Sunday, October 09, 2016

Vida Dutton Scudder: Lesbian saint, reformer and teacher

Vida Dutton Scudder, c. 1890 (Wikipedia)

Vida Dutton Scudder is an American social reformer, professor, prominent lesbian author -- and an officially recognized saint in the Episcopal Church. Her feast day is Oct. 10.

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Vida Dutton Scudder: Lesbian saint, reformer and teacher

Her ideas on economic inequality are especially relevant amid the financial crises of our times. Born in India to missionary parents in 1861, Scudder studied at Oxford and became a professor at Wellesley College, where she taught English literature for 41 years. All her primary relationships were with women. For 35 years from 1919 until her death in 1954, Scudder lived with author Florence Converse in a lesbian relationship.

Scudder’s spirituality went hand in hand with her social conscience and love of learning. She was active in the Social Gospel movement, co-founding a Boston settlement house to reduce poverty, promoting Christian socialism and backing trade unions. Scudder wrote 16 books, including her autobiography “On Journey,” plus numerous articles on religious, political, and literary subjects.

Converse (1871-1967), a New Orelans native and Wellesley graduate, served on the editorial staff of the Atlantic Monthly and The Churchman magazine.  She wrote many novels with titles such as “The Story of Wellesley” and “The Holy Night.”

The couple's lesbian life is documented in the books “Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America” by Lillian Faderman and “Passionate Commitments: The Lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins” by Julia M. Allen. Their long-term relationship lasted until Scudder died at age 91 on Oct. 9, 1954.

The two women are buried near each other at Newton Cemetery and Crematory in Newton, Massachusetts. The Internet makes it possible to visit to the graves of Scudder and Converse online.

The Episcopal Church added Scudder to its book of saints several years ago. She expressed her belief in the power of prayer when she wrote, “If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it.” Here is the official prayer that the Episcopal Church offers in memory of this lesbian saint:

Most gracious God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to 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 and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Related links:

Vida Dutton Scudder, American Lesbian Saint for Our Times (Queering the Church)

Vida Dutton Scudder, Educator and Witness for Peace (Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of the Episcopal Church)

Vida Dutton Scudder (Wikipedia)

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

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