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Elisabeth Fedde was born in Feda, near Flekkefjord, in Vest-Agder county in southern Norway. Her father was a seaman who retired when his wife became ill and become a farmer. She had six siblings. After her father died in 1873, Elisabeth trained as a deaconess at the Lovisenberg Deaconess House in Kristiania under the supervision of Mother Katinka Guldberg, who had herself been trained at the Fliedner Motherhouse in Kaiserswerth, Germany.
Fedde spent much of her early ministerial career Norway's newest and northernmost diocese. She and another young deaconess established a medical house in Tromsø, the largest city in Troms county, in 1878, where they lived and worked under harsh and primitive conditions. On Christmas day, 1882 (also her thirty-second birthday), Sister Elisabeth received a letter from her brother Gabriel Fedde, challenging her to set up a ministry in New York City for Norwegian seamen there. She sailed for the United States three months later and arrived on April 9, 1883.
Nine days later, Sister Elisabeth helped found the Norwegian Relief Society, thus establishing her American ministry. Pastor Andreas Mortensen, whom Gabriel Fedde had served as secretary (after marrying the sister of the Swedish/Norwegian consul in New York), presided over the service establishing the society. Sister Elizabeth established a boarding house at 109 Williams Street, near the Seaman’s Church (where Rev. Mortensen served), and rented out three small rooms at $9 per month. Sister Elisabeth also often visited the sick and distressed poor; her diary about those experiences was later published.
In 1885, Fedde opened a deaconess house to train other women, as well as a nine-bed hospital that expanded to 30 beds and ultimately became Lutheran Medical Center of Brooklyn. After several years in New York (during which she corresponded with William Passavant who urged her to take charge of his new hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Fedde accepted the invitation of midwestern Lutherans and moved to Minnesota. Shortly after she arrived in Minneapolis in 1888, Fedde established the Lutheran Deaconess Home. The next year she helped found the Hospital of the Lutheran Free Church. Fedde also helped Mortensen plan for a third hospital in Chicago (which opened in 1897), and another in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Eventually, exhausted by her thirteen years working in America, Sister Elisabeth returned to Norway in November 1895. Shortly after her return, she married the patient Ole Slettebo, a suitor whom she had left to conduct her missionary work. After nearly a decade on his farm near the southern port city of Egersund, Rogaland, Fedde sailed back to Brooklyn in 1904 to celebrate an anniversary. Sister Elisabeth Fedde died on February 25, 1921, and her husband Ole three years later.
- Elisabeth Fedde (Store norske leksikon(
- Memoirs of Sister Elizabeth (translated by P. J. Hertsgaard. Norwegian-American Studies and Records, Volume 20)
- Elizabeth Fedde's Diary, 1888 (translated and edited by Beulah Folkedahl. Norwegian-American Historical Association. Volume 20: Page 170)
- Lutheran Medical Center and School of Nursing, Brooklyn, New York(Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
- Sister Elizabeth Fedde of Norway (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
- Rolfsrud, E. N. The Borrowed Sister. The Story of Elisabeth Fedde (Minneapolis, MN: 1953)