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Vida Dutton Scudder papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00140

Scope and Contents

The Vida Dutton Scudder Papers consist of .75 linear feet of printed material, writings, photographs, and correspondence. Most of the correspondence consists of letters to Margaret Storrs Grierson, Smith College Archivist and Director of the Sophia Smith Collection. Since the majority of Scudder's papers were destroyed at her own request, the journals contained in this collection are of particular interest. They include her College Settlement [Association] notebook, which contains meeting notes, as well as general and personal notes; six journals containing the original draft of her autobiography as well as personal reflections; and three handwritten essays. In addition there are clippings and articles by and about Scudder in numerous publications, and four of her books.

Dates of Materials

  • 1883-1979


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Vida Scudder was born in India on December 15, 1861, the only child of Harriet Louisa (Dutton) and David Coit Scudder. She and her mother returned to Boston following the death of her father, although she spent much of her childhood traveling in Europe. She attended Boston private secondary schools, and graduated from Smith College in 1884. While doing postgraduate work at Oxford University, where she attended lectures by John Ruskin, Scudder developed the beginnings of social awareness that were to guide her through the rest of her life. She taught in the English Department of Wellesley College from 1887 to 1927, where she was often in conflict with the administration over her socialist activities. In 1887, Scudder along with colleagues from Bryn Mawr, Smith, and Vassar, began plans for the College Settlements Association and in 1889 the first settlement house opened on Rivington St. in New York City. Beginning in 1893 and for the next twenty years she was a primary administrator of Denison House in Boston. In 1889, Scudder became a charter member of the Brotherhood of the Carpenter, a worker's organization, and also began working in the Christian Social Union, the purpose of which was to implement Christian principles in bringing "relief to the social and economic disorder of society." Beginning in 1889, she was a member of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a religious organization that gave her long-term strength and support. In 1911, she co-founded the Episcopal Church Socialist League and joined the Socialist Party, and in 1919, she organized the Church League for Industrial Democracy. Although Scudder supported Woodrow Wilson's decision to enter World War I, in the postwar years she moved towards pacifism. She joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923 and the same year gave a series of lectures at a meeting of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in Prague. She was a delegate to the Boston Central Labor Union and was active in organizing the Women's Trade Union League. After her retirement from Wellesley in 1928, Scudder went on to become a leading scholar of Franciscan history. In 1930, she became the first dean of the Summer School of Christian Ethics at Wellesley, and in 1931, she lectured weekly at the New School for Social Research in New York. Scudder authored sixteen books, including her autobiography On Journey, as well as many scholarly articles on political, literary, and religious topics. In 1919, Florence Converse joined her household and remained until Scudder's death on October 9, 1954.


1.313 linear feet (3 containers)


Professor, English; Founder, College Settlements Association; Settlement house worker; Pacifist; Religious writer; and Social reformer. Papers consist of printed material, writings, photographs, and correspondence. Including letters to Margaret Storrs Grierson, Smith College Archivist and Director of the Sophia Smith Collection. Journals include her College Settlement Association notebook; six journals containing the original draft of her autobiography as well as personal reflections; and three handwritten essays.


This collection is organized into three series:

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Writings

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Vida Dutton Scudder donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1953.

Related Material

Additional Scudder papers are housed at Wellesley College and at the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, Adelynrood, South Byfield, MA. Records of Denison House are in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Burd Schlessinger, 2002.

Vida Dutton Scudder papers
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss111 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:10-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063