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Emma Kriewaldt – Diary of a Pastor’s Wife

Emma Kriewaldt - Diary of a Pastor's Wife

Emma Bertha Kriewaldt nee Eberlein (1872-1947)

Diaries kept 1889-1916

Emma Eberlein grew up in Shawano, Wisconsin, USA, where she was baptised and confirmed in the St James congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (where Theodor Nickel, who later came to Australia, was the pastor). In 1895, as a twenty-three-year-old newlywed, Emma moved to Lobethal in South Australia with her husband Emil Kriewaldt, who had been called to serve there as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Australia (ELSA). Emma companied her husband from Lobethal, where he served for 15 years, to Hochkirch (now Tarrington) in rural Victoria. After Emil’s death in 1916, Emma took her children back to live in the USA, where her youngest son Emil, like his father, studied for the pastoral ministry at Concordia Seminary St Louis. The family returned to Australia after Emil’s graduation in 1925. Emma lived most of the rest of her life with her sons, eventually settling with her son Emil in Brinkworth, where he was the pastor. She passed away at Blyth Hospital in 1947.

Emma’s diaries are written across nine volumes, which were gathered
together and deposited by descendants of the Kriewaldt family in 2015. Unusually for the time, Emma wrote in English, though in some passages, she reports conversations in German using the German Kurrentschrift.

The Diaries

Emma began her first diary in 1889 at the age of sixteen, at which time she was working as school-teacher and visiting home in the holidays. In addition to her candid reflections on the state of the world, human nature, and her own Christian faith, the confusions of her uncertain courtship with ‘E.K.’ feature in almost every entry. The diary of Emma’s teenage years in the US breaks off in December 1892. Eight years later, when she addresses her ‘dear diary’ again in May 1901, she has a great deal to report. “Whoever dreamed that the simple little girl who wrote to you in America would one day continue the story in Australia? Yes, really Australia.” Meanwhile, Emil Kriewaldt – “the hero of my young days” – is now her husband, with whom she has been married for six years and had three little boys. She explains that Emil had found and read her teenage diaries – “to his great edification I hope” – and encouraged her to resume writing. She did so, and continued to write regularly (generally several times a month) for the next fifteen years until 1916.

Emma Kriewaldt’s diaries give us a deeply personal insight into an important facet of Australian Lutheran history. Her husband Emil Kriewaldt was one of many US pastors of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) who were called to serve in congregations in Australia. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, before local Australian seminaries were firmly established, the seminaries of the LCMS were the primary means by which the ELSA synod bolstered its ranks of pastors. (By contrast, the synods which eventually united as UELCA drew their pastors primarily from seminaries and mission societies in Germany.) Emma describes her husband’s decision to take the call to Australia, parting from friends and family, with matter-of-fact pragmatism: “he considered it his duty to go. And I, I considered it my duty to accompany him if he went, that is the whole matter in a nutshell.” Though Emma reflects only briefly on “the pains of parting and the homesickness, the tears and the longing, a longing which has not ceased even at present”, it is clear throughout her diaries that her homeland remained dear to her. Reflecting on the pomp and show of Australia’s Federation in 1901, she writes, “I have lived here nearly six years, I have voted at the polls, but I am an American still. One star of the American flag is dearer to me than all the flags of Great British Empire put together.” Upon hearing that her former pastor in the US, Theodor Nickel, was coming to Australia, she rejoices, “Why, it will be just like going back to Shawano!”

Emma’s accounts tell us much about the conditions of life and work for early pastors in Australia. The toll of frequent, long-distance travel in all weather, constant struggles with illness and injury, and the stress of congregational and synodical conflict are common themes. Her descriptions of everyday life highlight the unique role of the pastor’s wife, with its parallel responsibilities and trials. In addition to running a household and bringing up a family in the frequent absence of her husband, Emma played the organ, took an active role in the Ladies Guild, occasionally taught in the school, and supported and cared for her husband through times of stress and ill health – not to mention cleaning the house to host the General Church Council.

Even more personally, Emma’s diaries gives us a glimpse into her life of faith, and how it was lived out day by day, in sickness and health, worrying and rejoicing. In Emma’s diaries, we see a faith active in the ‘nitty gritty’ of everyday life: enduring in suffering, giving thanks in times of relief and blessing, and always reminding herself to trust in God, casting her anxieties upon him and holding fast to his promises.

Emma Kriewaldt is one of a number of Lutheran women and pastors’ wives who recorded their stories in documents which survive at Lutheran Archives. Others include:

  • Luise Homann nee Wendlandt nee Bensen, wife of Pastor Ernst Homann. Original journal held at Lutheran Archives. Published life-story based on journal edited by Olga Hardy, Like a Bird on the Wing (Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1984).
  • Anna Ey nee Oster, wife of Pastor J. M. R. Ey I. Original memoirs held at Lutheran Archives. Published in translation by D. M. Freund as Early Lutheran Congregations in South Australia: memoirs of a pastor’s wife.
  • Pauline Hoffmann nee Oster, sister of Anna Ey. Translated by Elsa Hoffmann. Original memoirs held at Lutheran Archives.
  • Emilia Appelt nee Temme. Original diaries held at Lutheran Archives. Translation by Vida Hoopmann, edited and published by Samuel Doering, The Diary of Emilie Appelt: Eudundan – German – Lutheran – Woman, 1904-1914 (2022).
  • Christiane Hiller nee Petschel, wife of Pastor C. G. Hiller. Original memoirs held at Lutheran Archives. Extract published in Emigrants on the Alfred, 1848 (Friends of Lutheran Archives, 2003), translated and edited by Thomas A. Darragh.
  • Hildegard Lohe nee Völter, wife of Pastor J. P. Lohe. Extensive original correspondence with family in Germany and friends in Australia (including many fellow pastors’ wives) held at Lutheran Archives.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that names, records and images of deceased persons occur within our collection.