Vida Dutton Scudder (1861-1954) was a professor at Wellesly College, a member of the Socialist party, and a prominent activist in the Episcopal Church. She was involved in the Social Gospel movement, the campaign for labor rights, the equality of women, and (eventually) pacifism. She helped to organize the Women’s Trade Union League, the Episcopal Church Socialist League, and joined the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. Vida and her partner, Florence Converse, lived together for 35 years, from 1919 until Vida’s death in 1954. She is celebrated in the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints: her feast day is on October 10.
Earlier today, as I was reading Diana Butler Bass’s book A People’s History of Christianity, I came across an amazing prediction of Scudder’s that Butler Bass took from Scudder’s 1912 book Socialism and Character. In this passage, Scudder prophesies the advent of mainline church decline, which eventually started to happen in the latter half of the 20th century. I was amazed at how closely Scudder’s views resemble my own, except that she was writing a full century before I started thinking about it. Listen to what Scudder has to say:
One certitude is forced on us : it is unlikely that Christianity will retain so nominally exclusive a sway as it has hitherto done in western Europe. In all probability, the day of its conventional social control is passing and will soon be forgotten. The time will come when the Christian faith will have to fight for right of way among crowding antagonists as vigorously as in the times of Athanasius and Augustine.
And in thoughts like these all genuine Christians must rejoice. Without the call to high adventure, the faith has never flourished.