Vida Dutton Scudder vs. F.D. Maurice

Congratulations on surviving another looooooooong weekend without Lent Madness voting to anchor your day, ground your faith, and generally infuse your soul with the will to live. The only lifeline we tossed out was a chance to win your very own life-sized cardboard cutout of 2015 Golden Halo winner Francis of Assisi. Learn how here.

Today's pairing involves two saintly souls whose lives overlapped for a period during the mid-19th century. Vida Dutton Scudder, an American laywoman and proponent of the social gospel tangles with F.D. Maurice, a British cleric and defender of Christian socialism. Both were writers and advocates for the poor and downtrodden.

On Friday, we capped off a week of blowouts with Dietrich Bonhoeffer triumphing over Athanasius 77% to 23% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen. Actually, it wasn't an entire week of lopsided results, as last Monday saw the closest battle of Lent Madness 2016 with Columba eking out a victory over Kateri Tekakwitha.

But enough of the recent past. A full week of voting is nigh upon us which will include our first foray into the Saintly Sixteen on Thursday as Helena takes on Constance. Time to vote!

Vida Dutton Scudder

Vida Dutton Scudder was an Episcopalian, educator, writer, social justice activist, feminist, social worker, and proponent of the American Social Gospel Movement. She was born on December 15, 1861, in Madurai, India, to Congregationalist missionaries. When her father died prematurely in 1862, she and her mother returned to their family’s home in Boston. She graduated from Smith College in 1884 and taught English literature at Wellesley College, becoming a full professor by 1910.

Scudder worked tirelessly for peace and for the working class, labor unions, and the downtrodden. In 1890, she founded Denison House in Boston, which provided social services and education to the poor and those in need. She withstood criticism for two controversial stands that she supported: the 1912 textile workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917.

Over the years, Scudder joined various religious groups that combined social awareness with religious beliefs. In 1911 she was one of the founders of The Episcopal Church Socialist League and 1919 saw her founding the Church League for Industrial Democracy. She was also a Companion in the Companions of the Society of the Holy Cross (SCHC).

Scudder’s later years were dedicated to her inexhaustible writings, illustrating her vast knowledge and interest on topics centering on activism and spirituality. In addition to her autobiography, On Journey, she wrote essays in The Privilege of Age, as well as Socialism and Spiritual Progress: A Speculation; The Christian Attitude Toward Private Property; The Church and the Hour: Reflections of A Socialist Churchwoman; and Socialism and Character.

Of her lifelong dedication to Christianity and to social work, Scudder said, “If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it.” She also noted, “Social intercession may be the mightiest force in the world.”

Vida Dutton Scudder died on October 9, 1954.

Collect for Vida Dutton Scudder
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 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.

— Neva Rae Fox

F.D. Maurice

A brilliant thinker but an imperfect communicator, Frederick Denison Maurice influenced many in Victorian England and was a vigorous spokesman for Christian socialism, the idea that greed and capitalism is counter to the teachings of Jesus.

Born in Suffolk, England, in 1805, Maurice was the son of a Unitarian minister. After studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, and earning a law degree, Maurice pursued literary endeavors in London before deciding to enroll at Oxford and study to become an Anglican priest.

Appointed as chaplain to Guy’s Hospital and later assigned to Lincoln’s Inn as a priest, Maurice received a call in 1840 to become professor of English literature and history at King’s College, London. The 1853 publication of his Theological Essays was not received favorably by the principal of King’s College, who declared it theologically unsound. Despite his legitimate protestations, Maurice was found guilty and stripped of his teaching posts.

Although he had worked among society’s wealthiest and most influential members, Maurice also had a deep passion for the poor. Following his dismissal from King’s College, he founded The Working Men’s College and served as its principal from 1854 to 1872. Much of Maurice’s writings on Christian socialism come from this time period. He was also appointed a professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge in 1866.

F.D. Maurice wrote brilliantly and broadly, and his works include commentaries and a series of sermons on The Book of Common Prayer, as well as works on moral philosophy. Famed authors Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, and George MacDonald knew Maurice well and were influenced by him.

Earnest, passionate, and humble, Maurice was known as a deep thinker, a generous benefactor, a powerful, prophetic voice on behalf of the poor, and a genuinely noble soul.

Collect for F.D. Maurice
Almighty God, who restored our human nature to heavenly glory through the perfect obedience of our Savior Jesus Christ: Keep alive in your Church, we pray, a passion for justice and truth; that, like your servant Frederick Denison Maurice, we may work and pray for the triumph of the kingdom of your Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— Derek Olsen

Vida Dutton Scudder vs. F.D. Maurice

  • Vida Dutton Scudder (72%, 4,568 Votes)
  • F.D. Maurice (28%, 1,758 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,326

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Vida Dutton Scudder: By Unknown photographer (http://satucket.com/lectionary/Vida_Scudder.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
F.D. Maurice: Lowes Dickinson, 1873. Courtesy of Frenchay Village Museum, South Gloucestershire

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157 comments on “Vida Dutton Scudder vs. F.D. Maurice”

    1. Agreed, Oliver. The work of VDS is so close to the work I hope to do, for the downtrodden people of the world to be lifted up!

  1. I voted for F. D. Maurice because he lost his job and kept on going. Maurice then centered his life on others who were in worse straights than himself. When I lost my job I was terribly anxious and scared. It is really a test of everything you've got when you lose your job.

  2. Well the obvious choice is to vote for Denison; the tricky bit is whether it's Scudder's Denison House, or F Denison Maurice. I admire and respect FDM's intellect and good works, but went with what must have been a tougher road for VDS.

  3. My grandfather's sister was a missionary in what was then called Berma. I feel compelled to vote for Vida!

  4. I voted for Vida Dutton Scudder, but my favorite quote by far was from Derek Olsen's bio of F.D. Maurice, when he cited "the idea that greed and capitalism is counter to the teachings of Jesus." Yes!

      1. I do believe it is possible to follow Christian principles and also capitalism, but it is very difficult. The underlying principle of Christianity is love. The underlying principle of capitalism is profit. One example: A factory, run on typical capitalist lines. The general manager has to set prices so that they cover all the expenses of the business and still have profit left over. He calculates all the resources needed for the factory's work: raw materials, energy costs, machinery purchase and upkeep, wages, transportation and storage.

        Listen to that: people (wages) have been reduced to the same level as lumber and diesel. If times get hard, the manager might choose to buy lesser quality lumber or get rid of a truck or two or fire 10% of the workforce. Jesus would say that people matter more than stuff.

        One possible corrective: if the factory is still run on capitalist lines, but as a cooperative, where the workers are also the owners, that makes a huge difference. Worker-owners are not likely to oppress themselves. If business conditions require a reduction of wages, they may choose for everybody to work for less, across the board. Or a few may volunteer to quit or retire. Or they may opt for less profit so everyone can keep their job.

        I hope this isn't an inappropriate post for Lent Madness. But "we socialists" link greed and capitalism for very good reasons!

        1. Kathy,
          thank you for an excellent post on socialism. Being in the middle of an election year with a major candidate being a Democratic Socialist this is an important perspective.

          1. Indeed it is an important perspective as well as being written in an open tone.

            I would also correct the original to greed and capitalism are. I hope that we can all agree that capitalism can be practiced in a non-greedy! I like to think that Miracle on 34th Street, when Santa refers shoppers to Gimbels but for specific toys but shoppers become more loyal to Macy's might give us an example.

            Back to these two saints of whom I am totally ignorant I must confess. Still learning before I vote.

        2. You are absolutely right. With the current inequity exponentiation in today's society it is time we take a close look at Maurice's writings. I had to vote for Maurice, we need him now more than ever.

          1. You are right. I believe I am related to Vida, but had to vote for Maurice. By far he had the greater impact both intellectually and practically. He needs to be reckoned with again.

        3. I am certainly not a socialist, have seen the harm of socialism in Europe, but I do like the model of worker owned businesses. Good post.

        4. Capitalism need not be intrinsically evil. The way we have defined the duty of the corporation today enshrines greed because we have made it law that the corporation must maximize profits for the shareholders. Period. No other considerations apply. However, a new kind of corporation is now also possible under the law. It is the B Corporation or Benefits Corporation. It uses business as a force for good creating benefits for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. “Stakeholders” includes employees, the surrounding community, and the environment. Some state and local governments favor B Corporations when companies bid for work. (Oh! And I voted for Vida, but loved them both.)

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_corporation
          http://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps/the-b-corp-declaration

        5. Your response suggests that Capitalism is indeed not compatible with Christianity. The example you site relies on a socialist construct (cooperative work) to have a company that functions in a Christian, read equitable and charitable, manner.
          I am forced to agree with the earlier writer, Christianity is diametrically in opposition to capitalism.
          Pax.

      2. I think the term, and problem is "unbridled" capitalism. Pope Francis, and other Church leaders have written, and spoken at length on the subject, including PB Curry,As for lumping all who strive for social justice into "you socialists', I guess I will stand mocked, and accused. God's Peace be with you.

      3. Remember that teacher who insisted you have to "show your work"?
        If you think capitalism isn't mostly about greed, I think you have to show the validity of your position. Just saying what you wish were true does not make it so.

      4. The history of the world in the 20th century shows that those nations that have made a serious attempt to combine the best bits of both capitalism and socialism within their own systems (including each of the English-speaking democracies) are far more prosperous than those that have not. I believe it's not a matter of capitalism OR socialism, it's how we find the best mix of capitalism AND socialism.

        1. Do Episcopalians have the concept of an "occasion of sin"? Catholics say this at the end of the Act of Contrition: "I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to sin no more, and avoid the near occasion of sin." The classic example is that an occasion of sin is to a sinner as a bar is to a recovering alcoholic: it's a situation that puts you in proximity to temptation, thus increasing the likelihood that you will sin, even tho there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the situation.

          I think capitalism is an occasion of the sin of greed.

  5. I admired both Vida and F.D. Maurice. Both worked tirelessly for the poor. I, too, voted for Maurice because he lost his job but rebounded.

  6. A woman who saw prayer as a "secret creative force" and "social intercession" as the "mightiest force of all" gets my vote. I also like her middle name because it's the same as my husband's. Go Vida D.!

  7. As a member of SCHC, I must vote for Vida. Her passion for prayer and social justice continues in the work of Companions throughout the world.

    1. But she became a pacifist afterwards. One of the things about her was that her thinking kept evolving.

  8. I voted for F D Maurice 'cos he is a tractor boy. (Born in Suffolk). But seriously, because he was involved in the education of the working classes in the UK, without which I would be greatly deprived.

  9. Tough choice. Vida got my vote because I have ancestral ties to the textile workers in Merrimack Valley (where Lawrence is). The stories my grandfather told me about the working conditions in the mills rivaled anything you'll find in Upton Sinclair.

  10. Both deeply attractive to me for their Anglo-Catholic and Socialist views, we need more of both! But the description of listening to Maurice as "like eating pea soup with a fork" brought about a recoil from this learned, earnest, and seriously muddled man. Scudder's life was so exemplary and so Bostonian (she could have stepped out of the pages of a novel by William Dean Howells or Henry James) that nothing could tear me from my attachment to her, hence my vote.

    1. Would you explain the pea soup comment? I don't see it in the bios. And I'm not getting the sense if it. Please enlighten us.

      1. I'll guess while we wait for John to respond: real English pea soup, such as Maurice might have eaten, is very thick, and one might be tempted to eat it with a fork, but one would thus miss all the best stuff. So perhaps Maurice's talks were of very dense material/ideas and he left out too much stuff so that he was difficult to make sense of? I have listened to talks like that--it's very frustrating.

  11. Voted for Vida for so many reasons--prayer, activism, achievement against the odds in a man's world. What would have tipped the scale, had this been a more difficult decision for me, is the Wellesley connection. Interestingly, she died shortly after I began my freshman year there.

  12. It is not made clear in the summary that Maurice's Theological Essays spoke to the Christian Socialist Movement, and that Maurice insisted that he be either acquitted or dismissed as a result of the controversy created by the publication of these essays. This was a very bold move!

  13. Had to go with a Smith College graduate (as is our daughter) and a woman who helped focus the Episcopal Church on social justice issues. We need more of her focus and energy in today's congregations.

  14. Three cheers for Christian Socialists! Why must I vote for only one of them? We live in dark times when Christian Socialism is condemned by (multiple adjectives deleted) political candidates and opiners seem to think there is something terribly wrong with Christian Socialism. So again, three cheers!

      1. So true! The word Christian has been co-opted by the Right, and Socialism has been demonized by all.

      1. According to "Holy Women, Holy Men"…..
        "Though she initially supported World War I, she joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923, and by the 1930s was a firm pacifist."

  15. Voting for F.D. Maurice for being a Unitarian at Trinity College, for promoting Christian socialism, for having the courage to say that greed and capitalism are antithetical to Jesus' teachings, for being an early proponent of ecumenism, for getting fired for proclaiming universal salvation (it's that "I'm in and you're out" mentality that is so destructive in our culture right now), for being a teacher, and for having the same name as my Uncle Maurice!

  16. What inspiring Saints today! My favorite thing about Lent Madness is learning about those I don't know, and being inspired to read their own writings! Today I thought I would vote for Vida, but the sadness of being unfairly dismissed and the perseverance in educating the less privileged, along with Derek Olsen's endearing portrait of Professor Maurice's character, won me to the side of the underdog (again!). If Vida Dutton Scudder continues her present strong lead, will be happy to vote for her in the Sixteen!

  17. This pair, I'm afraid, does not resonate with MmusicResonator, so it is hard to vote. I am inclined not to vote today, but I take heart that one will be knocked out anyway, and the other later on. Still thinking.

  18. I should like the S.E.C. to consider more pairings like this in next year's brackets. This lends itself to thoughtful reflection and a fairer comparison of worthy individuals.

  19. Two thoroughly admirable contestants to start the week! I have great empathy for F. D. in that I tend to freeze up whenever I have to address a crowd larger than one, but I was so captivated by the concept of prayer as a "deep secret creative force" that I ended up voting for Vida!

  20. What an admirable pairing. I will be happy to see either advance into the next round. I voted for FD Maurice in the end because of his commitment to education for the working poor, for his bravery in asserting that greed and capitalism are contrary to the gospel knowing that he may lose his post, and because I am a university chaplain. I was also a tad uncomfortable with Vida's support for the American entry into WWI, although note the comment that she later changed her views.

  21. Well, my name is Dutton, so you'd think . . . . But I voted for Maurice, whom I have admired for a long time. I have to say that this was a good and fair match - though it looks as if Vida will smother F. D. Two great advocates for the poor and needy - may we today follow in their paths.

  22. Well, you managed to pick two people about whom I knew almost nothing--no mystics, no musicians. However, I was drawn to Maurice because of his socialism (incidentally Christian) and his tangling with the "authorities" over the theological "soundness" of his writing; also his work with and sympathy for the poor. (I wonder how Lewis Carroll was influenced by him.)

  23. You had me at social worker! So excited to learn more about a woman who is a socisl worker and an Episcopalian, as am I. One of the best things about Lent Madness are the happy discoveries kike this. Hurrah for Vida, my vote for the new patron saint of social workers!!

    1. Me too! Here's another vote for Vida from another social worker. I like the idea of a patron saint for social workers.