Clare vs. Vida Dutton Scudder

The day after International Women's Day, we have two international women squaring off in the Lent Dome. Clare of Assisi (Italy!) takes on Vida Dutton Scudder (America!).

To make it thus far, Clare trounced Denis while Vida sailed past F.D. Maurice. Who will make face Constance in the Elate Eight? Only your vote and the next 24 hours will decide.

Yesterday Columba mastered Meister Eckhart 60% to 40 to advance to the next round.

And in the midst of the Saintly Sixteen, the SEC just wanted to offer a quick shout-out to all of our hard-working Celebrity Bloggers. As we get deeper into Lent, the turnaround times for the write-ups gets tighter. This is all being done in real time, folks! So if you spot a harried-looking CB, someone who may also be leading a congregation through Lent, give them a word of encouragement as you ask for their autograph. And then let them get back to their most important and holy task-at-hand.


Clare-washing-the-feet-of-the-nunsSo Clare was that person.

That person so sweet, so devoted, so honest, so deeply and genuinely kind to everyone even the haters can’t hate on her. Her only quirk was her deep goodness and authentic devotion.

Even before she was born, she was that person. While awaiting Clare’s birth, her mother went to a local church daily to pray for safe delivery as the date approached. One day, she heard a response to her prayer: “O Lady, do not be afraid, for you will joyfully bring forth a clear light which will illumine the world.”

Of course, that clear light was born shortly afterwards and named Clare, which means "clear one," in case you were wondering.

Writings about her life share that even as a child, she was holy and dedicated. One biographer notes she was praised by her neighbors and townspeople for her goodness and compassion and her devotion to daily prayer, even as an infant. As a child, she would take food from her plate to share with the hungry in her town.

Her only recorded act of disobedience was her refusal to marry the man her family selected for her. But since she made her vows, as she later wrote, “to take the Lord Jesus Christ, a spouse of a more noble lineage, who would keep her forever unspotted and unsullied,” even that act of disobedience gets a pass.

Clare spent all of her adult life in the contemplative religious order that would eventually be called the Order of St. Clare. Clare founded her order on deep contemplation of Christ and the purest ideal of Franciscan poverty. None of the women could own anything, and their daily lives reflected a faithful and serious commitment to poverty. For Clare, even her sleeping conditions were bare bones. In the Legend of St. Clare, we read about her sleeping conditions: “for a pillow, she took a block or a great stone; she lay always on the bare ground, or for to take the better her rest she lay otherwhile upon the cuttings of vines, unto the time that Saint Francis had commanded her, because that it was over foul, that she should use to lie on a sack full of straw.”

The vast majority of her writings are from letters to two women who were entering religious life. In her letter supporting Agnes and her decision to join the monastic life that embraces utter poverty, Clare writes:

O blessed poverty,
who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!
O holy poverty,
to those who possess and desire you God promises the kingdom of heaven
and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life!
O God-centered poverty,
whom the Lord Jesus Christ Who ruled and now rules heaven and earth,
Who spoke and things were made, condescended to embrace before all else!

Clare doesn’t mention the rocks for pillows, but otherwise, her enthusiasm and dedication to Christ is evident.

Clare is even that person for those of us who find respite binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. Yes, she’s the patron saint of television. But instead of House of Cards, Clare watched the Sacrament of the Mass projected by none other than the Holy Spirit on the wall of her room when she became too ill to attend.

Yes, she was that person who loved and served the Lord with her whole self and soul. She guides the sisters of her order: “Love him totally who gave himself totally for your love.”

We truly need more of those people like Clare.

— Laurie Brock

Vida Dutton Scudder

The more you learn about Vida Dutton Scudder, the more it is clear that her quiet influence and deep commitments touched many aspects of society throughout the last century and into the current one.

Vida was an educator, Episcopalian, editor/writer, principal advocate in social and women’s issues, social worker, welfare activist, anti-war/pro-peace proponent, and one of the most prominent lesbian writers of her time. She maintained that charity by and of itself is a failure; rather, an economic solution was the only avenue to effectively address social problems.

Her prolific writings were truly the window into her deeply Christian soul and provided an outpouring for her beliefs. Honored annually on October 10, Vida’s quotes mirror her life’s work, social beliefs and stances:

“War to win peace is at best a dangerously illogical method.”

“The suppression of war is not the equivalent of peace.”

“Luxury, like a minimum wage, is a relationship; it changes as we change.”

“Reality, like beauty, is in relationship and there only.”

“It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.”

“An element of abstention, of restraint, must enter into all finer joys.”

“The worst danger of the mystic is as always a quest of spiritual privilege leading to aloofness from the common lot.”

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

“Economic necessity is the determining base of permanent social change”

“Social intercession may be the mightiest force in the world.”

Living her beliefs was a strong part of Vida’s lifelong dedication and education.  She was an early member of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (SCHC), comprised of lay and ordained Episcopal and Anglican women who are dedicated to a life of prayer for social justice, unity, peace and reconciliation.

Some interesting notes and tidbits about Vida and those around her:

  • She was a founder of Denison House where pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart served as a social worker for two years beginning in 1926. Amelia was reported to have helped Dennison House by flying over Boston, air-dropping pamphlets that heralded the organization’s events.
  • Both Vida and her mother were confirmed as Episcopalians by Phillips Brooks, Rector of Boston's Trinity Church, Bishop of Massachusetts, and writer of the beloved Christmas hymn, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
  • At the onset of World War I, Vida supported the war effort, but changed course, joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923, and by 1930 she was an avowed pacifist.

Vida Dutton Scudder lived from 1861 to 1954, bridging historic times that cried out for, and desperately needed, her social conscience, personal drive, and intense spirituality.

— Neva Rae Fox

Clare vs. Vida Dutton Scudder

  • Vida Dutton Scudder (51%, 3,214 Votes)
  • Clare (49%, 3,055 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,269

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American National Biography Online:  Vida Dutton Scudder. Drypoint on paper, 1932, by Bernard Sanders. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.


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160 comments on “Clare vs. Vida Dutton Scudder”

    1. Sarah, when I was reading the bios I thought of you, but I was sure you would be voting Vida. Silly me. Clare is hard to resist, yeah?

      1. I did vote for vida on another device. Its an advantage, I don't always do that though.
        Laugh out Loud.

    2. "It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed." Clearly these two had something in common.

    3. I also voted for Clare. My reason was that she is a patron saint of embroiderers and I love to sew and do embroidery. We must have had something in common.

  1. I voted for Clare because she cut her hair and refused to marry the boy they picked for her.

  2. Yes! Christian Socialism! Anyone who would write a book called Socialism and Spiritual Progress is the woman I am going to vote for. Vida Dutton Scudder is the finest fruit of Victorianism. I cannot walk away from the wit and irony of "If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it." I'll pray for both Clare and Vida today, but my vote is for Vida.

          1. Chaplain Tom was trying to be funny not mean. He was writing with a chuckle, but that can be hard to hear when it is only in writing.
            I am excited to see that you are so involved in and interested in Lent Madness. Keep up the good work and you may be on the Supreme Executive Committee picking the saints and counting the votes!

          2. I think it means that old people in the Episcopal Church loathe to accept children's thoughts as being equal to their own. As a Director of Children and Youth Ministry, this breaks my heart regularly. Keep going Sarah and Oliver. The true irony is that your hope and wisdom will outlast their attempts at humor at the expense of others.

        1. Ah, irony! I love it! It is so...ironic! Please do remember to suffer the little children - it will take a few years for their sense of irony to develop fully! I, for one, am delighted to hear the voices of young folk who care enough to play (and pray!) along with us grown-ups...

    1. if more of us thought like Oliver the world would be a better place. The joy of the obvious is sometimes the best joy of all.

    2. I now get what you were saying, my mom described it. At too laugh at it.
      Now Lets see Who wins

  3. Clare all the way. If you ever went to Assisi and went to vespers at the church of St. Clare you would know what heaven must sound like. And it's been happening for hundreds of years. The holiness Clare started permeates the walls.

    1. Clare is definitely my choice after being in Assisi and as member of St. Clare chapter of DOK

  4. Oh my. Clare was the saint I liked best when I was a Protestant child in Catholic school. But Vida! What integration of faith, action, and intelligence. Dare I say 'Feel the Vida!'?

  5. I do so not understand, nor want to emulate, the poverty seekers that abound in saintly records. Tiresome is the cry to poverty and sleeping on the ground ( with Schweitzers ants and mosquitoes) Vida Vida Vida.

    1. well said Donna. Rich people who choose poverty don't seem to get how rhat is different from having it thrust upon you.

      1. Hmmm, but Jesus did tell the rich lawyer to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Poverty by choice is the lifestyle Jesus chose as well, no? Rare is the person who actually responds (and I'm speaking to myself here!).

        1. I'm not sure we can say that Jesus choose a life of poverty. His life was what it was — the son of a craftsperson in a tiny occupied country.

          1. Yes, but he left all that behind to be an itinerant rabbi. His food and shelter was provided by his supporters- "some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources." (I love that Jesus' financial backing was given by these women!)

          2. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

          3. And if you consider Jesus to be the incarnate Son of God...well, that was a choice too. He "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:6-7)

  6. Hard to ignore perfectly phrased epigrams....and a model for all Episcopalians, women and men alike. While we may need to be more like Clare, the times call for more Vidas. Vote for Vida!

  7. Mine too her bravery and foresight of tirelessly working in a life of prayer for social justice, unity, peace and reconciliation in the late 1800's thru the early 1900's blows my mind. I think her work did a great deal to improve the lives of women and the needy and so much more. GO VIDA!!!!!!!!!

  8. I can't agree with purposely damaging one's body & health by over-romanticizing asceticism/poor sleeping conditions. So, though I loved Clare in Brother Sun Sister Moon 😉 my vote is for my sister Vida! Also inspired by her life of service, intellectual honesty in changing her mind re WWI, and her words on prayer and economic injustice! Go Vida! ❤️

    1. “Reality, like beauty, is in relationship and there only.”

      “The worst danger of the mystic is as always a quest of spiritual privilege leading to aloofness from the common lot.”

      I agree with Angela Bocage. I can't help but wonder what Vida would have made of Clare. Of course, I am probably profoundly misunderstanding Clare.

      And, all props for being an out lesbian in a committed relationship in the early decades of the last century. That could not have been easy.

      1. See Eileen's excellent comment below: "Such a difficult choice. Vida was also a noted historian who wrote one of the definitive texts on the history of Francis and the Franciscans. She carried the vocation of Clare forward and demonstrated how it could be lived in the twentieth century. A vote for Vida is a vote for Clare living and active in the modern world."

    2. I am repelled by extreme asceticism and, and I don't think that sleeping with a rock for a pillow does much to further the kingdom of God. Jesus was criticized for his habit of attending parties, after all. I'm sure Clare was a very good person, but I voted for Vida.

    3. I don't believe Clare or Francis or any of their kindred spirits set aside wealth and comfort in the hopes of posing or pretending their lot was the same as people never knew wealth. I don't think they were seeking pain, either. They wanted what was for them enough, and nothing more than that. OK, she might have used a stone pillow--but she still used a pillow. Clare's generosity and kindness light my heart. I admire her commitment to living mindfully though not always comfortably. The absence of music is silence, not noise.

      1. I was a candidate for Franciscan Servants of God's Grace some years ago but did not go on to become a professed sister. Nevertheless, I saw enough of the life of the order's founder and experienced enough to understand how difficult it is to follow the Franciscan way. People who know me probably don't consider me particularly materialistic, but truly embracing Franciscan poverty -- truly understanding the difference between needs and wants and seeking only what one needs, in God -- is incredibly difficult! I voted for Clare because, next to St. Francis himself, she best exemplified the Franciscan charism.

  9. Such a difficult choice. Vida was also a noted historian who wrote one of the definitive texts on the history of Francis and the Franciscans. She carried the vocation of Clare forward and demonstrated how it could be lived in the twentieth century. A vote for Vida is a vote for Clare living and active in the modern world.

    1. "A vote for Vida is a vote for Clare living and active in the modern world."

      Nicely put. So really, there are no losers here.

  10. Wow! What a close race! When I voted (8:42 EST) the two holy women were tied at 50 percent each.

  11. Just want to add my thanks to the Celebrity Bloggers, who make this journey (along with SEC, of course) fun and informative. Hmm, Clare=light, Vida=life, tough choice today! I settled on Vida.

  12. This was difficult. I was all ready to breeze through and click on Clare, but then I read

    "She maintained that charity by and of itself is a failure; rather, an economic solution was the only avenue to effectively address social problems"

    and now I want to go buy all of Vida's books. Vida it is.

    1. That caught me, too, because I do believe economics are a major portion of the problem in today's world, and were certainly so during her era as well.
      Feeling the Vida today!

  13. Today my vote was for action vs. contemplation. Clare sounds like a really nice person but I had to vote for Vida today.

  14. Not fair! This was a very difficult decision! I voted for Clare because she was the pioneer.

  15. Dead tie between the two women when I voted for Scudder; I wonder who'll break it. Someone who is sweet to the point of being saccharine does not appeal to me; but a "social worker, welfare activist, pro-peace proponent, and prominent lesbian writer," who even has a word of caution to mystics, has me in her camp.

  16. While my first thought was to vote for Clare, I do like nice people, and Vida looks a trifle stern in her glasses, but I find myself voting for her, first because she's an Episcopalian, and I am proud to be an Episcopalian. Second for her thoughtful comments on war and peace, and third for her courage in fighting for others.

  17. Voted for Vida. Loved the write-up, loved that she emerged from a place of supporting war to realizing that is a losing proposition. The quotes were marvelous: “It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.” How different the world would be if we ascribed to that mentality! Go sister!!!!

  18. I voted for Vida because we need more outspoken women like her in times like these. I thought I would vote for Clare, but the modern urgency of Vida and these times make me choose Vida for her faithfulness and active work. May we pray for more examples in this day and age of both these faithful women in our times.

  19. Tough one but I'm for action...and Vida's day was my mom's bday...that was the deciding tidbit

  20. Vida for the Golden Halo! The more I learn about this activist saint, the more inspired I am. Thanks to Lent Madness for helping us remember this visionary!

  21. Oh my! Two outstanding and saintly women, each in their own time. Hard choice. I finally voted for Clare out of loyalty to tradition, but could have easily voted for Clare. To me the most important thing is to hold them both up as exemplars for our time. May we learn from them - except take a pass and sleep in our beds..

  22. In my struggle to oppose violence in all its forms and give up narrow security, I vote for Vida who lived and worked for this vision.

  23. I am very torn in today's decision. Both got my vote in the earlier contest. However, I think Vida would have been on the front lines today. Her words and actions speak to our war-torn and divisive world more than ever. Vida has my vote!

  24. I have very mixed feelings about the tradition of women hurting their bodies as a path to holiness. Vida gets my vote today. As the daughter of a lesbian mom, I love finding queer history role models in the church.

    1. Yes, Jendi! I agree - the mission of the church has no doubt been enriched by many LGBT persons - some quiet and some not so quiet. I was happy to see one such saint represented today, and while I appreciate the life and legacy of St. Clare, Vida gets my vote!