Vida Dutton Scudder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Vida Dutton Scudder c. 1890

(Julia) Vida Dutton Scudder (December 15, 1861 – October 9, 1954) was an American educator, writer, and welfare activist in the social gospel movement.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Madurai, India, in 1861, the only child of David Coit Scudder and Harriet Louise (Dutton) Scudder. After her father, a Congregationalist missionary, was accidentally drowned in 1862, she and her mother returned to the family home in Boston. Apart from travel in Europe, she attended private secondary schools in Boston, and was graduated from the Boston Girl's Latin School in 1880. Scudder then entered Smith College, where she received her BA degree in 1884.[1]

In 1885 she and Clara French were the first American women admitted to the graduate program at Oxford, where she was influenced by York Powell and John Ruskin. While in England she was also influenced by Leo Tolstoi and by George Bernard Shaw and Fabian Socialism. Scudder and French returned to Boston in 1886.[1][2]

Academic career and social activism[edit]

Scudder taught English literature from 1887 at Wellesley College, where she became an associate professor in 1892 and full professor in 1910.[2][3]

When French died in 1888, Scudder joined the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a group of Episcopalian women dedicated to intercessionary prayer and social reconciliation. Also in 1888, she joined the Society of Christian Socialists, which, under the Rev. William Dwight Porter Bliss, established the Church of the Carpenter in Boston and published The Dawn.[1][2]

She was one of the founders, in 1890, along with Helena Dudley and Emily Greene Balch, of Denison House in Boston, the third settlement house in the United States. Scudder was its primary administrator from 1893 to 1913.[1]

In 1893 Scudder was a delegate to the convention of the Boston Central Labor Union.[3] Later, she helped organize the Federal Labor Union, a group of professional people who associated themselves with the American Federation of Labor.[1]

Having received a leave of absence from Wellesley for 1894-96, Scudder spent a year in Italy and France studying modern Italian and French literature.[2]

In 1903 Scudder helped organize the Women's Trade Union League. The same year she became director of the Circolo Italo-Americano at Denison House.[1]

Moving farther to the left, in 1911 she co-founded the Episcopal Church Socialist League and joined the Socialist Party. Scudder attempted to reconcile the conflicting doctrines of Marxism and Christianity. She became controversial in 1912 when she supported striking textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and spoke at a strike meeting, but Wellesley resisted calls for her dismissal as a professor.[3] In 1913 Scudder ended her association with Denison House and moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts, with her elderly mother, who died in 1920.[1]

Unlike Eugene Victor Debs and other Socialist leaders, Scudder supported President Woodrow Wilson's decision to intervene in the First World War in 1917. In 1919 she founded the Church League for Industrial Democracy.

From 1919 until her death, Scudder lived with Florence Converse[4] In Wellesley they resided at 45 Leighton Road.[5]

At Wellesley College the poet Katherine Lee Bates developed an intimate partnership with fellow poet Katharine Coman, the professor of economics and dean of the college. They jointly wrote English History as Taught by English Poets.[6] Their “Boston Marriage” of living together for twenty-five years ended in Coman’s cancer death at age 57. Bates, in her agony, published Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance[7] celebrating their love, common labor in education and literature and their involvement in social reform with their colleague Vida Scudder.[8]

In the 1920s Scudder embraced pacifism. She joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923, the same year she gave a series of lectures before the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in Prague.

Later life[edit]

Scudder retired from Wellesley in 1927 and received the title of professor emeritus.[3][5] She became the first dean of the Summer School of Christian Ethics in 1930 at Wellesley. In 1931 she lectured weekly at the New School for Social Research in New York.

She published an autobiography, On Journey, in London in 1937, and a collection of essays, The Privilege of Age, in New York in 1939.

Scudder had received the degree of LHD from Smith College in 1922. From Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin, she received an LLD degree in 1942.[5]

Vida Dutton Scudder died at Wellesley, Massachusetts, on October 10, 1954.


Scudder is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on October 10.


  • How the Rain Sprites Were Freed. Boston: D. Lothrop, 1883.
  • Poems by George Macdonald, 1887 (edited with Clara French).[1][2]
  • Mitsu-Yu-Nissi; or, The Japanese Wedding. Chicago: T.S. Denison 1887.
  • Macaulay's Essay on Lord Clive. Boston: Sibley and Ducker, 1889 (edited).
  • An Introduction to the Writings of John Ruskin. Boston: Leach, Shewell and Sanborn, 1890 edited.
  • Topical Outlines for the Study of Modern English Literature. Boston: Frank Wood, 1892.
  • Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, 1892 (edited).
  • The Witness of Denial. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1895.
  • The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poets. Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895.[9]
  • Socialism and Spiritual Progress: A Speculation. Boston: Church Social Union, 1896.
  • Social Ideals in English Letters. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1898 (enlarged edition, 1923).[10]
  • Christian Simplicity. Boston: Christian Social Union, 1898.
  • Introduction to the Study of English Literature, 1901 [11]
  • A Listener in Babel: Being a Series of Imaginary Conversations held at the Close of the Last Century and Reported by Vida D. Scudder. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1903.
  • Saint Catherine of Siena as Seen in Her Letters. London: J.M. Dent, 1905; New York: E.P. Dutton, 1905 (edited and translated).
  • The Disciple of a Saint, Being the Imaginary Biography of Raniero di Landoccio dei Pagliaresi. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1907 (reissued in 1921 and 1927).[12]
  • Works of John Woolman, 1910 (edited for Everyman's Library).
  • Bede's History of England, 1911 (edited for Everyman's Library).
  • Socialism and Character. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1912.[13]
  • English Poems, 1915 (edited for Lake English Classics).
  • The Church and the Hour: Reflections of A Socialist Churchwoman. New York, E.P. Dutton, 1917.
  • Le Morte D'Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory and Its Sources, 1917 (edited and translated).
  • Social Teachings of the Christian Year: Lectures Delivered at the Cambridge Conference, 1918. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1921.
  • Brother John: A Tale of the First Franciscans. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1927.
  • The Franciscan Adventure: A Study in the First Hundred Years of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi. London and Toronto: J.M. Dent, 1931; New York: E.P. Dutton, 1931.
  • The Christian Attitude Toward Private Property. Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1934.
  • On Journey. London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1937.
  • The Privilege of Age: Essays Secular and Spiritual. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1939.
  • Father Huntington, Founder of the Order of the Holy Cross. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1940.
  • Letters to Her Companions, by Emily Malbone Morgan. Edited by Vida Dutton Scudder, with a biographical sketch by Emily Sophie Brown. Privately printed, 1944.
  • My Quest for Reality. Wellesley: Published by the Author, 1952.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Dictionary of American Biography (1977) Supplement 5, p. 616., Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
  2. ^ a b c d e The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1902) James T. White & Company, New York, Reprint of 1891 edition.
  3. ^ a b c d The Illustrated Columbia Encyclopedia (1963) 3rd ed. Vol. 18, p. 5575., Columbia University Press,New York.
  4. ^ Lillian Faderman (1991) Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America pp. 23-24., Penguin Books Ltd, London.
  5. ^ a b c Who Was Who in America (1960) Marquis Who's Who, Inc., Chicago.
  6. ^ Bates, Katherine Lee, compiler with Katharine Coman, English History Told by English Poets, Macmillan, New York, NY, 1902, reprinted, Books for Libraries Press (Freeport, NY), 1969
  7. ^ Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance, Dutton, New York, NY, 1922
  8. ^ Herbert F. Vetter, "Katharine Lee Bates 1859 - 1929", Poets of Cambridge, USA, retrieved 2011-10-26 
  9. ^ The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poets - Vida Dutton Scudder - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  10. ^ Social Ideals in English Letters - Vida Dutton Scudder - Google Boeken. 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  11. ^ Introduction to the Study of English Literature - Vida Dutton Scudder - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  12. ^ The Disciple of a Saint: Being the Imaginary Biography of Raniero Di ... - Vida Dutton Scudder - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  13. ^ Socialism and Character - Vida Dutton Scudder - Google Boeken. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 

External links[edit]