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Vida Dutton Scudder was born on December 15, 1861, the child of Congregationalist missionaries in India. In the 1870s, Vida and her mother were conﬁrmed in the Episcopal Church by Bishop 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 founded the College Settlements Association, joined the Society of Christian Socialists, and began her lifelong association with the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross in 1889, a community living in the world and devoted to intercessory prayer.
In 1893, Scudder took a leave of absence from Wellesley to work with Helena Stuart Dudley to found Denison House in Boston. Stresses from teaching and her activism led to a breakdown in 1901. After two years’ recuperation in Italy, she returned renewed and became even 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 the Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile workers’ 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 was a ﬁrm paciﬁst.
Throughout her life Scudder’s primary relationships and support network were women. After retirement, she authored 16 books on religious and political subjects, combining her intense activism with an equally vibrant spirituality. “If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it,” she wrote characteristically, adding that there was one sure way “of directly helping on the Kingdom of God. That way is prayer. Social intercession may be the mightiest force in the world.” Vida Scudder died on October 9, 1954.
I Most gracious God, who didst send thy beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in thy Church witnesses who, after the example of thy servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand ﬁrm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II Most gracious God, who sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in thy Church witnesses who, after the example of thy servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand ﬁrm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 42:5–9, Romans 12:1–2,14–21, and John 6:37–51
Preface of a Saint (3)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
Also of interest
Link to excerpts from some of her writings
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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