Feast of Vida Dutton Scudder (October 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Vida Dutton Scudder

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JULIA VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER (DECEMBER 15, 1861-OCTOBER 9, 1954)

Episcopal Professor, Author, Christian Socialist, and Social Reformer

Alternative feast day = October 9

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

INTRODUCTION

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

(Julia) Vida Dutton Scudder comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Episcopal Church.  Just as The Episcopal Church has two calendars of saints, it has two feast days for Scudder.  Her feast day in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 is October 9.  On the side calendar of saints (dating to 2009), however, Scudder’s feast day is October 10.  Therefore, Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) list her feast day as October 10.   G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006) also includes a brief biography of Scudder.

The Scudders were a family of U.S. Congregationalist missionaries in India.  David Coit Scudder (d. 1862) and Harriet Louise (Dutton) Scudder (d. 1920) welcomed Julia Vida Dutton Scudder into the world at Madurai, India, on December 15, 1861.  After David died, mother and daughter moved to Boston, Massachusetts.  Our saint grew up a Congregationalist.  However, she and her mother converted to the Anglo-Catholic wing of The Episcopal Church under the spiritual guidance of Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), the Rector of Trinity Church, Boston, the author of “Away in a Manger” (1868), and the Bishop of Bishop of Massachusetts (1891-1893).

Our saint’s life had several defining characteristics:

  1. Contemplative Christian spirituality,
  2. A commitment to literary scholarship,
  3. Relationships of different sorts with women,
  4. A commitment to radical social justice, and
  5. The courage of her moral convictions.

She became more revolutionary as she aged.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

LITERARY SCHOLAR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Scudder’s main field of academic study was literature.  She studied English literature at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts (B.A., 1884).  Then our saint spent 1885-1886 at Oxford University as one of the first two female graduate students there.  Clara French (1863-1888) was the other one of the first two female graduate students at Oxford University.  She and Scudder were classmates at Oxford.  While in England, Scudder developed an interest in the settlement house movement and became a Christian Socialist.  Then, in 1887, our saint joined the faculty of Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.  She, promoted to Associate Professor (1892) and full Professor (1910), retired in 1927.

Scudder’s literary publications during 1887-1927 included:

  1. Poems by George McDonald, L.L D., Selected V.D.S. and C. F. (1887), as editor;
  2. Macauley’s Essay of Lord Clive (1889), as editor;
  3. Prometheus Unbound:  A Lyrical Drama by Percy Blythe Shelley (1892), as editor;
  4. The Dramatic Action and Motive of King John:  An Essay, by Clara French (1892), as author of the Memorial Sketch;
  5. The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poets (1895);
  6. An Introduction to the Study of English Literature (1901);
  7. A Listener in Babylon, Being a Series of Imaginary Conversations Held at the Close of the Last Century (1903);
  8. Shorter English Poems from the College Entrance Requirements in English (1912), as editor;
  9. English Poems from the College Entrance Requirements in English (1915), as editor; and
  10. Le Morte d’Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory:  A Study of the Book and Its Sources (1921).

Scudder worked hard at academia and social justice, just as she nurtured her spiritual life.  In 1887, she, Clara French, and Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) were three of the founder of the College Settlements Association (CSA).  The following year, our saint joined both the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (an Episcopalian, female order devoted to intercessory prayer) and the Society of Christian Socialists.  In 1893, Scudder and Emily Greene Balch (1867-1961) founded the CSA’s Denison House in Boston.  At Denison House, wealthy, college-educated women provided social services to their impoverished immigrant neighbors, and priests helped too.  Scudder served as the main administrator, with some interruptions, until 1913.  Our saint studied modern Italian and French literature in Italy and France (1894-1896) and spent two years (1901-1903) recuperating in Italy after a breakdown.  Back in the United States of America, Scudder helped to organize the Women’s Trade Union League in 1903.  In 1911, our saint founded the Episcopal Church Socialist League and joined the Socialist Party.  The following year, Scudder supported the striking workers at Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Conservative backlash threatened her teaching position, but Wellesley College refused to fire our saint.

Scudder’s published works of a political-economic-spiritual nature from 1887 to 1912 included:

  1. An Introduction to the Writings of John Ruskin (1890);
  2. The Witness of Denial (1895);
  3. Social Ideals in English Letters (1898);
  4. Saint Catherine of Siena as Seen in Her Letters (1905);
  5. The Disciple of a Saint, Being the Imaginary Biography of Raniero di Landoccio dei Pagliaresi (1907); and
  6. Socialism and Character (1912);

1913-1927 constituted a distinct phase of Scudder’s life.  In 1913, she resigned from the settlement house in Boston.  Our saint and her mother, Harriet, moved to Wellesley.  Harriet died seven years later.  Scudder, who had supported U.S. entry into World War I in 1917, changed her mind.  She founded the Church League for Industrial Democracy (1919), joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (1923), and became a pacifist (1930s).  And, from 1919 until our death, our saint was the de facto wife of novelist Florence Converse (1871-1967).

Scudder’s published works of a political-economic-spiritual nature from 1913 to 1927 included:

  1. Jesus and Politics:  An Essay Towards the Ideal, by Howard B. Shepheard (1915), as author of the Introduction;
  2. The Church and the Hour:  Papers of a Socialist Churchwoman (1918);
  3. Social Teachings of the Church Year:  Lectures Delivered at the Cambridge Conferences 1918 (1921);
  4. The Journal and Other Writings by John Woolman (1922), as editor; and
  5. Brother John:  A Tale of the First Franciscans (1927).

Scudder’s retirement was also a productive time for her.  She became one of the foremost scholars of the Franciscans.  Our saint served as the first Dean of the Summer School of Christian Ethics, Wellesley College, in 1930.  And she wrote her autobiography, On Journey (1937).  This was one of thirteen books Scudder wrote during the final phase of her life.  Two of these books were:

  1. The Franciscan Adventure:  A Study in the First Hundred Years of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi (1931), and
  2. The Privilege of the Age:  Essays Secular and Spiritual (1939).

Scudder, aged 94 years, died in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on October 9, 1954.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A WOMAN OF PRAYER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Scudder understood the importance and efficacy of prayer.  She wrote:

If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it.

Our saint also wrote:

There is 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.

She also understood that, as my father taught me, people need to “put feet to” their prayers–that there are times to pray and there are times to act.  Scudder put feet to her prayers, too.

Prayer is a crucial.  Yet it must never function as a cop-out or an excuse for necessary and proper inaction.  Politicians’ “thoughts and prayers” after a natural disaster, mass shooting, et cetera, may or may not function as a cop-out or an excuse for inaction.  If I can act to feed someone, for example, I should.  If, however, I merely my thoughts and prayers in such a circumstance, I commit a sin of omission.  Likewise, politicians who merely offer their thoughts and prayers when they can and should change policy take the easy way out.

Prayer may or may not change the circumstances of other people for whom one intercedes.  Yet prayer should change the pray-er and lead to constructive actions.

Vida Dutton Scudder did not use payer as a cop-out or an excuse for inaction.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON OF MOSCOW, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF JAY THOMAS STOCKING, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MONTFORD SCOTT, EDMUND GENNINGS, HENRY WALPOLE, AND THEIR FELLOW MARTYRS, 1591 AND 1595

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Most gracious God, you have sent your beloved Son

to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near:

Raise up in your Church witnesses who,

after the example of your servant Vida Dutton Scudder,

stand firm in proclaiming the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you, now and for ever.  Amen.  

Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 25:1-14

Romans 12:1-2, 14-21

John 6:37-51

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010); A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016); Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: