Frauenverein (German Ladies' Society for the Relief of Destitute Widows, Orphans, and Sick Persons)

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The Frauenverein was a German-American women's charitable society in New York. Its officers and members included prominent German-American women. William Steinway supported the society and mentioned it regularly in his diary.

The Frauenverein was established in 1844 by the congregants of St. Matthew's Church as the brainchild of the deceased pastor, Dr. Stohlmann. (2) Formed with little money, the purpose of the club was to provide relief to widows and orphans through visits and gifts of food and clothing. The club grew quickly and within two years the Frauenverein had 102 members and had given aid totaling $528 to 220 cases.(1) The Society's constitution at first limited aid to members of St. Matthew's, but because many non-parish women joined the society, the By-laws were changed in 1848 allowing aid to help all needy persons without consideration of their religious beliefs.(2)

The Frauenverein's capital fund was created in 1857 with the aid of Mrs. Marie Magdalena Guenther, who gave the Frauenverein a gift of $800 that she had saved from her earnings as a seamstress.(3) Her husband, C.G. Guenther, followed with a $5,000 gift in 1858.(2) In 1870, the estate of W.H. Guenther, their son, gave the Frauenverein its first legacy: $5,000.(1)(3) Mrs. Anna Ottendorfer bequeathed $10,000 to the society in 1884.(1)The Frauenverein kept its capital in trust and expended only interest.(1) By January 1, 1895, the society's assets amounted to $40,183.03.(2) The Frauenverein's annual report that year stated that it had aided 4,010 cases totaling $7,500 (1) Membership stood at 336 women (2).

The Frauenverein's operations covered Manhattan and were divided into 26 districts.(1) Several of the women mentioned in William's diary worked for the society: Mrs. Louisa Kruesi, former governess to the Steinway family, was the manager of the 2nd and 5th districts on the East Side(1): Mrs. Ams, president of the Frauenverein in 1894-95, was manager of the 5th district on the West Side.(1) William wrote of working with Mrs. Ams on the Frauenverein's 50th anniversary celebration concert. (Diary, 1894-12-22, 1895-01-12, 1895-02-23, 1895-03-22)

In 1876, the Frauenverein was given rent free offices in Steinway Hall.(1) The Liederkranz also let the society use a room in Liederkranz Hall(2). By 1895, William Steinway had arranged 28 Frauenverein concerts, raising $63,000 to support the society's charitable efforts.(2) He mentioned arranging these concerts throughout the years in his diary and critiqued the singers' performances. William Steinway arranged "an unusually varied program"(2) for the Frauenverein's 50th anniversary celebration at Carnegie Hall on March 20, 1895.(Diary, 1895-03-06) When Carl Schurz spoke at the Golden Jubilee celebration he singled out William Steinway for his support of the Frauenverein: He "never hesitated to interrupt his heavy business obligations to arrange concerts and entertainments from which the Verein for many years received its income.... The only reward he receives is a warm thank you from the ladies of the Verein and recognition from his fellow citizens who have a heart for those who suffer."(3) Schurz said of the members and officers of the Frauenverein: "They will find the best satisfaction in the blessings wished on them by the unfortunate to whom they were heavenly missionaries of help and hope."(3)



  1. "A Great German Charity," The New York Times, February 17, 1895, p. 24.
  2. "A Half Century in the Service of Human Kindness," New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, March 24, 1895, p. 1.
  3. "German Frauenverein: the Golden Anniversary of the German Samaritans," New-Yorker-Staats-Zeitung, March 27, 1895, p. 9.