VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER
EDUCATOR AND WITNESS FOR PEACE
Vida Dutton Scudder (December 15, 1861- October 9, 1954), educator, activist and founder of the Episcopal Church Socialist League was born to Congregationalist missionaries in India. In the 1870s, Vida and her mother were confirmed as Episcopalians by Phillips Brooks. After studying English literature at Smith College and Oxford University, Scudder began teaching at Wellesley College. Her love of scholarship was matched by her social conscience and deep spirituality. As a young woman, Scudder began the College Settlements Association, joined the Society of Christian Socialists, and began her life-long association with the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross in 1889. In 1893, Scudder took a leave of absence from Wellesley to work with Helena Stuart Dudley to found Denison House in Boston. Scudder experienced a breakdown in 1901 due to the stress of teaching and activism. After two years of recuperation in Italy, she returned renewed and became more active in church and socialist groups; she started a group for Italian immigrants at Denison House and took an active part in organizing the Women’s Trade Union League. In 1911, Scudder founded the Episcopal Church Socialist League, and formally joined the Socialist party. Her support of striking textile workers in the Lawrence, Massachuetts strike in 1912 drew a great deal of criticism and threatened her teaching position. Though she initially supported World War I, she joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923, and by the 1930s she was a pacifist. Throughout her life Scudder’s primary relationships and support network were women; her closest companion was Florence Converse, who shared in her religious faith and political ideals. After retirement, Scudder authored sixteen books on religious and political subjects, combining her intense activism with and an equally vibrant spirituality. She was the first woman published in the Anglican Theological Review. The Episcopal Church commemorates her on October 10.
from the Episcopal Women's History Project