The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber

THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Landmann, Barbara Heinemann
(January 11, 1795–May 21, 1883)

–an important spiritual leader and the last divinely inspired Werkzeug (instrument) of the Amana Society—was born in Leitersweiler, Alsace. Her father, Peter Heinemann, in all probability was Protestant. By her own account, Landmann's parents were poor and insisted early that she find employment to aid the family's finances. At the age of nine, she began working in a nearby woolen factory and later took a job as a maid at an inn. In the summer of 1817, when she was 22, she was suddenly seized by a feeling of inexplicable sorrow. Pondering its meaning, she realized that she "did not know God."Unable to work, she returned home and began a period of spiritual searching that culminated in a vision.

    Seeking an understanding of and context for her inner spiritual promptings, Barbara Heinemann affiliated with the Community of True Inspiration, a separatist Pietist sect that had been founded in 1714 in Hessen, Germany. One of the distinguishing beliefs of the Inspirationists was that God's will continued to be revealed through Werkzeuge (instru ments), as in the days of the prophets. The Inspirationists were then in the midst of a "reawakening" triggered by the appearance of a new divinely inspired instrument. This instrument prophesied that Heinemann would receive the "gift of inspiration," and soon thereafter she began to deliver inspired testimonies. In one of these she foretold the inspiration of another young member, Christian Metz.

    Heinemann played a central role in a series of interpersonal tensions that marred the group's next few years. The tensions arose from disparaging attitudes held by several powerful members of the community due to her sex and her lower-class origins. She met these difficulties with humility but resolve, and emerged as the group's only Werkzeug. At that time, Heinemann began to have amorous feelings for George Landmann, but the elders threatened her with banishment if she acted on them. In January 1823 Metz became inspired. In May Heinemann suddenly lost her inspiration and that summer married Landmann.

    For the next 26 years she remained a loyal, but ordinary, Inspirationist. It was a dynamic period in the community's history. In the face of persecution, the Inspirationists emigrated to the United States. They settled near Buffalo, New York, as the Ebenezer Society, adopting a system of common property ownership, collective labor, and cradle-to-grave support for the members. In 1855 the community relocated to Iowa and renamed itself the Amana Society.

    While still in Ebenezer, following several inspired intimations from Metz, Landmann, 54 and childless, again received the gift of inspiration. From that point on, her status as a Werkzeug in the community was secure, but clearly second to Metz's. Since women did not serve as elders or on the governing council, Landmann's influence did not extend to temporal issues, but was limited to spiritual concerns. Occasionally, she needed support from Metz, as when friction developed between her and one of the ranking elders, likely stemming from the old issues of her class and her sex. On rare occasions Metz overruled Landmann, though always gently.

    Upon Metz's death in 1867, Landmann became the spiritual head of the Amana Society. Even then, however, her status was challenged by some of the elders and members, and some of her decisions provoked dissension. In contrast to Metz's testimonies, and even her own while he lived, Landmann's testimonies in the years following Metz's death became highly patterned in their timing, location, and occasion. Nevertheless, she continued to command respect and fulfilled her other functions, such as appointing elders and presiding over important church services, until her death in 1883 at the age of 88. She was buried beneath a simple marker in the cemetery in the village of Main Amana.
Sources The principal sources of information about Landmann are an autobiographical account of her early life, references to her in the various annual volumes of the Amana Society's Inspirations Historie, the published collections of her inspired testimonies, and occasional references to her in letters. Landmann herself, illiterate as a young woman, never became a fluent writer. Her autobiography, recorded in German in 1873, was translated into English as Short Narration of the Circumstances Concerning the Awakening and The Early Divine Guidance of Barbara Heinemann (later Landmann) as She Herself Related Them, in Her 79th Year, and published by the Amana Church Society in 1981. It and other documents related to Landmann's life can be consulted in the archives of the Amana Heritage Society. For Landmann's life in Amana, see Jonathan G. Andelson, "Routinization of Behavior in a Charismatic Leader," American Ethnologist 7 (1980), 716–33; and Jonathan G. Andelson, "Postcharismatic Authority in the Amana Society: The Legacy of Christian Metz," in When Prophets Die, ed. Timothy Miller (1991).
Contributor: Jonathan G. Andelson

Cite as: Andelson, Jonathan G. "Landmann, Barbara Heinemann" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2017