Waitstill Sharp

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Waitstill Hastings Sharp
Born May 1902
Boston, Massachusetts [1]
Died 1984
Nationality American
Alma mater Boston University (B.A., 1923) [1]
Harvard Law School (J.D,, 1926) [1][2]
Harvard University (M.A., 1931) [1]
Occupation Unitarian minister
Known for humanitarian rescue work before and during World War II
Spouse(s) Martha Sharp (1927-1954)
Monica Allard Clark (m.1955) [3]
Children Martha C. Sharp

Waitstill Hastings Sharp (1902–1984) was a Unitarian minister who was involved in humanitarian work and social justice.

Early life and education[edit]

Sharp, born in Boston in May 1902, was the son of naturalist author and professor Dallas Lore Sharp and Grace Hastings and a descendant of Thomas Hastings who came from the East Anglia region of England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.

He was a graduate of Boston University (1923),[1] Harvard Law School (1926), and Harvard University (M.A., 1931).[2]


While in his third year of law school he got to know Dr. Eugene Shippen, minister of Second Church in Boston. He became part-time director of religious education at Second Church and, later, through the support of Dr. Shippen, National Director of Religious Education for the American Unitarian Association (AUA). Several years later, he was ordained a Unitarian minister. In 1933 he took the pulpit of a small church in Meadville, Pennsylvania.[2]

In 1927, he had married Martha Ingham Dickie, a social worker who also worked with local internationalist and peace groups.[2]

In April 1936, he was appointed pastor at the Unitarian Church of Wellesley Hills in Wellesley, Massachusetts.[2]

World War II rescue work[edit]

The Sharps were recruited by members of the American Unitarian Association, including Robert Dexter to accept a posting in Czechoslovakia, as representatives of a new program to help endangered refugees. With his wife Martha Sharp, in 1939 he administered relief to hundreds of endangered Jews and other refugees in Prague.

In the following year, Waitstill and Martha traveled to southern Europe to continue a relief and rescue program for endangered refugees as representatives of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee. While visiting southern France, Waitstill worked closely with the World YMCA to help Czech servicemen to escape from Vichy France. Waitstill also forged a collaboration with Varian Fry to look after Fry's refugee clients in Lisbon. In this capacity, Waitstill personally escorted the novelist Lion Feuchtwanger from Marseille, France, to America.[4]


In 2006, Waitstill Sharp and Martha were named by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations. They were the second and third Americans so honored (the first being Varian Fry).


A documentary chronicling their heroic efforts has been produced by their grandson, Artemis A.W. Joukowsky, III, of Sherborn, Massachusetts, through the support and partnership of WETA, PBS, the Unitarian Universalist community, several well-known foundations and many individuals.[5][6]

There is also an educational curriculum being used by several school systems, and an archive, including pieces featured at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.[7]

The only scholarly book to describe the World War II work of the Sharps, along with their collaborators, was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2010: Susan Elisabeth Subak, Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Martha and Waitstill Sharp: A Timeline of their Lives", Two Who Dared, film website
  2. ^ a b c d e Di Figlia, Ghanda, "Notable American Unitarians: MARTHA SHARP COGAN and WAITSTILL HASTINGS SHARP: UNITARIAN SERVICE COMMITTEE PIONEERS", Harvard Square Library
  3. ^ Cf. "GUIDE Martha and Waitstill Sharp Collection, ca. 1905-2005", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  4. ^ Subak, Susan Elisabeth, Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis, University of Nebraska Press, 2010.
  5. ^ Two Who Dared - film website
  6. ^ Cooper, Clint, "Unitarian Church to screen couple's heroics", Chattanooga Times Free Press, Saturday, February 16th, 2013
  7. ^ "Module: Martha and Waitstill Sharp", Holocaust Encyclopedia, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]