Thielman, Sarah Dekker (1878-1968)

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Sarah Dekker Thielman: midwife and pioneer; born 14 April 1878 in Kleefeld, South Russia, to Andreas and Sarah (Schmidt) Dekker. She was the fourth of seven children in the family, all of whom survived childhood. Sarah was baptized on 16 May 1894 in Lugowsk, Samara, South Russia. On 19 November 1911, she married David Thielman, son of Martin and Helena (Kaethler) Thielman of the Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, in the town of Barnaul in the Barnaul Mennonite Settlement, Asiatic Russia. The couple had three sons, one of whom died as a child. Sarah died on 10 December 1967 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

When Sarah was still young, she and her family traveled by horse and wagon from Kleefeld to Samara, where they settled onto a farm and where Sarah completed her elementary and secondary education. After finishing her basic studies, she trained in St. Petersburg to become a midwife, an occupation she practiced throughout her career both in Russia and Canada. Meanwhile, she was baptized and joined the local church on 16 May 1894 in Lugowsk, Samara. She remained active in the churches she attended throughout her life.

In 1911, Sarah moved to the Barnaul Mennonite Settlement in Siberia, where she married David Thielman later that year. David was a teacher and minister, ordained in Schöntal, Barnaul, in 1913. Over the next years in Siberia, Sarah continued to work as a midwife. Between 1909 and 1941, she kept a journal of her work, recording the births she attended for both Mennonite and non-Mennonite women. Throughout her career in Siberia and Canada, she assisted with hundreds of births in her village and among the other communities in the area. In Canada also, she worked among many non-Mennonite families as well as among her own people. 

In 1929, the Thielmans immigrated to Canada, living first in Glenbush, Saskatchewan, and then in about 1941 moving to Beamsville, Ontario, where they owned a fruit farm. They became members of the Vineland Mennonite Brethren Church in Vineland, Ontario, where David resumed his work as a minister. Sarah took up her work as a midwife again in Saskatchewan and Ontario and continued to maintain a record of her work in Canada. David died in 1959 in Ontario. Sarah suffered from heart trouble for several years before her death and near the end of her life had difficulty breathing. She died of her illness on 10 December 1967 in St. Catharines, Ontario, at the age of 89.

Sarah Dekker Thielman was a dedicated midwife who devoted her career to helping mothers and children of all backgrounds. Through the work she did in Siberia and Canada, she had a profound impact on the people of her own community and of many different groups. She was an example of openness and commitment to everyone she encountered through her work, family, church, and personal life.


Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. "Sarah Thielman (1878-1968)." Web. 13 July 2010.

Epp, Marlene. "The Transnational Labour of Mennonite Midwives in Siberia, Asiatic Russia, and Canada." Mennonite Studies Abstracts No. 6. Web. 13 July 2010.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.19 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005: #78005.

Die Mennonitische Rundschau (17 Feb. 1968): 11.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published 2010

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MLA style

Huebert, Susan. "Thielman, Sarah Dekker (1878-1968)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2010. Web. 27 Sep 2020.,_Sarah_Dekker_(1878-1968)&oldid=165982.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (2010). Thielman, Sarah Dekker (1878-1968). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 September 2020, from,_Sarah_Dekker_(1878-1968)&oldid=165982.

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