people, but also primarily because the settlements and choirs had now lost their lead sheep and [because of] how things would go in the future. My anxious thoughts and premonitions did unfortunately come true in considerable measure, and to my inexpressible pain, I had to witness that these dear people were almost completely forgotten, especially the dear Mama [Anna Nitschmann].” (MAB)

I begin my lecture today with this poignant quotation not to retrace the steps taken by scholars before me, such as Beverly Smaby (in whose article this quotation appeared) and Paul Peucker, to show both how and why the Moravian church leadership after 1760 took deliberate steps to not only dismantle female leadership in the church but also to purge the archival record of an traces of that leadership (that passage is actually heavily scored out in the original memoir of Anna Piesch). Rather I would like to begin to rebuild the picture of Anna Nitschmann as a religious leader, who in other times might not have had her legacy scrubbed away and her influence denied.

In my previous lectures on Anna Nitschmann, held here in Bethlehem last spring during my tenure as Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Moravian Studies, I began this exploration. I outlined first how Anna Nitschmann had been depicted in the scant scholarship that exists on her to date. I spoke about how Anna Nitschmann’s time in America changed both Zinzendorf’s estimation of her abilities as leader and led to her subsequent elevation to Mother of the Church. I also investigated in more detail Anna Nitschmann’s activities in America, that led to her change in role in the church. I have delineated the way in which Anna Nitschmann was sent out to America with her father before Zinzendorf and was tasked with speaking to the disparate groups of Lutheran and Reformed emigrants here whom Zinzendorf wished to unite in a vision of his “philadelphian church”. Here, Anna Nitschmann learned English in the space of a year, held conferences with Lutheran and Separatist leaders of religious communities such as Ephrata Cloister, the Dunkers, the New Mooners, the Schwenkfelders (with whom she actually lived in Falckner’s Swamp). Her presence attracted unmarried young women to listen to her speak of Christ. She met the Delaware Indians who lived around what was to become Nazareth, and, once Zinzendorf and his party arrived in Philadelphia, she worked with all these groups to attempt to secure acceptance of Zinzendorf’s bold plan.

Although my research is still at its early stages, the documents that I have found here in Bethlehem and also in Herrnhut, serve to contradict the traditional image of this extraordinary woman in Moravian history. Most often depicted as a “shepherdess of souls” or as the companion of Zinzendorf, almost never is she described as a female religious leader in her own right. The iconography of Anna Nitschmann is one laden with ribbons, and flowers, and little birds, hearkening back to the symbology of the Sifting Period. Scholarly comment on her recently discovered sermons to the Single Sisters remark on the importance of finding a woman’s homilies to other women but also tend to dismiss them as derivative” “typically Moravian and “nothing new.”

Those of us who have been involved in feminist scholarship for most of our careers will recognize these terms as ones that a male-dominated critical discourse has traditionally used to dismiss women’s contributions to art, literature, science, music, engineering and religion. One only has to read Virginia Woolf’s classic “A Room of One’s Own” to see that her incisive criticisms of patriarchal historiography are still unfortunately valid. Whereas the leaders of the post-Zinzendorfian church may have used as an excuse the need to improve the image of the Moravian Church to its contemporaries (see Smaby, 164 Female Piety) what excuse can today’s church posit? Why, when the Moravian Church has ordained women bishops for twenty years, is there no mention of the woman who preceded them all?

Slide 2 Sammelbild

Clearly, Anna Nitschmann’s contemporaries thought of her very differently than those that came after her. Let us take this picture as a paradigm of their esteem. Here we see a picture presented to Anna Nitschmann in 1745 by the Single Sisters on the occasion of her 30th birthday. 18 scenes from Anna’s life up to the age of 30 are included that are clearly considered to be iconic for the single woman who now, in 1745, was considered the “Mother of the Church”.

Starting from top left we see Anna as a 7 year old being forced to attend the catholic church in Moravia; next right, as the shepherdess of her father’s sheep while still in Fulnek; then her exile walking three weeks through the forests and mountains to Herrnhut in 1725; being received by Countess Henriette Katharina von Gersdorf.

On the second row we see Anna living in the castle in Berthelsdorf with her parents and working as an errand girl: here she is warming a little soup for Benigna von Zinzendorf (who is in Anna’s care); next, Anna attends a meeting of the womenfolk of Herrnhut led by Erdmuthe in 1727 and is deeply moved; next, Zinzendorf comforts Anna after the news of her brother Melchior’s death in 1729; next we see Anna being elected to the position of Eldress of all the Sisters in 1730 by Erdmuthe v. Z.

The next row shows Anna being introduced to the Single Sisters by Zinzendorf; then, in 1735 Anna at the spinning wheel (with a floorloom in the background) receiving distinguished visitors, such as here Zinzendorf, Layritz, Steinhofer and Oetinger (I will return to this picture); Anna attending her first Communion service in the church in Berthelsdorf in 1727; Anna with Zinzendorf, Benigna and Christian Renatus at the foot of the Ronneburg in 1736.

On the fourth row we see Anna travelling with Erdmuthe v.Z. through Holland to London in 1737. This is supposed to be the coast of CAlais, from whence they are departing for Dover; then we see Anna visiting Zinzendorf’s mother in Berlin with her second husband, Prussian field marshal Dubislav Gunomar von Natzmer. In miniature #15 we see Anna saying goodbye to the Single Sisters Choir in Marienborn in 1740 (note the handkerchiefs) prior to her departure to America, then her leaving on a ship with her father for America in late 1740. The miniature is quite famous as it shows Anna “preaching” to a group of Quakers in Philadelphia after her arrival, and then the final picture is of a meeting between Zinzendorf and Anna in a Pennsylvanian forest in 1741, that even the artist admits never took place. At the center bottom of the series we see an angel holding a portrait of Anna Nitschmann, which is being admired by a group of non-Europeans. We will also come back to Anna’s meaning for the non-European world.

This exquisite artwork reveals not only the esteem in which Anna Nitschmann was held by her Choir-the Single Sisters- but also the events of her life to date that caused them to hold her in that esteem. Her simple beginnings, her flight to Herrnhut at the age of 10, her election at the tender age of 14 to the office of Eldress, her closeness to the aristocratic Zinzendorf family, the fact that she is visited repeatedly by leading church figures, her preaching to both men and women, and her bravery in the mission field.

What I would like to talk about today are two moments in Anna Nitschmann’s life between 1735 and 1742, (so while she is still in her 20s) when she displays those characteristics of a leader of the church, as a leader of women, and as a religious leader in the model of other women religious leaders in the western church; figures like Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild von Magdeburg, and the 17th century Madame de Guyon. There is evidence that Anna Nitschmann studied these medieval mystics and later Pietistic thinkers before she left Herrnhut with the Zinzendorf family. Not only was she visited by leading figures of pietism to discuss these ideas, she also corresponded with them. So, rather then look at the depiction of Anna at the spinning wheel in the presence of Oetinger and Steinhofer as a kind of visual translation of the trope of the visitation of the Magi to Christ, maybe we could re-interpret that moment as a pivotal one in Anna’s life.

After that meeting, Anna Nitschmann considered taking the path of contemplation and seclusion but was persuaded by Zinzendorf to take the path of Christian action in the world as we can see from her memoir, which has served as the basis for much of the scholarship on her to date. Unfortunately, this precious document did not appear in print in German until 84 years after her death (and then in extracts) and the only translation into English is 139 years old, appearing in the Messenger in 1878, again in abstracts. However, of this visit at the spinning wheel in 1735, when she is just 20 years old, Anna writes (in the translation published in the Messenger):

“On the 24th of November, 1735, my twentieth birthday, the Savior revealed himself in a most powerful manner to my soul. A short time before, some brethren had advised me to read the life of St. Theresa, by Madame Guyon, a French mystic writer. I was delighted with the book and wished to follow in St. Theresa’s footsteps. There were precious truths set forth in the volume: but the all-essential point was wanting-that point in which all the other doctrines of God’s Word centre-the ransom price paid for our sins, the atonement made by our Savior for a guilty world. Conventual life, I gradually perceived, would not have suited me, though I was not insensible to its attractions. I saw that to spend my days immured in a cell would ill become one whose calling it is to work and do battle for Christ. OUR SAVIOR LED ME TO SEE THIS, THOUGH FOR A WHOLE quarter of a YEAR my mind was more or less unhinged and distracted by various thoughts and fancies which call for shame and humiliation. Thus I had my trials; but the Friend whom my soul loved helped me out of all my difficulties , and showed me that my safest course was to become as a little child.” (Messenger p. 447)

I find this passage remarkable for several reasons. First, what spurred this contact with her from two of the leading figures in Württemberg Pietism at that time? Why would they not only have written to her but also made the trip across the German states to visit her (at her spinning wheel and loom)? Second, Anna here recognizes the need for spiritual leadership in the practise of her faith and the need for a revised theology of action. Oetinger and Steinhofer were already well known to Zinzendorf and his family. Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702-1782) had studied philosophy and Lutheran theology at Tübingen University and was a devout reader of Jakob Boehme, the German mystic. In 1730, he had already visited Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut where he had remained for a few months, teaching Hebrew and Greek.  He is best known perhaps as the German translator of Immanuel Swedenborg’s works, an involvement that brought him censure from his church superiors. His second cousin, Friedrich Christoph Steinhofer (1706-1761) was also a Lutheran theologian who visited Herrnhut and Zinzendorf for the first time in 1731. Zinzendorf accompanied Steinhofer on his trip to Württemberg in 1731 and recognized that he was a potential ally of the Moravians and saw that he received a position in Ebersdorf as the Court Preacher of his brother in law, Heinrich XXIX von Reuss-Plauen zu Ebersdorf. From 1735 on, Steinhofer was the minister in Ebersdorf in the Vogtland. Although Steinhofer later left the Moravians, he was for a time, a bishop in the congregation for the “Lutheran” tropus.

This visit, represented on this miniature, was apparently not a singular occurrence. From newly catalogued records at the Unity Archives in Herrnhut, we find that the correspondence between these two churchmen and Anna Nitschmann stretches over a period of at least two years, between 1735 and 1737. Unfortunately, Anna’s responses are not available. I cannot wait to read these letters and try to work out what was siad during these conversations.

A clue might be given in scholar of Pietism Doug Shantz’s essay on “Women, Men, and their experience of God” in which he examines Anna Nitschmann’s early memoir in the light of the history of spiritual narratives, looking for ways in which male and female discourse about the relationship to Christ might differ. Comparing August Willhelm Francke and Anna Nitschmann’s pietistic autobiographies, and drawing on the theories of scholars of the genre such as Paul Eakin and James Olney, Shantz highlights the images and tropes typical to mystical women’s writings in Anna’s memoir. He describes Anna as “following the way” set out for her by her “Bridegroom”. As we can see from Anna’s own words cited above, she is deeply moved by the writing of St Theresa. She is, according to Shantz, also following the way set out for her by these Catholic mystics because a Protestant tradition “was not yet available to her” (p. 35) Although Shantz does not follow up on this insight in any way, Anna herself does in her memoir. She sees the need to enhance the writings of Catholic mysticism with a deeply Lutheran consciousness of the debt she owes to Christ for salvation. Interestingly it is at exactly this time that Anna Nitschmann to compose her own hymns. She was especially productive as a hymn writer between the years of 1735 and 1748, composing while in Germany, England and North America. In fact, the 1741 Herrnhuter Gesangbuch contains 56 hymns of her composition, the most famous of which is Nr. 1027 “Verlobter König”. Hymn writing, according to Zinzendorf, is humanity’s way of speaking to God. And I would argue that after this meeting in 1735 one of the choices to Chrsitian action that Anna Nitschmann makes is to provide a devotional and linguistic model for the Single Sisters to express their devotion to Christ, their commitment to service, and their sisterhood to her.

If we take a brief look at the hymns that are composed by Anna Nitschmann during this period that are still in the German Herrnhuter Gesangbuch, we find eleven are still included. Thematically, the texts speak of humility, dependence on Christ for protection and guidance, the sacrifice of Christ, the nature of a Christian life of action (described by Anna as “like a lamb in the home, and a lion, when I roam” Hymn 385), and devotion to the Congregation.

The second moment that I would like to examine is that which follows five years after Anna’s “crisis” of 1735; namely, Anna’s activities in America. According to Aaron Fogleman’svolume, Jesus is Female, Anna Nitschmann’s “being like a lion when she roamed” occasioned some of the most virulent opposition to the Moravians among the Lutheran settlers and their leaders in Pennsylvania. He takes as evidence for this claim, Alexander Volck’s 1750 anti-Moravian tract, where one of deeds that proves the “Bosheiten” or wickednesses of the sect known as Herrnhuter, is that women performed the sacrament of baptism. Volck writes that when Anna Nitschmann was here in Pennsylvania there are accounts, some eye-witness, of her administering the sacrament of baptism to women: Anna Maria Seybold in particular. As there is plenty of evidence, Volck continues, for Moravian women participating in the “distributio” of the sacraments at communion, so why would anyone doubt that Anna Nitschmann also would perform baptisms? Of course, to take the words of one the most virulent opponents of the Moravians as reliable would be risky; were it not for the ample evidence of Anna Nitschmann’s remarkable ministry prior to this point in 1742.

Early on, the leaders of the Moravian church recognized Anna’s abilities as a potential leader in the nascent mission field of North America. In 1740, both Zinzendorf and August Spangenberg decided that Anna (at age 25) should accompany her father to the American colonies to work among the German-speaking people here. Both men considered Anna’s gender to be a decisive factor in their choice, in that it would allow her to better speak with the “haughty and independent” colonists (FRIES 1924). So, in July 1740, Anna wrote her farewell letter to the Gemeine, in anticipation that she would never return.FOOTNOTE: Footnote

As I have argued before, Anna Nitschmann’s years in America were pivotal. They were a turning point in her own realization of her calling, in Zinzendorf’s estimation of her abilities, and also in the practice of her female leadership of the church. Although in 1740, before coming to America, Anna Nitschmann resigned from her office as General Eldress of the women because she was uncertain what would greet her in the New World, her time in North America solidified her reputation as one of Pietism’s most important women leaders. Anna Nitschmann left for America with David Nitschmann Episc., her father, David Nitschmann Sr, Christian Fröhlich, and Johanna Molther in late summer 1740. After an arduous journey, they arrived in Philadelphia on December 15, 1740 and travelled immediately to the Moravians’ newly purchased lands in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Their arrival was known to many of the other German sects settled in the province, such as the Brethren at Ephrata Cloister, and they subsequently came to visit with them. Anna’s “plan”, set out for her by Ziznendorf, was to work with these disparate groups, in the hope that her words, rather than those of a man, would bring them together in a truly ‘philadelphian’ ideal. To this end, Anna and her father travelled around Pennsylvania in the summer of 1741, visiting inter alia Conrad Beissel at Ephrata Cloister and the Associated Brethren of Skippack.

During her time here in Pennsylvania, Anna regularly wrote letters back to Herrnhut, to Benigna von Zinzendorf, to the Single Sisters Choir, and to those she had left in charge of that choir. In a letter dated April 1741, she described her activities among the peoples of Pennsylvania, a place that is a huge confusion “ein gar grosses Gewirre” of different sects and varying religious opinions. Despite this “Atlantic Babel,” Anna recognized that the German-speaking people here were waiting for salvation. In the three months since her arrival, she had already gathered 20 young women who sought the Savior; and eagerly anticipated the school that she and Benigna were to found. (R.14.A.no.26) Although she was living with and working for one of the Brethren of Skippack, she visited the Nazareth tract regularly, and noticed the many Native Americans who visited her. As she was working to clear the land, she was helped by the Native girls and young women to carry wood and water. O Benigna, she wrote, if only you were here to work with them!

Anna’s magnetic presence attracted many other young women. So, despite the plan that a single sisters choir should not be founded in Bethlehem, Anna had other ideas. Not only did she gather 20 young women together, she was quite militant in her defense of their unmarried state (remember, she herself had refused marriage several times at this point). For example, in another letter back to Herrnhut in April 1741, Anna congratulated Sister Brosel that she has refused the offer of marriage. In November 1741, Anna returned to Germantown to set up the Girls School with Anna Margarethe Bechtel and to await Zinzendorf’s arrival. On December 9, 1741, almost exactly a year after Anna’s arrival in America, Zinzendorf and his daughter, Benigna, arrived in Germantown. Due to his lack of both financial and linguistic preparation, the Count deferred to Anna, who used the unspent money she had been given in Herrnhut to help the Count. Zinzendorf also relied heavily on Anna’s knowledge of English to communicate with the other German settlers in the province. As Zinzendorf embarked on his plan to proselytize to the Native Americans and to try to unite the German sects in the colonies, Anna became a crucial factor in his success.

In the year of working with Zinzendorf in America, Anna Nitschmann accompanied him on his three journeys to the backcountry to meet with the Native American nations and also with the women who were either already working as interpreters for the Colonial government or who could work as missionaries because of their linguistic skills in Native languages (such as Anna Rau, later Mack, who spoke fluent Mohican. In January 1743, just over two years after she arrived in America, Anna embarked on the return trip to Europe. Her work in Pennsylvania was foundational: “If others reaped the harvest it was she that sowed the seed, and her name should be written in capitals in the church history of Pennsylvania, instead of being only casually mentioned !” (FRIES 1924, 134) On board the ship from New York to Dover, Anna writes back to Bethlehem: “As I never shall forget Pensilvania in generall so I think I shall remember thee also… an ever Dear Church of Sinners….. It is very weighty to me, that even from out of the English Nation, which hath Erred for so many years, trying many and various ways the Lord should gather a little Flock and bring it to rest on his Holy Wounds.” Life on board was rough, but in a separate letter to Brother Anton Seiffert dated March 1743 Anna describes her journey back to Europe. They Set sail on January 20 from New York and within 6 days had formed a Sea Cong. (they chose Elders). Everyone was seasick except Br Andrew the Negro and his wife. After experiencing two great storms that washed them onto a sand bank where wicked sailors tried to take advantage of them, they arrived Feb. 17 1743 in Dover and then continued on to London on Feb. 19.

As outlined in my previous lectures, the leadership that Anna showed in North America came to the fore in her work in England directly after that North American trip. After a brief stay in London with Brother Hutton, Anna travelled with Zinzendorf and his daughter north by stage coach to Yorkshire, where Anna began her work among the single sisters. Anna writes of this time that the people (sometimes in crowds of over 1000) were e like “hungry bees” , eager to hear her speaking about her experiences in Pennsylvania, and especially her stories of the American Indians. Once back in London, Anna met with and preached (in English) to a group of 30 young women in the Fetter Lane Chapel, where she once again captivated them with her words. If they were not already members of the Fetter Lane Society, they now quickly joined. Anna writes: “On Sunday I held a Qr of an Hour with 30 young women together with 3 Bands. I with 10 Laborers and the 2 others with each 10 Sisters. I can make use of my little English here very well.” And, she tells these English women, perhaps as a form of challenge,, “Don’t you know, my Dr. Br. that the Bethlehem Brethren and Sisters are remarkable above all others?”

All this success had its results. At the 1744 Synod at Marienborn it was decided that from then on, that Anna Nitschmann, as General Eldress of the women should receive the title “Mutter” of the whole Congregation. Anna was considered to be working as the Vice-Regent of the Holy Spirit. By so doing she finally ousted Zinzendorf’s wife, Erdmuthe, from this position.

Conclusion

In his precious, slim 1919 volume on Zinzendorf and women, that contemporary debates on women’s voting rights within the Moravian church occasioned, archivist of the church Otto Uttendörfer researched the tradition of women’s agency within the Unity of the Brethren. Uttendörfer cites at great length Zinzendorf’s speeches and sermons to the married and single men and women on the topic of gender. In this volume, Uttendörfer is not interested in discussing the “marital mystery” of Zinzendorf’s theology or Sifting period language. Rather he focuses on the theory and practice of women in the church. The earliest extant text on this topic, Uttendörfer claims, is Zinzendorf’s speech to the women in Philadelphia in 1742 where he expounds on the moral and religious ideal of women. Women in Christianity, he argues, are blessed by the fact that they can hold inside them, contained and gestated, God, the Divine. Resonant of the Orthodox name for Mary, the Theotokos, Zinzendorf calls on women to conceive of themselves as carriers of the Divine. His sermons on women should also be heard by men, as men need to learn from women the way of the divine. The single sisters choir houses are to be seen as “Propheten-Schulen”, places where women lead not cloistered lives, but are educated to be leaders of faith.

I return to the image of Anna receiving the two prominent churchmen at the spinning wheel and in front of the floor loom. In these SS choir houses the spinning and weaving of cloth were two of the most prevalent economic and artisanal activities. I would also argue that in addition to producing vital goods (and income) for the Gemeine and the Choir, spinning and weaving are also traditional tropes of women’s wisdom. As we know from classical and medieval literature, the image of women at the loom has for 1000s of years signified an alternative realm of knowledge generation. Whether Penelope in the Odyssey, Clytemnestra in the Oresteia, or Christine de Pizan in the City of Women, the creation of cloth is also a creation of knowledge and narrative.FOOTNOTE: Footnote Anna Nitschmann’s weaving, depicted in the celebration of her 30 years as an Eldress of the church, is an image of her other realm of knowledge acquisition and transmission. Listening to the words of the visiting Pietist scholars, Anna continues to work. If the choir houses are to be considered as the workshops of the divine, then it is no surprise that Zinzendorf also considers them to contain prophets and priests. By his definition, prophets are those who further the work of the choir; they have the authority to lead the choir in the right direction; and priests are those who work with the spiritual well-being of the choir. Thus for Zinzendorf, priestesses are eldresses, and prophets are female disciples (Jüngerinnen). Uttendörfer himself points to Zinzendorf’s extraordinary reliance upon women; a Quäckerish trait not approved of by all the leaders of the church, and that later led to the restrictions of women’s roles. But for Zinzendorf, Anna Nitschmann was both a priestess and a prophetess,

Anna Nitschmann’s legacy to the history of Pietism lies in her significant contribution to several branches of the Moravian Church; primarily mission work, hymnody, and religious leadership. And Anna’s efficacy in the mission field was enormous. Although severely under-researched, archival evidence reveals that her interactions with American Indians in Pennsylvania were effective and long lasting, and her work establishing the Girls School in Philadelphia with Anna Margaretha Bechtel (m.n. Büttner, Jungmann) was foundational.

By 1755, just five years before her untimely death, the minutes of the Synod of Single Sisters Choirs, at which both Anna Nitschmann and Zinzendorf spoke, show that the membership around the world of the choir that Anna had founded totalled approximately 3000, with SS choirs in Greenland, England, North America, the German states, Ireland, the Baltic states (almost 800 just there). The registers for the following year show a growth to 4200. At this synod, Zinzendorf remarks that he himself wishes he were a single sister!

The depiction of the non-Europeans staring at Anna’s picture with reverence is actually accurate. There is archival evidence from the diaries of the Single Sisters choirs established in the mission world that portraits of Anna were distributed as far afield as Greenland. We might well ask why when she never visited those places? And the archival records show that Anna Nitschmann corresponded with the Single Sisters throughout the mission world: North America, naturally, as she was well remembered for her leadership here; the Danish West Indies, Greenland, South Africa, West Africa, Persia and Egypt, and even in the diaspora, such as Poland,

Why is a reconsideration of Anna Nitschmann important? For women today she can act as a role model, as a paradigmatic female leader, as a pioneering female missionary to the Native Americans of Pennsylvania and New York, as the composer of hymns, as a woman who not only valued the agency of women but who worked with single women throughout most of her life to ensure that they saw their own strength and salvific value to the redemption of the world. Anna Nitschmann as a reader and thinker is perhaps a new icon that needs to be added to her gallery of tropes.

Anna Nitschmann in America

Anna Nitschmann in America

Katherine Faull, Bucknell University

Visiting Scholar, Centre for Moravian Studies, Spring 2017

Thank you for the invitation to talk about one of the best and least known figures in Moravian history, Anna Nitschmann. She and her father were among the founders of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 275 years ago. However, although her position as a leader among women in the Moravian Church of the 18th century is often cited, little has actually been written about her that is based on archival sources in her own hand. Scholar after scholar who has attempted to write her biography has come up against two major problems when working on Anna Nitschmann.

One is what we might call, the “Anna Nitschmann legend” according to which, even during her lifetime, she became the paradigmatic Single Sister, elevated through poetry, song, verse, and art to an icon. The other problem is the almost complete lack of a scholarly biography of her, due not least to the deliberate purging of her personal correspondence, diaries, and papers after her death in 1760.

Thus, when scholars have undertaken to write about her, they have relied heavily on Anna’s own memoir, written in 1737 when she was 22 and which ends therefore before her emigration out of Saxony with the Zinzendorf entourage and, importantly for this talk, before her departure for America. Furthermore, this precious memoir (Lebenslauf) did not appear in print in German until 84 years after her death (and then in extracts) and the only translation into English is 139 years old, appearing in the Messenger in 1878, again in abstracts.

Why is a new look at Anna Nitschmann important? In my work on Moravian Women’s Lives for the last 20 years or more, the figure and name of Anna Nitschmann have come up again and again. As a role model, as a leader, as a pioneering female missionary to the Native Americans of Pennsylvania and New York, as the composer of hymns, as a woman who not only valued the agency of women but who worked with single women throughout most of her life to ensure that they saw their own strength and salvific value to the redemption of the world. In my volume of Moravian women’s memoirs, Anna Nitschmann’s name comes up repeatedly in the memoirs of other women: whether Anna Johanna Piesch Seidel with whom she worked closely on the formation and guidance of the Single Sisters Choirs; or Margarethe Jungmann, née Bechtel, whom she met in Philadelphia and with whom she and Benigna Zinzendorf founded the Girls school that would later become Moravian College; or in conjunction with Anna Rosel Anders, another one the leaders of the Single Sisters Choir. She worked in close conjunction with brothers and sisters and, I would argue, moved easily in and out of mixed groups in terms of gender and race. She was an intrepid explorer, a gifted poet, an inspirational leader. But so little is written about her!

This semester, as Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Moravian Studies, I have been working in archives and libraries to research Anna Nitschmann and to bring in the lives of other Moravian women of the 18th century (such as Benigna v. Zinzendorf, Eva Spangenberg, Anna Johanna Piesch) to try to build up a full picture of this remarkable woman. Indeed, my research so far has taken me to the archives in Herrnhut, London, and here in Bethlehem, where I have begun to piece together textual evidence of Anna Nitschmann’s life. I have found letters embedded within other letters, accounts of her travels attached to others’ accounts; I have found that even her autobiography has been neglected as an important source document that tells not only what happened in her life to the age of 22 but also looks at how she chose to describe that life in the context of the larger generic conventions of the Moravian memoir. I have gone through uncatalogued packages of papers in the London archives that revealed, quite by surprise, that someone else wanted to write a biography of her in the 19th century to celebrate the Single Sisters Festival. And that ministers in small British Moravian congregations are remarkably helpful when they discover what I am trying to do.

So, despite the ravages of post-Zinzendorfian archival culling and the 1940s London Blitz there is hope!

 

Respected scholars have seen in Anna Nitschmann a figure that deconstructs the traditional notion of women’s agency in the 18th century. Not a passive heroine, who allows things to happen to her, Anna is a doer, truly a mover and shaker, which is probably why her papers were all destroyed. At a time when to be a single woman in society meant either destitution, servitude, or cloistering, Anna Nitschmann refused marriage multiple times so that she could follow what she felt called to do; namely, provide spiritual guidance to women, especially young women. And her efficacy in this calling can be measured by, as Beverly Smaby has pointed out, the success of the Single Sisters Choir in the mission congregations, especially here in Bethlehem. Originally there was not supposed to be a large Single Sisters Choir here, as the Sisters who came from Europe were to be married in order to work in the mission field. However, Anna’s success in attracting single women from the colonies meant that there had to be Single SIsters Choir here.

What was Anna’s relationship to the much-lauded founding woman of Moravian College?

In 1734, Anna Nitschmann became the companion to Benigna von Zinzendorf, 10 years her junior (1725-1789) and thereby became even closer to the Zinzendorf family. In her memoir she writes that this was a difficult move for her, as she had to leave the solitude of her little room “Stübchen” and join the company of the nobility. The following year, marriage was proposed for her with Leonhard Dober, but because of a mutual reluctance, these plans were abandoned.

In a desire to educate herself further within the concepts and history of Pietism and mysticism, Anna befriended Steinhofer and Oetinger, Württemberg pietists who were visiting Herrnhut at that time, and began her study of Mme de Guyon and St. Theresa of Avila (JUNG 1998). By her own account, these readings tempted her to follow the contemplative life, but Zinzendorf called her instead to a life of action.

Early on, the leaders of the Moravian church recognized Anna’s abilities as a potential leader in the nascent mission field of North America. In 1740, both Zinzendorf and August Spangenberg decided that Anna (at age 25) should accompany her father to the American colonies to work among the German-speaking people there. Both men considered Anna’s gender to be a decisive factor in their choice, in that it would allow her to better speak with the “haughty and independent” colonists (FRIES 1924). So, in July 1740, Anna wrote her farewell letter to the Gemeine, in anticipation that she would never return.

In fact, Anna Nitschmann’s time in North America solidified her reputation as one of Pietism’s most important women leaders. (Here she is speaking to a group of Quakers before her departure from London to Philadelphia) Anna Nitschmann left for America with David Nitschmann Episc., her father, David Nitschmann Sr, Christian Fröhlich, and Johanna Molther in late summer 1740. After an arduous journey, they arrived in Philadelphia on December 15, 1740, and traveled immediately to the Moravians’ newly purchased lands in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

Many of the other German sects settled in the province, such as the Brethren at Ephrata Cloister, had heard of their arrival and subsequently came to visit with them. Anna’s “plan” was to work with these disparate groups, in the hope that her words, rather than those of a man, would bring them together in a truly ‘philadelphian’ ideal. To this end, Anna and her father traveled around Pennsylvania in the summer of 1741, visiting inter alia Conrad Beissel at Ephrata Cloister and the Associated Brethren of Skippack.

During her time here in Pennsylvania, Anna regularly wrote letters back to Herrnhut, to Benigna von Zinzendorf, to the Single Sisters Choir, and to those she had left in charge of that choir. In a letter dated April 1741, she describes her activities among the peoples of Pennsylvania, a place she says that is a huge confusion “ein gar grosses Gewirre” of different sects and varying religious opinions. Despite her judgment of this “Atlantic Babel” she sees that the people here are waiting for salvation. She reports that in the three months since her arrival, she has already gathered 20 young women who are seeking the Savior; and they are just waiting for the school that she and Benigna are to found to open. (R.14.A.no.26) Although she lives with one of the Brethren of Skippack, she visits the Nazareth tract regularly, she notices the many Native Americans who visit her. As she is working to clear the land, she is helped by the Native girls and young women to carry wood and water. O Benigna, she writes, if only you were here to work with them!

Anna’s magnetic presence attracts other young women. So, despite the plan that a single sisters choir should not be founded in Bethlehem, Anna has other ideas. Not only has she gathered 20 young women together already, she is quite militant in her defense of their unmarried state. In another letter back to Herrnhut in April 1741, Anna congratulates Sister Brosel that she has refused the offer of marriage. Anna writes, ”I congratulate you, secondly, because you have refused your marriage with a conviction of your heart and want to remain a virgin as long as it pleases Him. I know well that we are not here for ourselves, but rather maidens of the Lamb. If He orders it otherwise, we cannot resist Him. But I have to confess, that this gave me not a little pleasure.”

“Zweytens, dass du hast …. Mit über Zeugung deines Herzens und mit … deine Heirath abgeschlagen, und Jungfer bleiben, solange es Ihm gefallen wordt. Ich weiss wohl dass wir nicht unsre sindt, sondern Mägde des Lammes. Wenn Ers uns anders befiehlt, so können wir Ihm nicht wiederstehen: Aber Ich muss bekennen, dass es mich nicht wenig gefreut hatt.”

In November 1741, Anna returned to Germantown to set up the Girls School with Anna Margarethe Bechtel and to await Zinzendorf’s arrival.

On December 9, 1741, almost exactly a year after Anna’s arrival in America, Zinzendorf and his daughter, Benigna, arrived in Germantown. Due to his lack of both financial and linguistic preparation, the Count deferred to Anna, who used the unspent money she had been given in Herrnhut to help the Count. Zinzendorf also relied heavily on Anna’s knowledge of English to communicate with the other German settlers in the province. As Zinzendorf embarked on his plan to proselytize to the Native Americans and to try to unite the German sects in the colonies, Anna became a crucial factor in his success.

During Bethlehem’s earliest months, despite there being explicit plans to the contrary, Anna worked to establish the Single Sisters Choir (SMABY 1999). While Zinzendorf is having a mixed reception among the German Lutherans in Pennsylvania, maybe it was Anna’s enthusiasm about the prospect of working among the Native peoples that convinces Zinzendorf that she (now 27 years old) and his daughter (17!!) should accompany him on his difficult and dangerous travels into Indian country. In 1742, much of the territory that Zinzendorf wanted to cover was known only to the Native peoples who hunted and lived there. Colonial agents, such as Conrad Weiser, were highly dubious about Zinzendorf’s plans to meet with one of the most influential Iroquois chiefs (Shikellamy) who had just been sent by the Haudenosaunee to oversee the politically crucial confluence of the Susquehanna river. And here is this Count, with his teenage daughter and another young woman wanting to travel through Indian country to talk to the Shawnee who were very unfriendly towards anyone (even the Iroquois). Conrad Weiser agreed to help but I can only imagine him shaking his head at such foolishness.

In August 1742, she set off with Zinzendorf’s party into the Pennsylvanian backcountry to meet the chiefs of the prominent American Indian nations, primarily the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), the Mohican, and the Shawnee.

First, Anna traveled to the Mohican mission in Shekomeko, New York. Here she met with Jeannette Rau, who once married to Br. Martin Mack, quickly became a valuable missionary with her knowledge of the Mohican culture and language. The following month, Anna accompanied Zinzendorf to Shamokin, Pennsylvania, to meet with Shikellamy, the Oneida chief to discuss the possibility of Moravian missionaries working in the Haudenosaunee lands of Iroquoia that stretched across New York state and down into Pennsylvania.

Just up the West Branch, at Ostonwakin, Anna displayed her typical spirit of outreach in speaking at length with the celebrated interpreter between the Iroquois and the Colonial government, Madame Montour. In accounts of these travels into Indian country, Anna was always described as intrepid, taking the lead through difficult terrain, to the point where Zinzendorf had to hang on to her coattails to climb Shamokin mountain. She wrote thus: “The last journey was into the heart of their country, where we sojourned forty-nine days, encamping under the open heavens in a savage wilderness, amid wild beasts and venomous snakes.” (REICHEL 1870, 85n.) Her last foray into the wilds was a hazardous journey from Bethlehem to Ostonwakin on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and then on to the Wyoming Valley to meet with the Shawnee.

This definitely constituted the least successful and most dangerous of the meetings with the Native peoples, yet Anna returned safely with Zinzendorf to Bethlehem.

In January 1743, just over two years after she arrived in America, Anna embarked on the return trip to Europe. Her work in Pennsylvania was foundational: “If others reaped the harvest it was she that sowed the seed, and her name should be written in capitals in the church history of Pennsylvania, instead of being only casually mentioned !” (FRIES 1924, 134) On board the ship from New York to Dover, Anna writes back to Bethlehem: “As I never shall forget Pensilvania in generall so I think I shall remember thee also… an ever Dear Church of Sinners….. It is very weighty to me, that even from out of the English Nation, which hath Erred for so many years, trying many and various ways the Lord should gather a little Flock and bring it to rest on his Holy Wounds.” Life on board was rough, but in a separate letter to Brother Anton Seiffert dated March 1743 Anna describes her journey back to Europe. They Set sail on January 20 from New York and within 6 days had formed a Sea Cong. (they chose Elders). Everyone was seasick except Br Andrew the Negro and his wife. After experiencing two great storms that washed them onto a sandbank where wicked sailors tried to take advantage of them, they arrived Feb. 17 1743 in Dover and then continued on to London on Feb. 19.

In London, Anna stayed with Br. Hutton. However not for long. As Br Spangenberg was not in London but in Yorkshire, Zinzendorf, Benigna and Anna N. travel on to Yorkshire by coach. Anna continued her work among the single sisters in Yorkshire, and Zinzendorf preaches to the assembled crowds on a Gemein Tag. They are like “hungry bees” she says (sometimes over 1000 people). She speaks about her experiences in Pennsylvania, and especially telling stories of the American Indians.

Once back in London, Anna meets with and preaches (in English) to 30 young women in the Fetter Lane chapel, London. Those women in the audience were captivated by her words and, if not already members of the Fetter Lane Society, quickly joined.

Anna writes of this time: “On Sunday I held a Qr of an Hour with 30 young women together with 3 Bands. I with 10 Laborers and the 2 others with each 10 Sisters. I can make use of my little English here very well.” But, she assures her listeners, “Don’t you know, my Dr. Br. that the Bethlehem Brethren and Sisters are remarkable above all others?”

All this success had its results. After returning from America, Zinzendorf made Anna into the “Gemein-Mutter” of all women in the Moravian church and by so doing finally ousted his wife, Erdmuthe, from this position.

Anna Nitschmann’s legacy to the history of Pietism lies in her significant contribution to several branches of the Moravian Church; primarily mission work, hymnody, and religious leadership. Anna’s efficacy in the mission field was enormous. Although severely under-researched, archival evidence reveals that Anna Nitschmann was a superb missionary and leader. Her interactions with American Indians in Pennsylvania were effective and long-lasting, and her work establishing the Girls School in Philadelphia with Benigna von Zinzendorf and Anna Margareta Bechtel (m.n. Büttner, Jungmann) was foundational. Furthermore, Anna Nitschmann was also an accomplished hymn writer, especially productive between the years of 1735 and 1748, composing while in Germany, England, and North America. For example, the 1741 Herrnhuter Gesangbuch contains 56 hymns of her composition, the most famous of which is Nr. 1027 “Verlobter König”. Despite later efforts to de-emphasize her importance, during her lifetime Anna Nitschmann was an object of widespread reverence. Archival records reveal lavish celebrations of her birthday throughout the Moravian world, from North America to Germany. Her death was as much of a shock to the Moravian church as was Zinzendorf’s.

However, it is important to consider what is missing from Anna Nitschmann’s archival records (SMABY 1997). Falling prey to the masking of female piety in post-1760 Bethlehem, the vast majority of her personal papers, diaries and letters were deliberately destroyed after her death (PEUCKER 2000); SMABY 1997 points to the additional, subtle ways in which Anna Nitschmann’s foundational activities were de-emphasized after 1761.

The recent discovery of a set of Anna Nitschmann’s addresses to the Single Sisters Choirs can give today’s reader some insight into her efficacy as a preacher (ZIMMERLING 2014, 253 and VOGT 1999). As mentioned above, both textual and visual evidence shows that Anna Nitschmann preached in America to men and women, both Quakers, Moravians, and other sects (VOGT 1999). Although VOGT 1999 argues that Anna preached only to other women in the Single Sisters choir and did not preach to men, FRIES 1924 argues the opposite. To date, biographers (JUNG 1999; ZIMMERLING 2005, 2014) have relied heavily on Anna Nitschmann’s own 1737 Lebenslauf. As PEUCKER 2000, SMABY 1997, and VOGT 1999 indicate, the deliberate destruction of Anna Nitschmann’s personal papers, letters, diaries, after her death in 1760 has relegated her to relative obscurity within the history of Pietism; however, her efficacy as a leader of Pietist women, a preacher, a hymn writer, and a missionary here in North America deserve more serious scholarly examination.

Recovering Anna Nitschmann: A Vision for a New Biography

“Recovering Anna Nitschmann: A Vision for a New Biography”

Katherine Faull, Bucknell University

Visiting Scholar, Centre for Moravian Studies Spring 2017

Thank you for the invitation to talk tonight about one of the best known figures in Moravian history, Anna Nitschmann. As we all know, she and her father were among the founders of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 275 years ago. However, although her position as a leader among women in the Moravian Church of the 18th century is often cited, little has actually been written about her that is based on archival sources in her own hand. Scholar after scholar who has attempted to write her biography, such as Peter Zimmerling, Lucinda Martin, Adelaide Fries, and even Dietrich Meyer, have come up against two major problems when working on Anna Nitschmann.

One is what we might call, the “Anna Nitschmann legend” according to which, even during her lifetime, she became the paradigmatic Single Sister, elevated through poetry, song, verse, and art to an icon. The other problem is the almost complete lack of a scholarly biography of her, due not least to the deliberate purging of her personal correspondence, diaries, and papers after her death in 1760. Thus, when scholars have undertaken to write about her, they have relied heavily on Anna’s own memoir, written in 1737 when she was 22 and which ends therefore before her emigration out of Saxony with the Zinzendorf entourage and, importantly for this lecture, before her departure for America. Furthermore, this precious memoir (Lebenslauf) did not appear in print in German until 84 years after her death (and then in extracts) and the only translation into English is 139 years old, appearing in the Messenger in 1878, again in abstracts.

In my work on Moravian Women’s Lives for the last 20 years or more, Anna Nitschmann has come up again and again. As a role model, as a leader, as a pioneering female missionary to the Native Americans of Pennsylvania and New York, as the composer of hymns, as a woman who not only valued the agency of women but who worked with single women throughout most of her life to ensure that they saw their own strength and salvific value to the redemption of the world. In my volume of Moravian women’s memoirs, Anna Nitschmann’s name comes up repeatedly in the memoirs of other women: whether Anna Johanna Piesch Seidel with whom she worked closely on the formation and guidance of the Single Sisters Choirs; or Margarethe Jungmann, née Bechtel, whom she met in Philadelphia and with whom she and Benigna Zinzendorf founded the Girls school that would later become Moravian College; or in conjunction with Anna Rosel Anders, another one the leaders of the Single SIsters Choir. She worked in close conjunction with brothers and sisters and, I would argue, moved easily in and out of mixed groups in terms of gender and race. She was an intrepid explorer, a gifted poet, an inspirational leader. But so little is written about her!

And so, when just over a year ago I was asked to write an entry on Anna Nitschmann for the Pietismus Handbuch, edited by Wolfgang Breul at the University of Mainz, I accepted the challenge to write about a life that has been simultaneously mythologized and erased by forces both within and without the Moravian Church.

What I am going to present today is the beginning of what I hope will turn into a book-length project on Anna Nitschmann, that will explore the archives and libraries and bring in the lives of other Moravian women of the 18th century to try to build up a full picture of this remarkable woman. Indeed, my research so far has taken me to the archives in Herrnhut, London, and here in Bethlehem, where I have begun to piece together textual evidence of Anna Nitschmann’s life. I have found letters embedded within other letters, accounts of her travels attached to others’ accounts; I have found that even her autobiography has been neglected as an important source document that tells not only what happened in her life to the age of 22 but also looks at how she chose to describe that life in the context of the larger generic conventions of the Moravian memoir. I have gone through uncatalogued packages of papers in the London archives that revealed, quite by surprise, that someone else wanted to write a biography of her in the 19th century to celebrate the Single Sisters Festival. And that ministers in small British Moravian congregations are remarkably helpful when they discover what I am trying to do.

So, despite the ravages of post-Zinzendorfian archival culling and the 1940s London Blitz there is hope!

So here we have the image of Anna Nitschmann as a direct mediator between Christ and the other Single Sisters’ Choirs. And in other scholarship we find these terms used to describe AN in extant printed scholarship:

Hero (A. Fries)

“Handmaiden of the Lamb” (Atnip)

“Pietist and Leader of the Diakonie”

“One of 37 women who changed their world”

A pioneer of the Moravian Church

Activist

A Moravian Foremother

A women of courage and valor

Preacher, Priest and maybe even Bishop

These labels certainly work to promote the first part of the conundrum I outlined above: namely, Anna Nitschmann as legend and icon for female leadership and piety within both the Moravian Church and also in the context of the 18th century. Respected scholars, such as Beverly Smaby, Peter Vogt, Martin Jung, Peter Zimmerling and Lucinda Martin have all seen in Anna Nitschmann a figure that deconstructs the traditional notion of women’s agency in the 18th century. Not a passive heroine, who allows things to happen to her, Anna is a doer, truly a mover and shaker, which is probably why her papers were all destroyed. At a time when to be a single woman in society meant either destitution, servitude, or cloistering, Anna Nitschmann refused marriage multiple times so that she could follow what she felt called to do; namely, provide spiritual guidance to women, especially young women. And her efficacy in this calling can be measured by, as Beverly Smaby has pointed out, the success of the Single Sisters Choir in the mission congregations, especially here in Bethlehem. Originally there was not supposed to be a large Single Sisters Choir here, as the Sisters who came from Europe were to be married in order to work in the mission field. However, Anna’s success in attracting single women from the colonies meant that there had to be Single SIsters Choir here.

.So let us start by looking at Anna’s life as she depicted it herself, in her much-cited memoir. Most biographies that have been published on her, draw heavily on this document and reading it through, several few questions immediately come to mind. First, why would she write her memoir at this point? 1737 is the year in which she is part of the Zinzendorf family entourage which has been exiled from Saxony and is experiencing the challenges of the Ronneburg. Also, according to tradition, this is the year in which Zinzendorf asked Anna’s father to adopt him so that he and Anna could travel together as brother and sister without incurring gossip. (Not that it helped much…)

The memoir is a 26 page manuscript (long for a woman author in the Moravian Lebenslauf tradition) and is interspersed with poetry and hymns. In fact, reading it through, I think of the Moravian tradition of the Singstunde, where thoughts are expressed in musical form to be shared by all present. There are 10 instances in the document where Anna expresses her emotions through verse. Her memoir begins in an almost pastoral mode, describing her early years where she would be sent into the fields to tend sheep and would sing hymns to herself. Hymns are of course a form in which the individual and the communal come together in the expression of a commonly felt emotion. And to me this is a significant indication of Anna’s expressive lyrical style, that manifests itself in her success as a hymn writer and is repeated in her recently discovered sermons to the Single Sisters. Her personal experiences of doubt, faith, joy, are expressed in a form that others can participate in.

From her memoir we know that she was born on November 24, 1715 near Kunewald, Moravia, the daughter of David and Anna Nitschmann (née Schneider).

She speaks in her memoir of visiting her father, David Nitschmann in prison when she was only 8 years old and singing hymns to him and her brother for fortitude. Her family’s escape to Herrnhut was the stuff of movies–her imprisoned father miraculously escaped his cell when he found the locks on the door open, the guards miraculously blinded to his escape.

Although she writes of herself in the time before 1730 (as a young teenager) as lost, in her own “bedenkliche Jahre” it is hearing her brother Melchior pray at night that awakens in her the desire to “win souls for the Saviour”. It is at this point that she describes herself as gathering the other young girls together; she is also elected to the office of “Eldress of the Congregation”. She writes (my translation), “In this year, I moved away from my parents, something I could never have decided to do out of respect for them. But I realized that it was most fitting for my office, and thus did so with their permission. So, on January 26, 1733, I moved into the so-called Virgins’ House (Jungfern Haus) with 13 single sisters. There I was very content. We lived cordially amongst ourselves and many nights were spent in prayer.” Although things start out well, soon there are problems in the Single Sisters House. “Initially we lived in a shared community of goods. Later though certain things began to happen. Some of them became suspicious, and so love and unity were destroyed.” It seems as though several of the sisters were against Anna Nitschmann and she can only express her predicament to the Saviour.

Despite these problems, Anna’s commitment to the leadership of the Single Sisters choir is proven by her repeated refusal to enter into marriage. In 1733, due to the death of the Chief Elder and the absence of his newly elected replacement, Leonhard Dober, Anna assumed the position of Chief Elder for the year. She was 18. According to Zinzendorf, Anna’s activities that year included guiding the spiritual affairs of the Brethren as well as the Sisters, concerning herself with questions of doctrine, casting deciding votes in conferences, and instructing those assuming office. She also had to confirm candidates for communion, give a parting blessing to the dying, and perform much of the pastoral work of a minister (FRIES 1924, 130).

In 1734, Anna Nitschmann became the companion to Benigna von Zinzendorf, 10 years her junior (1725-1789) and thereby became even closer to the Zinzendorf family. In her memoir, she writes that this was a difficult move for her, as she had to leave the solitude of her little room “Stübchen” and join the company of the nobility. But she complies as she sees it as the Lord’s will. The following year, marriage was proposed for her with Leonhard Dober, but because of a mutual reluctance, these plans were abandoned. In a desire to educate herself further within the concepts and history of Pietism and mysticism, Anna befriended Steinhofer and Oetinger, Württemberg pietists who were visiting Herrnhut at that time, and began her study of Mme de Guyon and St. Theresa of Avila (JUNG 1998). By her own account, these readings tempted her to follow the contemplative life, but Zinzendorf called her instead to a life of Christian action.

In 1736, on Zinzendorf’s exile from Saxony, Anna Nitschmann joined his Pilgrim Congregation and, as Benigna’s companion, followed the family to the Ronneburg in Wetteravia (JUNG 1999, 165). In 1737, a year in which Anna traveled extensively with the Zinzendorf family, the Count apparently took the unusual step of requesting Anna’s father to adopt him as a son, so that he and Anna could call each other “Brother” and “Sister’. David Nitschmann complied. Anna’s own Lebenslauf ends in 1737.

So, early on, the leaders of the Moravian church recognized Anna’s abilities as a potential leader in the nascent mission field of North America. In 1740, both Zinzendorf and August Spangenberg decided that Anna (at age 25) should accompany her father to the American colonies to work among the German-speaking people there. Both men considered Anna’s gender to be a decisive factor in their choice, in that it would allow her to better speak with the “haughty and independent” colonists (FRIES 1924). So, in July 1740, Anna wrote her farewell letter to the Gemeine, in anticipation that she would never return.

In fact, Anna Nitschmann’s time in North America solidified her reputation as one of Pietism’s most important women leaders. (Here she is speaking to a group of Quakers) Anna Nitschmann left for America with David Nitschmann Episc., her father, David Nitschmann Sr, Christian Fröhlich, and Johanna Molther in late summer 1740. After an arduous journey, they arrived in Philadelphia on December 15, 1740, and traveled immediately to the Moravians’ newly purchased lands in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Many of the other German sects settled in the province, such as the Brethren at Ephrata Cloister, had heard of their arrival and subsequently came to visit with them. Anna’s “plan” was to work with these disparate groups, in the hope that her words, rather than those of a man, would bring them together in a truly ‘philadelphian’ ideal. To this end, Anna and her father traveled around Pennsylvania in the summer of 1741, visiting inter alia Conrad Beissel at Ephrata Cloister and the Associated Brethren of Skippack.

During her time here in Pennsylvania, Anna regularly wrote letters back to Herrnhut, to Benigna von Zinzendorf, to the Single Sisters Choir, and to those she had left in charge of that choir. In a letter dated April 1741, she describes her activities among the peoples of Pennsylvania, a place she says that is a huge confusion “ein gar grosses Gewirre” of different sects and varying religious opinions. Despite her judgment of this “Atlantic Babel” she sees that the people here are waiting for salvation. She reports that in the three months since her arrival, she has already gathered 20 young women who are seeking the Savior; and they are just waiting for the school that she and Benigna are to found to open. (R.14.A.no.26) Although she lives with one of the Brethren of Skippack, she visits the Nazareth tract regularly, she notices the many Native Americans who visit her. As she is working to clear the land, she is helped by the Native girls and young women to carry wood and water. O Benigna, she writes, if only you were here to work with them!

Anna’s magnetic presence attracts other young women. So, despite the plan that a single sisters choir should not be founded in Bethlehem, Anna has other ideas. Not only has she gathered 20 young women together already, she is quite militant in her defense of their unmarried state. In another letter back to Herrnhut in April 1741, Anna congratulates Sister Brosel that she has refused the offer of marriage. Anna writes, ”I congratulate you, secondly, because you have refused your marriage with a conviction of your heart and want to remain a virgin as long as it pleases Him. I know well that we are not here for ourselves, but rather maidens of the Lamb. If He orders it otherwise, we cannot resist Him. But I have to confess, that this gave me not a little pleasure.”

“Zweytens, dass du hast …. Mit über Zeugung deines Herzens und mit … deine Heirath abgeschlagen, und Jungfer bleiben, solange es Ihm gefallen wordt. Ich weiss wohl dass wir nicht unsre sindt, sondern Mägde des Lammes. Wenn Ers uns anders befiehlt, so können wir Ihm nicht wiederstehen: Aber Ich muss bekennen, dass es mich nicht wenig gefreut hatt.”

In November 1741, Anna returned to Germantown to set up the Girls School with Anna Margarethe Bechtel and to await Zinzendorf’s arrival.

On December 9, 1741, almost exactly a year after Anna’s arrival in America, Zinzendorf and his daughter, Benigna, arrived in Germantown. Due to his lack of both financial and linguistic preparation, the Count deferred to Anna, who used the unspent money she had been given in Herrnhut to help the Count. Zinzendorf also relied heavily on Anna’s knowledge of English to communicate with the other German settlers in the province. As Zinzendorf embarked on his plan to proselytize to the Native Americans and to try to unite the German sects in the colonies, Anna became a crucial factor in his success.

During Bethlehem’s earliest months, despite there being explicit plans to the contrary, Anna worked to establish the Single Sisters Choir (SMABY 1999). While Zinzendorf is having a mixed reception among the German Lutherans in Pennsylvania, maybe it is Anna’s enthusiasm about the prospect of working among the Native peoples that convinces Zinzendorf that she (now 27 years old) and his daughter (17!!) should accompany him on his difficult and dangerous travels into Indian country. Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. I have worked on the records of the Moravian Indian missions in Pennsylvania for a while now. In 1742, much of the territory that Zinzendorf wanted to cover was known only to the Native peoples who hunted and lived there. Colonial agents, such as Conrad Weiser, were highly dubious about Zinzendorf’s plans to meet with one of the most influential Iroquois chiefs (Shikellamy) who had just been sent by the Haudenosaunee to oversee the politically crucial confluence of the Susquehanna river. And here is this Count, with his teenage daughter and another young woman wanting to travel through Indian country to talk to the Shawnee who were very unfriendly towards anyone (even the Iroquois). Conrad Weiser agreed to help but I can only imagine him shaking his head at such foolishness.

In August 1742, she set off with Zinzendorf’s party into the Pennsylvanian backcountry to meet the chiefs of the prominent American Indian nations, primarily the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), the Mohican, and the Shawnee.

First, Anna traveled to the Mohican mission in Shekomeko, New York. Here she met with Jeannette Rau, who once married to Br. Martin Mack, quickly became a valuable missionary with her knowledge of the Mohican culture and language. The following month, Anna accompanied Zinzendorf to Shamokin, Pennsylvania, to meet with Shikellamy, the Oneida chief to discuss the possibility of Moravian missionaries working in the Haudenosaunee lands of Iroquoia that stretched across New York state and down into Pennsylvania.

Just up the West Branch, at Ostonwakin, Anna displayed her typical spirit of outreach in speaking at length with the celebrated interpreter between the Iroquois and the Colonial government, Madame Montour. In accounts of these travels into Indian country, Anna was always described as intrepid, taking the lead through difficult terrain, to the point where Zinzendorf had to hang on to her coattails to climb Shamokin mountain. She wrote thus: “The last journey was into the heart of their country, where we sojourned forty-nine days, encamping under the open heavens in a savage wilderness, amid wild beasts and venomous snakes.” (REICHEL 1870, 85n.) Her last foray into the wilds was a hazardous journey from Bethlehem to Ostonwakin on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and then on to the Wyoming Valley to meet with the Shawnee.

This definitely constituted the least successful and most dangerous of the meetings with the Native peoples, yet Anna returned safely with Zinzendorf to Bethlehem.

In January 1743, just over two years after she arrived in America, Anna embarked on the return trip to Europe. Her work in Pennsylvania was foundational: “If others reaped the harvest it was she that sowed the seed, and her name should be written in capitals in the church history of Pennsylvania, instead of being only casually mentioned !” (FRIES 1924, 134) On board the ship from New York to Dover, Anna writes back to Bethlehem: “As I never shall forget Pensilvania in generall so I think I shall remember thee also… an ever Dear Church of Sinners….. It is very weighty to me, that even from out of the English Nation, which hath Erred for so many years, trying many and various ways the Lord should gather a little Flock and bring it to rest on his Holy Wounds.” Life on board was rough, but in a separate letter to Brother Anton Seiffert dated March 1743 Anna describes her journey back to Europe. They Set sail on January 20 from New York and within 6 days had formed a Sea Cong. (they chose Elders). Everyone was seasick except Br Andrew the Negro and his wife. After experiencing two great storms that washed them onto a sandbank where wicked sailors tried to take advantage of them, they arrived Feb. 17 1743 in Dover and then continued on to London on Feb. 19.

In London, Anna stayed with Br. Hutton. However not for long. As Br Spangenberg was not in London but in Yorkshire, Zinzendorf, Benigna, and Anna N. travel on to Yorkshire by coach. Anna continued her work among the single sisters in Yorkshire, and Zinzendorf preaches to the assembled crowds on a Gemein Tag. They are like “hungry bees” she says (sometimes over 1000 people). She speaks about her experiences in Pennsylvania, and especially telling stories of the American Indians.

Once back in London, Anna meets with and preaches (in English) to 30 young women in the Fetter Lane Chapel, London. Those women in the audience were captivated by her words and, if not already members of the Fetter Lane Society, quickly joined.

Anna writes of this time: “On Sunday I held a Qr of an Hour with 30 young women together with 3 Bands. I with 10 Laborers and the 2 others with each 10 Sisters. I can make use of my little English here very well.” But, she assures her listeners, “Don’t you know, my Dr. Br. that the Bethlehem Brethren and Sisters are remarkable above all others?”

All this success had its results. After returning from America, Zinzendorf made Anna into the “Gemein-Mutter” of all women in the Moravian church and by so doing finally ousted his wife, Erdmuthe, from this position. After stops in Herrnhaag, Herrnhut and Ebersdorf, Anna continued on to Silesia and Riga, where she was imprisoned for 19 days in 1743/4.

For the next ten years, Anna continued her work with Zinzendorf in consolidating the Moravian congregations and helping him to weather the crisis of the so-called “Sifting Time”. In 1749 she returns to London with Zinzendorf and in June they travel again to the congregation in Yorkshire. What I find so fascinating in reading these accounts of Anna’s activities among the ordinary people of the Yorkshire countryside is how seamlessly she is able to slip into vernacular societies and languages. For example, the Fulneck Diary of the Tabernacles reports that on July 5, 1749 “the Ordinary and the Mother sang a good deal of the liturgies, hymns and other verses chiefly in English. “ The importance of the work in Pennsylvania is not forgotten but rather quite a pageant is put on to celebrate the anniversary, (and also Z’s birthday)

11.07. Fulneck Diary: Papa kept the midday ¼ hour and Christel the evening blessing. After the evening blessing our larger hall was very prettily illuminated and decorated because today was 11 years since our much-beloved Mother went to Pennsylvania, and secondly, we were celebrating again our much-beloved Papa’s 50th birthday (he had been 49 in May!!).

A large picture had been painted about the Mother’s departure, in which was seen how Papa and Mama had kept a lovefeast before she went. The Mother stood with her pilgrim staff in her hand and her clothes gathered up ready for going. Below was the Lamb’s text for the day of her departure 11 years ago: Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. In the middle of the hall the picture of Papa’s birthday was illuminated, and on the left hand side the picture completed by the single sisters. The whole room was covered with green and red cloth, and in the middle between the windows was a pretty throne behind which sat our dear and beloved heart with 50 wax candles burning on the gallery, which had been placed in a pretty manner. Next to the middle illumination stood 2 prettily decorated tables, filled on top with confectionary and wine (which had been arranged by the brethren and sisters). In front of one of the tables a large ‘L’ was to be seen and in front of the other ‘A C’ (Anna Caritas), which presented a very pretty picture. Papa, the Mother and the other hearts were very pleased and everyone was very pleased. This blessed lovefeast was closed with the kiss of peace an hour after midnight.

The event is also described in the Diary of the Tabernacles:

In the afternoon was a pleasant lovefeast in commemoration of the dear Mother’s going to Pennsylvania this day 9 years. Several verses made about that time by her and the Ordinary were read and sung, and it was with much pleasure taken notice of how much, even at this time, was felt and spoken of the sidehole of our Saviour. In the evening the brethren and sisters had prepared a lovefeast both with a view to the aforementioned commemoration of this day, as also to testify their hearty joy for having obtained the visit which they had so long wished for. The hall was adorned with lights and with several fine pictures that Br Heldt had painted, which were illuminated, and this being a cloth country, the floor and forms were covered with green and red cloth of their own manufactory. The Ordinary, the Mother, Anna Johanna and Christel, and indeed everybody there were heartily pleased with it, and the Ordinary among others sang a verse.

While in Yorkshire Anna and Anna Johanna Piesch, conduct the Speakings with the Single Sisters, while Zinzendorf and Christian Renatus conduct the Speakings among the Single Brethren. Interestingly, on Communion Day (July 25th) the diary speaks of “ Papa and the Mother shared in the Lord’s Supper with us, which was very important to us all. “ after Zinzendorf had consecrated the wine.

In 1756, Erdmuthe Zinzendorf died. Just a year later, on June 27, 1757, Zinzendorf married Anna Nitschmann and thereby transformed her from “Gemein-Mutter” to “Jüngerin.” Although subsequent church historians have considered the marriage to be an “Amts-Ehe,” a marriage that permitted Zinzendorf to work closely with his adoptive “sister” Anna, it was also commonly known to be a love match. The potentially scandalous marriage that crossed strict class lines was kept a secret from all but the inner circle of the church. Anna and Zinzendorf were married by Leonhard Dober in private in the Berthelsdorf castle, only publicly announced a year later, in November 1758.

Although Zinzendorf wanted a son, the marriage between him and Anna produced no children. Anna, now in her 40s, continued her heavy travel schedule throughout the German states with Zinzendorf. But the health of both was severely deteriorating. After spending his final weeks in the Herrschaftshaus in Herrnhut on May 9, 1760, Zinzendorf passed away, separated from Anna, who was also ailing in the Single Sisters House. It is recorded that, as his coffin passed her windows, Anna was able to stand and watch as it made its way up to the Gottesacker. Twelve days later, on May 21, 1760, Anna died and joined him on the Hutberg. She was buried next to him; on his other side was his first wife, Erdmuthe.

Anna Nitschmann’s legacy to the history of Pietism lies in her significant contribution to several branches of the Moravian Church; primarily mission work, hymnody, and religious leadership. Anna’s efficacy in the mission field was enormous. Although severely under-researched, archival evidence reveals that Anna Nitschmann was a superb missionary and leader. Her interactions with American Indians in Pennsylvania were effective and long-lasting, and her work establishing the Girls School in Philadelphia with Anna Margareta Bechtel (m.n. Büttner, Jungmann) was foundational. Furthermore, Anna Nitschmann was also an accomplished hymn writer, especially productive between the years of 1735 and 1748, composing while in Germany, England, and North America. For example, the 1741 Herrnhuter Gesangbuch contains 56 hymns of her composition, the most famous of which is Nr. 1027 “Verlobter König”. Despite later efforts to de-emphasize her importance, during her lifetime Anna Nitschmann was an object of widespread reverence. Archival records reveal lavish celebrations of her birthday throughout the Moravian world, from North America to Germany. Her death was as much of a shock to the Moravian church as was Zinzendorf’s.

However, it is important to consider what is missing from Anna Nitschmann’s archival records (SMABY 1997). Falling prey to the masking of female piety in post-1760 Bethlehem, the vast majority of her personal papers, diaries and letters were deliberately destroyed after her death (PEUCKER 2000); SMABY 1997 points to the additional, subtle ways in which Anna Nitschmann’s foundational activities were de-emphasized after 1761.

The recent discovery of a set of Anna Nitschmann’s addresses to the Single Sisters Choirs can give today’s reader some insight into her efficacy as a preacher (ZIMMERLING 2014, 253 and VOGT 1999). As mentioned above, both textual and visual evidence shows that Anna Nitschmann preached in America to men and women, both Quakers, Moravians, and other sects (VOGT 1999). Although VOGT 1999 argues that Anna preached only to other women in the Single Sisters choir and did not preach to men, FRIES 1924 argues the opposite. To date, biographers (JUNG 1999; ZIMMERLING 2005, 2014) have relied heavily on Anna Nitschmann’s own 1737 Lebenslauf. As PEUCKER 2000, SMABY 1997, and VOGT 1999 indicate, the deliberate destruction of Anna Nitschmann’s personal papers, letters, diaries, after her death in 1760 has relegated her to relative obscurity within the history of Pietism; however, her efficacy as a leader of Pietist women, a preacher, a hymn writer, and a missionary deserve more serious scholarly examination.

Bibliography

Fries, Adelaide L. Some Moravian Heroes. Bethlehem, Pa: Pub. by the Christian Education Board of the Moravian Church, 1936. Print.

Fries, Adelaide L. “The Lure of Historical Research.” North Carolina Historical Review. 1.2 (1924). Print.

Jung, Martin H. Frauen Des Pietismus: Von Johanna Regina Bengel Bis Erdmuthe Dorothea Von Zinzendorf : Zehn Porträts. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1998. Print.

Jung, Martin H. “mein Herz Brannte Richtig in Der Liebe Jesu”: Autobiographien Frommer Frauen Aus Pietismus Und Erweckungsbewegung: Eine Quellensammlung. Aachen: Shaker, 1999. Print.

Meyer, Dietrich. Lebensbilder Aus Der Brüdergemeine: Bd. 2. Herrnhut: Herrnhuter Verlag, 2014. Print.

Peucker, Paul. ‘In Staub und Asche’: Bewertung und Kassation im Unitätsarchiv, 1760–1810,” in Rudolf Mohr, ed., ”Alles ist euer, ihr aber seit Christi”: Festschrift für Dietrich Meyer (Cologne: Rheinland-Verlag, 2000) , 127-58.

Reichel, William, ed. : “Count Zinzendorf and the Indians, 1742.” Memorials of the Moravian Church. (1870): 9-140. Print.

Sawyer, Edwin A. These Fifteen: Pioneers of the Moravian Church. Bethlehem, Penn: Comenius Press, Moravian Church in America, 1963. Print.

Smaby, Beverly. “Female Piety Among Eighteenth-Century Moravians,” Pennsylvania History, 64, (Summer 1997): 151-67.

Vogt, Peter, “Herrnhuter Schwestern der Zinzendorfzeit als Predigerinnen” : Unitas Fratrum Heft 45/6 (1999): 29-60

Zimmerling, Peter, “Anna Nitschmann (1715-1760) Seelsorge unter Frauen” in Evangelische Seelsorgerinnen, Vandenhoek und Ruprecht, 2005, 103-123

Zimmerling, Peter. “Anna Nitschmann (1715-1760)” in Lebensbilder aus der Brüdergemeine vol. 2, ed. Dietrich Meyer, (Herrnhuter Verlag, Herrnhut, 2014), 245-258.

Anna Nitschmann: the Mother of the Church?

Anna Nitschmann: the Mother of the Church?

Talk, Moravian Seminary, February 2017

Abstract:

Katherine Faull of Bucknell University, Visiting Scholar for the Center for Moravian Studies at MTS, is spending this semester unearthing materials in various Moravian archives on the Chief Eldress Anna Nitschmann and her role in the Moravian Church in the 18th century. Faull is focusing on Nitschmann’s time in Pennsylvania, which was a watershed period for her in moving from being an eldress to being seen as the “Mutter” or Mother of the Moravian Church. Nitschmann was one of the founders of Bethlehem, was a pioneer missionary among Native Americans, and became one of Zinzendorf’s closest collaborators.

Dr. Faull is Professor of Humanities at Bucknell University and one of the leading figures in Moravian studies. Her latest book Instructions for Body and Soul has just been published by Penn State University Press.

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In Alexander Volck’s 1750 anti-Moravian tract, one of the deeds that proves for him the “Bosheiten” or wickednesses of the sect known as Herrnhuter, is that women have performed the sacrament of baptism. Volck writes that when Anna Nitschmann was in Pennsylvania there are accounts, some eye-witness, of her administering the sacrament of baptism to women: Anna Maria Seybold in particular. As there is plenty of evidence, Volck continues, for women participating in the “distributio” of the sacraments at communion, so why would anyone doubt that Anna Nitschmann also would perform baptisms?

Of course, to take the words of one the most virulent opponents of the Moravians as reliable would be risky, were it not for the ample evidence of Anna Nitschmann’s remarkable ministry prior to this point in 1742. Anna Nitschmann and her father were among the founders of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 275 years ago. However, although her position as a leader among women in the Moravian Church of the 18th century is often cited, little has actually been written about her that is based on archival sources in her own hand. Scholar after scholar who has attempted to write her biography has come up against two major problems when working on Anna Nitschmann.

One is what we might call, the “Anna Nitschmann legend” according to which, even during her lifetime, she became the paradigmatic Single Sister, elevated through poetry, song, verse, and art to an icon of female piety. As a paradigm of Moravian gender egalitarianism, she was also made into an anti-hero by Moravianism’s opponents.

The other problem is the almost complete lack of a scholarly biography of her, due not least to the deliberate purging of her personal correspondence, diaries, and papers after her death in 1760. Thus, when scholars have undertaken to write about her, they have relied heavily on Anna’s own memoir, written in 1737 when she was 22 and which ends therefore before her emigration out of Saxony with the Zinzendorf entourage and, importantly for this talk, before her departure for America. Furthermore, this precious memoir (Lebenslauf) did not appear in print in German until 84 years after her death (and then in extracts) and the only translation into English is 139 years old, appearing in the Messenger in 1878, again in abstracts.

Why is a reconsideration of Anna Nitschmann important? For women today she can act as a role model, as a paradigmatic female leader, as a pioneering female missionary to the Native Americans of Pennsylvania and New York, as the composer of hymns, as a woman who not only valued the agency of women but who worked with single women throughout most of her life to ensure that they saw their own strength and salvific value to the redemption of the world.

In the early years of the Moravian Church, Anna Nitschmann’s name occurs repeatedly in the memoirs of other women: whether Anna Johanna Piesch (Seidel) with whom she worked closely on the formation and guidance of the Single Sisters Choirs; or Anna Margarethe Jungmann, née Bechtel, whom she met in Philadelphia and with whom she and Benigna von Zinzendorf founded the Girls school that would later become Moravian College; or in conjunction with Anna Rosel Anders, another leader of the Single Sisters Choir. She worked in close conjunction with brothers and sisters and, I would argue, moved easily in and out of mixed groups in terms of gender and race. Named as Eldress of the Church at the age of 15, at the age of 30 she was elevated to the rank of Mutter/ Mother of the church. What did this mean and how did this happen?

What I want to suggest today is that Anna Nitschmann’s years in America were pivotal. They were a turning point in her own realization of her calling, in Zinzendorf’s estimation of her abilities, and also in the practice of her female leadership of the church. In 1740, before coming to America, Anna Nitschmann resigned from her office as General Eldress of the women because she was uncertain what would greet her in the New World. However, at the 1744 Synod at Marienborn it was decided that from then on, the General Eldress of the women should receive the title “Mutter” as she was working as the Vice-Regent of the Holy Spirit.

My research this semester has been focussed on unearthing archival evidence for my hypotheses about Anna Nitschmann. My research so far has taken me to the archives in Herrnhut, London, and here in Bethlehem, where I have begun to piece together textual evidence of Anna Nitschmann’s life. I have found letters embedded within other letters, accounts of her travels attached to others’ accounts; I have found that even her autobiography has been neglected as an important source document that tells not only what happened in her life to the age of 22 but also looks at how she chose to describe that life in the context of the larger generic conventions of the Moravian memoir. I have gone through uncatalogued packages of papers in the London archives that revealed, quite by surprise, that someone else wanted to write a biography of her in the 19th century to celebrate the Single Sisters Festival. And that ministers in small British Moravian congregations are remarkably helpful when they discover what I am trying to do.

So, despite the ravages of post-Zinzendorfian archival culling, and the 1940s London Blitz, there is hope!

Here are some of the terms used to describe Anna Nitschmann in extant scholarship:

Hero (A. Fries) “Handmaiden of the Lamb”

(Atnip) “Pietist and Leader of the Diakonie”

“One of 37 women who changed their world”

“A pioneer of the Moravian Church, Activist, A Moravian Foremother, A women of courage and valor, Preacher, Priest and maybe even Bishop” (Vernon Nelson)

Respected scholars, such as Beverly Smaby, Peter Vogt, Martin Jung, Peter Zimmerling and Lucinda Martin have all seen in Anna Nitschmann a figure that deconstructs the traditional notion of women’s agency in the 18th century. Not a passive heroine, who allows things to happen to her, Anna is a doer, truly a mover and shaker, which is probably why her papers were all destroyed. At a time when to be a single woman in society meant either destitution, servitude, or cloistering, Anna Nitschmann refused marriage multiple times so that she could follow what she felt called to do; namely, provide spiritual guidance to women, especially young women. And her efficacy in this calling can be measured by, as Beverly Smaby has pointed out, the success of the Single Sisters Choir in the mission congregations, especially here in Bethlehem. Originally there was not supposed to be a large Single Sisters Choir here, as the Sisters who came from Europe were to be married in order to work in the mission field. However, Anna’s success in attracting single women from the colonies meant that there had to be Single Sisters Choir here.

In his slim 1919 volume on Zinzendorf and women, occasioned by contemporary debates on women’s voting rights within the Moravian church, archivist Otto Uttendörfer researched the tradition of women’s agency within the Unity of the Brethren. Uttendörfer cites at great length Zinzendorf’s speeches and sermons to the married and single men and women on the topic of gender. In this volume, Uttendörfer is not interested in discussing the “marital mystery” of Zinzendorf’s theology or Sifting period language. Rather he focuses on the theory and practice of women in the church. The earliest extant text on this topic, Uttendörfer claims, is Zinzendorf’s speech to the women in Philadelphia in 1742 where he expounds on the moral and religious ideal of women. Women in Christianity, he argues, are blessed by the fact that they can hold inside them, contained and gestated, God, the Divine. Resonant of the Orthodox name for Mary, the Theotokos, mother of the Divine, Zinzendorf calls on women to conceive of themselves as carriers of the Divine. His sermons on women should also be heard by men, as men need to learn from women the way of the divine. The single sisters choir houses are to be seen as “Propheten-Schulen”, places where women lead not cloistered lives, but are educated to be leaders of faith.

In these SS choir houses, the spinning and weaving of cloth were two of the most prevalent economic and artisanal activities. In addition to producing vital goods (and income) for the Gemeine and the Choir, spinning and weaving are also traditional tropes of women’s wisdom. As we know from classical and medieval literature, the image of women at the loom has for 1000s of years signified an alternative realm of knowledge generation. Whether Penelope in the Odyssey, Clytemnestra in the Oresteia, or Christine de Pizan in the City of Women, the creation of cloth is also a creation of knowledge and narrative. Anna Nitschmann’s weaving, depicted in the celebration of her 30 years as an Eldress of the church, is an image of her other realm of knowledge acquisition and transmission. Listening to the words of the visiting Pietist scholars, Anna continues to work. If the choir houses are to be considered as the workshops of the divine, then it is no surprise that Zinzendorf also considers them to contain prophets and priests. By his definition, prophets are those who further the work of the choir; they have the authority to lead the choir in the right direction, and priests are those who work with the spiritual well-being of the choir. Thus for Zinzendorf, priestesses are eldresses, and prophets are female disciples (Jüngerinnen). Uttendörfer himself points to Zinzendorf’s extraordinary reliance upon women; a “Quäckerish” trait not approved of by all the leaders of the church, and that later led to the restrictions of women’s roles. But for Zinzendorf, Anna Nitschmann was both a priestess and a prophetess, and having witnessed her at work in America, in 1740 she also became the Mother of the Church,

Early on, the leaders of the Moravian church recognized Anna’s abilities as a potential leader in the nascent mission field of North America. In 1740, both Zinzendorf and August Spangenberg decided that Anna (at age 25) should accompany her father to the American colonies to work among the German-speaking people there. Both men considered Anna’s gender to be a decisive factor in their choice, in that it would allow her to better speak with the “haughty and independent” colonists (FRIES 1924). So, in July 1740, Anna wrote her farewell letter from London to the Gemeine, in anticipation that she would never return.

“Denkt auch an dieses Volk [Londoner Gemeinde] teuere Geschwister! Insonderheit auch an mich, eure arme Schwester! Ich habe nichts. Ich verlasse mich nun allein auf mein Lamm! Und auf euer Gebeth” (R.14.A.No. 26)

In fact, Anna Nitschmann’s years in North America (late 1740-January 1743) solidified her reputation as one of Pietism’s most important women leaders.  Anna Nitschmann left for America from London with David Nitschmann Episc., her father, David Nitschmann Sr, Christian Fröhlich, and Johanna Molther in late summer 1740. After an arduous journey, they arrived in Philadelphia on December 15, 1740, and traveled immediately to the Moravians’ newly purchased lands in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Many of the other German sects settled in the province, such as the Brethren at Ephrata Cloister, had heard of their arrival and subsequently came to visit with them. Anna’s “plan” was to work with these disparate groups, in the hope that her words, rather than those of a man, would bring them together in a truly ‘philadelphian’ ideal. To this end, Anna and her father traveled around Pennsylvania in the summer of 1741, visiting inter alia Conrad Beissel at Ephrata Cloister, and the Associated Brethren of Skippack, located in Falckner’s Swamp, south west of Bethlehem.

During her time here in Pennsylvania, Anna regularly wrote letters back to Herrnhut, to Benigna von Zinzendorf, to the Single Sisters Choir, and to those she had left in charge of that choir. In a letter dated April 1741, she describes her activities among the peoples of Pennsylvania, a place she says that is a huge confusion “ein gar grosses Gewirre” of different sects and varying religious opinions. Despite her judgment of this “Atlantic Babel”, she sees that the people here are waiting for salvation. She reports that in the three months since her arrival, she has already gathered 20 young women who are seeking the Savior; and they are just waiting for the school that she and Benigna are to found to open. (R.14.A.no.26) Although she lives with one of the Brethren of Skippack, she visits the Nazareth tract regularly and notices the many Native Americans who visit her. As she is working to clear the land, she is helped by the Native girls and young women to carry wood and water. O Benigna, she writes, if only you were here to work with them!

Anna’s magnetic presence attracts other young women. So, despite the plan that no single sisters choir should be founded in Bethlehem, Anna has other ideas. Not only has she gathered 20 young women together already, she writes, she is quite militant in her defense of their unmarried state. In another letter back to Herrnhut in April 1741, Anna congratulates Sister Brosel that she has refused the offer of marriage. Anna writes, ”I congratulate you, secondly, because you have refused your marriage with a conviction of your heart and want to remain a virgin as long as it pleases Him. I know well that we are not here for ourselves, but rather maidens of the Lamb. If He orders it otherwise, we cannot resist Him. But I have to confess, that this gave me not a little pleasure.”

In November 1741, Anna returned to Germantown to set up the Girls School with Anna Margarethe Bechtel and to await Zinzendorf’s arrival, which takes place on December 9, 1741. Almost exactly a year after Anna’s arrival in America, Zinzendorf and his daughter, Benigna, arrived in Germantown. Due to his lack of both financial and linguistic preparation, the Count deferred to Anna, who used the unspent money she had been given in Herrnhut to help the Count. Zinzendorf also relied heavily on Anna’s knowledge of English to communicate with the other German settlers in the province. As Zinzendorf embarked on his plan to proselytize to the Native Americans and to try to unite the German sects in the colonies, Anna became a crucial factor in his success.

While Zinzendorf is having a mixed reception among the German Lutherans in Pennsylvania, Anna’s enthusiasm about the prospect of working among the Native peoples helps to convince Zinzendorf that she (now 27 years old) and his daughter (17!!) should accompany him on his difficult and dangerous travels into Indian country.

In August 1742, she set off with Zinzendorf’s party into the Pennsylvanian backcountry to meet the chiefs of the prominent American Indian nations, primarily the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), the Mohican, and the Shawnee.

First, Anna traveled to the Mohican mission in Shekomeko, New York. Here she met with Jeannette Rau, who once married to Br. Martin Mack, quickly became a valuable missionary with her knowledge of the Mohican culture and language. The following month, Anna accompanied Zinzendorf to Shamokin, Pennsylvania, to meet with Shikellamy, the Oneida chief to discuss the possibility of Moravian missionaries working in the Haudenosaunee lands of Iroquoia that stretched across New York state and down into Pennsylvania.

Just up the West Branch, at Ostonwakin, Anna displayed her typical spirit of outreach in speaking at length with the celebrated interpreter between the Iroquois and the Colonial government, Madame Montour. In accounts of these travels into Indian country, Anna was always described as intrepid, taking the lead through difficult terrain, to the point where Zinzendorf had to hang on to her coattails to climb Shamokin mountain. She wrote thus: “The last journey was into the heart of their country, where we sojourned forty-nine days, encamping under the open heavens in a savage wilderness, amid wild beasts and venomous snakes.” (REICHEL 1870, 85n.) Her last foray into the wilds was a hazardous journey from Bethlehem to Ostonwakin on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and then on to the Wyoming Valley to meet with the Shawnee.

This definitely constituted the least successful and most dangerous of the meetings with the Native peoples, yet Anna returned safely with Zinzendorf to Bethlehem.

In January 1743, just over two years after she arrived in America, Anna embarked on the return trip to Europe. Her work in Pennsylvania was foundational: “If others reaped the harvest it was she that sowed the seed, and her name should be written in capitals in the church history of Pennsylvania, instead of being only casually mentioned !” (FRIES 1924, 134) On board the ship from New York to Dover, Anna writes back to Bethlehem:

“As I never shall forget Pensilvania in generall so I think I shall remember thee also… an ever Dear Church of Sinners….. It is very weighty to me, that even from out of the English Nation, which hath Erred for so many years, trying many and various ways the Lord should gather a little Flock and bring it to rest on his Holy Wounds.”

Life on board was rough, but in a separate letter to Brother Anton Seiffert dated March 1743 Anna describes her journey back to Europe. They Set sail on January 20 from New York and within 6 days had formed a Sea Cong. (they chose Elders). Everyone was seasick except Br Andrew the Negro and his wife. After experiencing two great storms that washed them onto a sandbank where wicked sailors tried to take advantage of them, they arrived Feb. 17, 1743, in Dover and then continued on to London on Feb. 19.

In London, Anna stayed with Br. Hutton. However not for long. As Br Spangenberg was not in London but in Yorkshire, Zinzendorf, Benigna, and Anna N. travel on to Yorkshire by coach. Anna continued her work among the single sisters in Yorkshire, and Zinzendorf preaches to the assembled crowds on a Gemein Tag. They are like “hungry bees” she says (sometimes over 1000 people). She speaks about her experiences in Pennsylvania and especially tells stories of the American Indians.

Once back in London, Anna meets with and preaches (in English) to 30 young women in the Fetter Lane Chapel, London. Those women in the audience were captivated by her words and, if not already members of the Fetter Lane Society, quickly joined.

Anna writes of this time: “On Sunday I held a Qr of an Hour with 30 young women together with 3 Bands. I with 10 Laborers and the 2 others with each 10 Sisters. I can make use of my little English here very well.” But, she assures her listeners, “Don’t you know, my Dr. Br. that the Bethlehem Brethren and Sisters are remarkable above all others?”

All this success had its results. After returning from America, Zinzendorf made Anna into the “Gemein-Mutter” of all women in the Moravian church and by so doing finally ousted his wife, Erdmuthe, from this position.

Anna Nitschmann’s legacy to the history of Pietism lies in her significant contribution to several branches of the Moravian Church; primarily mission work, hymnody, and religious leadership. Anna’s efficacy in the mission field was enormous. Although severely under-researched, archival evidence reveals that Anna Nitschmann was a superb missionary and leader. Her interactions with American Indians in Pennsylvania were effective and long-lasting, and her work establishing the Girls School in Philadelphia with Anna Margaretha Bechtel (m.n. Büttner, Jungmann) was foundational. Furthermore, Anna Nitschmann was also an accomplished hymn writer, especially productive between the years of 1735 and 1748, composing while in Germany, England, and North America. For example, the 1741 Herrnhuter Gesangbuch contains 56 hymns of her composition, the most famous of which is Nr. 1027 “Verlobter König”. Despite later efforts to de-emphasize her importance, during her lifetime Anna Nitschmann was an object of widespread reverence. Archival records reveal lavish celebrations of her birthday throughout the Moravian world, from North America to Germany. Her death was as much of a shock to the Moravian church as was Zinzendorf’s.

The recent discovery of a set of Anna Nitschmann’s addresses to the Single Sisters Choirs can give today’s reader some insight into her efficacy as a preacher (ZIMMERLING 2014, 253 and VOGT 1999). As mentioned above, both textual and visual evidence shows that Anna Nitschmann preached in America to men and women, both Quakers, Moravians, and other sects (VOGT 1999). Although VOGT 1999 argues that Anna preached only to other women in the Single Sisters choir and did not preach to men, FRIES 1924 argues the opposite.

To return to the point with which I began this talk: namely, Anna Nitschmann’s activities in America make this period a watershed moment in both her life and also in the history of the church; years that make her in 1746 officially into the “Mother of the Church”.

  • What importance does the office of Mother of the Church have for Moravians today?
  • How does this inflect the way in which we think of the role of women in the Church?
  • Was Zinzendorf’s notion of female piety emancipatory?

 

On the necessity of the untranslatable

In the summer of 2014, I visited my mother’s birthplace, Forst/Lausitz, an unassuming town located on both sides of the Neiße river, intentionally developed as a production center for textiles and cloth in the 18th century by the Saxon statesman, Carl von Brühl.

Like his nearby palace, Pförten, Forst was devastated by a repeated change of hands; from the Seven Years War to the end of the Second World War the geopolitics of Central Europe determined its fate.  In 1945, as the Ukrainian divisions approached the Neiße, the German army gave the order to blow up all the bridges that connected the eastern side of the town with the west.  And so the bridges have remained; like snapped off rods, jutting out across the river and its low banks.

As a child, the mysteriously overgrown and unattainable other side of the river haunted/taunted me.  Innocent of the consequences, one afternoon, while our parents were visiting old friends who lived on the cobblestoned street that ran along the river, my sister and I went down to the bank and she asked me to take her photograph.  I dutifully obeyed, only to be accosted by an East German border guard who demanded to have the film from the camera.  Taking photographs of the state border was forbidden.  My mother, who must have been watching from the window, flew downstairs and explained to the incensed border guard that we were just children, how did we know that those prettily striped poles on either side of the bombed bridge signified a geopolitical flashpoint?  He looked at her with sheer amazement and then took our film.

Since that moment, borders have evoked fear in me.  Maybe from an early  encounter with the invisible lines drawn through cities and landscapes that have the power to trigger “the shoot to kill” policy of the inner-German state division, or traumatic experiences at US immigration checkpoints, I await the moment where my right to travel across that bridge, or through that port of entry, is revoked.  Maybe that is why I have been drawn to translation theory and its subsequent field of study in a romantic mission to rebuild those exploded bridges.  Maybe I too have been guilty of the attempt of translation studies to use “border crossing” as a prime metaphor of general equivalence, a location of meaning exchange and interdisciplinarity.  Maybe I too see the new German/Polish border crossing just up the river from Forst, where the checkpoints were built but never used, as a “space of flow” in a new European world order.  This  travel  without checkpoints, however, does not take us to a translation zone of positive interchangeability.  It produces a narrow zone where the Euro and German are the accepted currency, where Germans go to buy cheap petrol and cigarettes (and maybe a bunch of flowers, too) and then hastily return home, away from the gazes of the linguistic and cultural other.  Drive too far out of this zone, and you pay with sloty and  communicate in Polish.

So, what is Emily Apter’s project on untranslatability about, with her  provocatively named volume that positions itself immediately as an “against,” invoking the dialectic that she claims to so vehemently oppose in her chapter on chronology?  Is it to expose translations as “instruments of global consumption”?  Is to to argue for the de-provincialization of the canon?  Is it to introduce “indigestibles” to this mass consumption and then to make of the indigestible untranslatables the “fulcrum of comparative literature”?  Is it to foreground a kind of “glossolalia” that defies translation, a speaking in (non-referential) tongues that no-one understands? How does she deal with the semiotics of the Untranslatable that evoke God, logos, truth, Derridean transcendental signifieds?

What Apter claims to be promoting is a translational activity of “verkehrte Wahlverwandtschaften”, disruptive elective affinities that replace the organic ones, the false friends of translation that lead us down the slippery path of assumed equivalence (think for example of the horrors of the “Handy” or “Public Viewing” in German).  Or a World Literature that is “an experiment in national sublation that signs itself as collective, terrestrial property.” (p. 15)  More “War and Peace”?  The example she provides of such a successful translation and production of World Literature is Alain Badiou’s hypertranslation of Plato’s Republic, a work that demands both the closest of readings, “channeling Plato” (maybe understanding Plato “on his own terms” pace Lefevere), absolute comprehension, and what I would call an adaption where the cave becomes a movie theater.  The untranslatable, as the Stein des Anstoßes, produces new knowledge, it becomes an “epistemological fulcrum for rethinking philosophical concepts and discourses of the humanities.” (p. 31)  And hopefully not a fetish object of the new world order.

This then would seem to be the reason for her fascination with the Dictionary of Untranslatables.  Celebrating mistranslations, sophistry, and logology, Apter invites us to to survey this cartography of philosophical differences.  Writing about the entry on “pravda” Apter sees the untranslatable as “militant semiotic intransigence,” the remainder of translation that has the potential to undercut national language ontologies but still resorts to nationalistic essentialist thought (you know, my Weltschmerz is not accessible to you because only the Germans feel it in their Waldeinsamkeit).  Can the zone of untranslatability become a new Habermasian  public sphere, a negotiation zone between languages and cultures that undercuts nations?  And how can we fit World Literature into such a zone?  Does it then consist of an “enlightened common culture,” an ecologically aware “planetarity,” a literary world system that foregrounds a poetics of difference and a cartography of scale that is the very stuff of Comparative Literature?

This zone of untranslatability might be so large, so filled with the HUGE DATA of world literature, that only the philological tools of the telescope/microscope in Moretti’s Literature Lab can navigate it.  How do we read so much and not reduce it to the easily digestible pap of globalized fast food?  Reaching for the utensils of systems theory, Moretti developed the mathematical modelling of the dynamics of the economy, the spread of disease, the neural networks to examine the evolution of literature (the novel as a genus-gene-genre).  Only in exile, she claims, he claims, do these genres bear great fruit.  “Are new genres made by virtue of translation failure? Does differentiation come at the expense of hybridity? (see Apter 2014, p. 50).  Forgiving his Eurocentric focus, Apter recognizes the potential of Moretti’s notion of a global web/system.  She sees his quantitative formalism as a way in which to map/grid the small/micro politics of a literary work to the global/macro political context.  Such excitement in the hyperbole of Stanford’s Literary Lab, who describe  themselves as space men exploring the great unmapped territories of the great unread oeuvre of the novel, might be a way forward for the field.  But I don’t think Apter is quite sure, yet.

If we might be able to create a translation zone with the DH tools of Stanford’s Literary Lab, we must still beware the traps of periodization.  In the discussion of three core courses in Comparative Humanities we have these discussions all the time.  How do we deal with the given that critical traditions are embedded within European typologies? How do we navigate the totalizing nomenclature of World Literature (Chinese art, Japanese modernism, Russian music)? How do we develop a translational literary history that is not determined by “fetish dates” of Eurochronology?

Our colleague at Penn State Eric Hayot proposes breaking down periodicity by focusing on one year and then building out from that (we started HUMN 250 like that); our ex-colleague Kathleen Davies points out the link between periodization and cultural political categories (exemplified in the names around the Carnegie Building on campus-a prime example of “tycoon medievalism”).

Like Nietzsche, we should instead reject the Hegelian dialectic, disable linear history, and subvert periodization, producing a “verkehrte Geschichte,” thoughts that are not of the season in sequences that perhaps reflect more of a Benjaminian sense of the “Jetztzeit.”  The action of politics on time, an Untranslatable now.

In her interrogation of world literature and translation studies, Apter may frustrate the reader with a style that deliberately trips us up with incessant bibliographical references, complex sentences, and obtuse neologisms and revived archaisms.  But this also wakes the reader up to the potentially sloppy thinking that has accompanied the spread and study of world literature and the practice that makes it possible, translation.  Border zones, interlingual and intercultural spaces should not be seen as places of equivalence but rather thresholds of untranslatability and blockades.  But, in order to be able to argue this, Apter has chosen her borders carefully.  How would she parse the discrete “Mauerweg” that surrounds what was West Berlin?  Where once the “Todesstreifen” signaled the impassable divide between eastern and western bloc, there is now a bike path, flanked by blind lampposts, curved like shepherd’s crooks, that has melded into the landscape.  Unlike the bombed bridges of my mother’s hometown, here is an untranslatable border.

Recent(ish) Translation Reviews

As part of the first blog for my seminar on translation, I ask students to look at the London Review of Books and The New York Times Book Reviews for reviews of translations.  What kinds of terms are used to review the works, and how much of the review is actually dedicated to evaluating the translation?

Here are my findings:


LRB
vol. 22 No. 17 · 7 September 2000 pages 27-28 | 2549 words
Vendetta
Gerald Hammond

  • The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel by Robert Alter
    Norton, 410 pp, £19.95, October 1999, ISBN 0 393 04803 9

Robert Alter established a whole school of literary appreciation of the Bible some twenty years ago with a pioneering book on Biblical narrative. Now he gives us his own translation and commentary on the most literary of all the Bible’s narratives, the story of David. The translation is conservative, fully in line with the Authorised Version (and all the better for that). The commentary is up to date, absorbing not only the latest scholarship but concentrating on the extraordinary narrative power of the story of family vendetta and power politics which spans the two books of Samuel. A large part of its first half recounts the battle of wills between Saul and David. Saul is the original charismatic leader whose grip on power weakens as David, the true hero of the Old Testament, its poet and its once and future king, moves to the centre of the story. If Saul is the model for Macbeth, David is the model for Henry V.

 


What We Know

Peter Green

  • Buy Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works by Diane Rayor
    Cambridge, 173 pp, £40.00, July 2014, ISBN 978 1 107 02359 8

How, then, do Diane Rayor, André Lardinois and the editorial staff of Cambridge University Press deal with this daunting situation? Not, at first sight, in the most encouraging manner. The subtitle attached to Rayor’s new translation of Sappho declares it to be ‘of the complete works’. If only! Lardinois’s useful introduction begins by noting that very little survives of Sappho’s poetry, which moreover ‘is often hard to read, because of its fragmentary state, and very difficult to interpret’. A new translation can offer no more than one scholar’s reading (to a great extent arbitrary) of other scholars’ editions. Sappho’s Aeolic Greek is extraordinarily difficult, and establishing the texts of her poems – especially those reconstructed from lacuna-ridden and often near illegible scraps of papyrus – is largely a matter of guesswork and speculative emendation. It’s a case crying out for a double-page presentation of English and Greek, the latter consisting, at the minimum, of the editor’s text from which the translator worked, and, for preference (given the exceptionally high degree of uncertainty), a basic apparatus criticus of variant readings and other suggested supplements. The opportunity was not taken here, perhaps in response to the usual mistaken notions of what the hypothetical general reader will put up with.

In her note on translation, she identifies her double goal as ‘accuracy guided by the best textual editions and recent scholarship, and poetry’. As far as the accuracy goes, ambiguities and all, she has, despite the occasional quibble (tolmaton, for instance, means ‘endurable’ rather than what ‘must be endured’), gone to great lengths to establish throughout the likeliest interpretation of Sappho’s often baffling Aeolic Greek. This is no small achievement. As far as plain meaning goes, hers is probably the most reliable, as it is the most up-to-date and exhaustive translation available. Where there are two possible readings (e.g. is Aphrodite poikilothron’ or poikilophron’, richly enthroned or subtle-minded?) she explains each in a note, so that even if the reader disagrees with her choice (as in this case I do, preferring the second) the alternative is ready to hand. As far as up-to-dateness goes, she’s managed to include, in a last-minute appendix, the so-called ‘Brothers Song’, about Charaxos and Larichos, the larger part of which was only discovered, edited from papyrus and published by Dirk Obbink as recently as 2014.


Heaney translates the Virgilian hexameter into a loose five-beat line. As the Cumaean Sibyl remarks to Aeneas, the problem with the underworld lies not in the outbound journey but in the return:

It is easy to descend into Avernus.
Death’s dark door stands open day and night.
But to retrace your steps and get back to upper air,
That is the task, that is the undertaking.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/books/review/new-translations-of-tolstoys-anna-karenina.html?_r=0

On the history of translating Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina


 

Here are also some “Untranslatables” from my reading and experience:  “mantra”; “Weltanschauung”; “orenda”; Waldeinsamkeit; gemütlich; Zeitgeist; dharma; Gemeine;