Service and learning at the turn of two centuries : lessons from Vida Scudder
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My dissertation reintroduces a radical educator, accomplished rhetor and tireless activist, Vida Dutton Scudder (1861-1954). Scudder spurred the first generations of college-educated women to social justice work. She helped found settlement houses where women put their newfound beliefs into action. Later in her life, however, Scudder’s more radical yet still belletristic rhetoric matched her times less well. Thus, my dissertation scrutinizes both successful and unsuccessful social change-oriented rhetoric during the turbulent Progressive era. In addition, I examine Scudder’s approaches to literature and pedagogy. In her Wellesley College literature classroom, Scudder linked textual study and social commitment. She emphasized social justice themes and encouraged independent thought; in fact, her pedagogy anticipated contemporary service-learning. Finally, vii I consider current pedagogical and rhetorical approaches to increasing college students’ community engagement. My first chapter presents Scudder and outlines the scholarly conversations to which the dissertation contributes; it takes its title, “Three Directions at Once,” from Scudder’s own description of her struggle to sustain a multifaceted life. Chapter Two, “Speaker of the House,” considers three articles and two speeches Scudder directed towards college women at the end of the nineteenth century. These texts urge educated women to work on behalf of social equality, especially in settlements. I argue that Scudder brought the earlier nineteenth-century tradition of oratorical culture to the women’s sphere. In Chapter Three, “’She Made You Think’: Scudder at Wellesley,” I describe the Wellesley literature and composition departments during the forty years Scudder taught there and then turn to Scudder’s pedagogy—radical in some ways, mainstream in others. Chapter four, “Service-Learning 1902,” appraises Scudder’ educational efforts in settlements. I examine college students’ experiences in turn-of-the-century settlements through the lens of contemporary service-learning scholarship. I also discuss and critique Scudder’s programs to teach settlement clients (‘neighbors”) humanities and civics. Scudder’s activism rested upon a radical Christianity. By 1912, she had become both an Anglo-Catholic and a committed socialist. My concluding chapter, “The Professor Under Fire”: Scudder as Public Intellectual,” examines her synthesis of Christianity and socialism in a speech given at the incendiary Lawrence textile worker’s strike.