Ursula Niebuhr

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Ursula Mary Niebuhr (August 3, 1907[1] – January 10, 1997) was an English American academic and theologian. She was the founder and longtime head of the Department of Religion at Barnard College in New York City, USA.

She was born in Southampton, England. After graduation from the University of Oxford with double Firsts in history and theology, she became the first woman to win a fellowship to the Union Theological Seminary in New York, USA.[2]


In 1931, the former Ursula Mary Keppel-Compton, the younger daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Keppel-Compton of Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, England and Rapallo in northern Italy, became the wife of Reinhold Niebuhr[3] in Winchester, England.[4] The couple made New York City their home during the majority of their 40 years together. The Niebuhrs had two children, Christopher Niebuhr and Elisabeth Niebuhr Sifton. The marriage, which lasted until his death in 1971, was said to have been marked by theological debates.[5] Ursula Niebuhr left evidence in her professional papers at the Library of Congress showing that she co-authored some of her husband's later writings.[6]


As a lay minister in the 1930s, she was preaching in Anglican churches and raising questions about the role of women in the church.[7]

Beginning as a lecturer in 1940, she was a member of the Barnard College faculty for twenty years, retiring in the 1960s.[8]

Selected works[edit]

  • 1957 -- "A memorandum on certain reading and spelling difficulties for my academic colleagues, teachers, parents and anyone else." Westport, Connecticut: Orton Society. OCLC 1234375
  • 1981 -- Remembering Niebuhr: letters of Reinhold and Ursula M. Niebuhr. San Francisco: Harper & Row. OCLC 246795572


  1. ^ Remembering Niebuhr: letters of Reinhold and Ursula M. Niebuhr. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p xiv OCLC 246795572
  2. ^ Thomas, Robert. "Ursula Niebuhr, 89, Founder Of Barnard Religion Department," New York Times. January 12, 1997.
  3. ^ "Marriage Announcement: Reinhold Neibuhr to Wed". The New York Times. June 8, 1931. 
  4. ^ "Milestones: January 18, 1932". Time. New York. January 18, 1932 – via Time.com. 
  5. ^ Rooney, Andy (January 25, 1997). "I bet God couldn't have cared less". The Ledger. Lakeland, Florida. p. D8. Retrieved February 28, 2018 – via Google News Archive. 
  6. ^ Miles, Rebekah (January 19, 2012). "Uncredited: Was Ursula Niebuhr Reinhold's Coauthor?". The Christian Century. Retrieved February 28, 2018. 
  7. ^ Johnson, Robert L. "Theologian in process," Cross Currents (Spring 1992) Vol. 42, Issue 1.
  8. ^ "Deaths," Christian Century (January 29, 1997), Vol. 114, Issue 4, p. 94.


External links[edit]