Waitstill Sharp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Waitstill Sharp
Born Waitstill Hastings Sharp
1 May 1902
Boston, Massachusetts[1]
Died 1983
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][full citation needed]
Children Hastings Sharp (b. 1932)
Martha Content Sharp Joukowsky (b. 1937)[citation needed]

Waitstill Hastings Sharp (1 May 1902–1983) was a Unitarian minister who was involved in humanitarian work and social justice.[2][4][page needed]

Early life and education[edit]

Sharp was born in Boston on May 1, 1902, son of Grace Hastings and naturalist, author, and professor Dallas Lore Sharp.[citation needed] Through his mother, he is a descendant of Thomas Hastings, who came from the East Anglia region of England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.[citation needed]

Sharp graduated from Boston University with an undergraduate degree[clarification needed] in 1923,[1] from Harvard Law School with a J.D.[verification needed] in 1926, and with an M.A. from Harvard University in 1931.[2]


While in his third year of law school[when?] he got to know Eugene Shippen, National Director of Religious Education for the American Unitarian Association (AUA), and minister of Second Church in Boston, and later became part-time director of religious education at Second Church. A social worker involved with local internationalist and peace groups, Martha Ingham Dickie, would become his spouse in 1927,[2] and remain his strong ministry partner in his outreach and rescue work in Europe during the Second World War.[citation needed]

Several years later,[when?] he was ordained a Unitarian minister, and he took the pulpit of a small church in Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1933.[2][verification needed] 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 Reverend Everett Baker of the American Unitarian Association to accept a posting in Czechoslovakia, as representatives of a new program, initiated by Robert Dexter, to help endangered refugees.[citation needed] He administered relief to hundreds of endangered Jews and other refugees in Prague, with his wife Martha, beginning in 1939.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] While visiting southern France, Waitstill worked closely with the World YMCA to help Czech servicemen to escape from Vichy France.[citation needed] He also forged a collaboration with Varian Fry to look after Fry's refugee clients in Lisbon.[citation needed] In this capacity, Martha and Waitstill personally escorted the novelist Lion Feuchtwanger from Marseille, France, on his journey to America.[5][page needed]


On 9 September 2005, Martha and Waitstill Sharp were named by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations, the second and third Americans so honored (the first being Varian Fry).[6]


An educational curriculum including the Sharps is featured at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.[7]

The only scholarly book to describe the World War II work of the Sharps, which includes significant information of the context of their work among other relief workers, is a work by Susan Elisabeth Subak, Rescue and Flight, published in 2010.[citation needed][5]

In popular culture[edit]

A Ken Burns documentary film, Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War, that chronicled the efforts of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, was co-directed by Burns and their grandson, Artemis A.W. Joukowsky, III, of Sherborn, Massachusetts, co-produced by Burns, Joukowsky, and Matthew Justus, and edited by Erik Angra, with the support of PBS (including the WETA station), the Unitarian Universalist community, several well-known foundations, and many individuals.[8][9][better source needed]

Personal life[edit]

Sharp married Martha Ingham Dickie in 1927,[2] and they had two children, Hastings (b. 1932) and Martha (b. 1937).[citation needed] The couple separated after World War II, and were divorced in 1954. He died in Greenfield, MA in 1983.[citation needed]


  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 f g Di Figlia, Ghanda. "Martha Sharp Cogan (1905-1999) and Waitstill Sharp (1902-1983): Unitarian Service Committee Pioneers". Harvard Square Library. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "Martha and Waitstill Sharp Collection, ca. 1905-2005", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ Joukowsky, Artemis (6 September 2016). Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 9780807071823. Retrieved 10 September 2016. [page needed]
  5. ^ a b Subak, Susan Elisabeth (2010). Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers who Defied the Nazis. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803230176. Retrieved 21 September 2016. [page needed]
  6. ^ Yad Vashem Staff (June 13, 2006). "Waitstill and Martha Sharp". Yad Vashem [The Righteous Among The Nations, yadvashem.org ]. Jerusalem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "Martha and Waitstill Sharp". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  8. ^ "Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War". PBS. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  9. ^ Cooper, Clint (16 February 2013). "Unitarian Church to screen couple's heroics". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 

Further reading[edit]