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Drew University Archives presents:

Mildred Moody Eakin
Biography Articles Books Documents Photographs pedagogy

Biography


About Mildred Moody Eakin

Mildred Moody Eakin taught religious education at Drew University (Madison, N.J.) from 1932-1955. She was the first full-time female faculty member at the Drew Theological School, preceding Nelle Morton, who arrived in 1955.

Eakin was a pioneer in the field of multi-culturalism and the ministry of reconciliation at a time when anti-Semitism and racism were peaking. She authored such curriculum materials as Getting Acquainted with Jewish Neighbors and the Junior Teacher's Guide on Negro Americans. With her husband, Frank Eakin, she co-authored the book, The Sunday School Fights Prejudice. The Eakins' study concluded that the Christian Sunday school could be a primary agent in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.

In addition, Mildred Moody Eakin served on a committee that studied the presence of racial and interfaith references in Protestant Sunday school curriculum. Sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the first study began in 1933. It is significant to note that this was a year before Hitler rose to power in Germany. A second study was completed shortly after World War II. Several other curriculum studies followed in the late 1940s and 1950s.

At the center of Eakin's work are the questions: “Who is my neighbor” and “What does it mean to be a neighbor?” With these as her focus, she struggled to move theology out of abstraction and into practice – that is, into the community – through the use of drama, study, and practical activities designed to foster communication and understanding among people.

Now, fifty years later, the issues to which she was so dedicated are still with us. The current rise in anti-Semitism and racism, as well as the events of and response to 9/11 make this observation all too painful. Mildred Moody Eakin and her models of pedagogy are still challenging us to help positively reconfigure the American landscape.

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The Research

Janet and I think it's interesting how people come to their work – what starts someone on a particular research path? We first worked together in the mid-1980's when we were Theo students in Harold Dean Trulear's course on the sociology of the African-American Churches. As for Mildred Moody Eakin, our adventure began with a portrait.

On the main floor of Seminary Hall, before the recent renovation, there were several portraits of former professors, Mildred Moody Eakin and her successor, Nelle Morton, among them. In comparison to the men, Mildred and Nelle really stood out. I suppose that I had no appreciation for Impressionism, because I referred to them as "The Paint by Number Gallery." The fact that the paintings were a bit garish and of women – the only women – did indeed draw our attention. But, we were drawn to Eakin, because unlike Nelle, few people knew who she was or what she taught. If they did refer to her subject area, she was often dismissed because she taught 'religious education.' Everyone spoke of Nelle as the first woman on the Seminary faculty which, we too, assumed was true.

Our curiosity sharpened, we grumbled about another woman's history being forgotten and decided that, "Someday," we would check out 'the unknown woman.' Well, to fast-forward several years, Janet and I did begin the hunt for Mildred – but not before other tantalizing questions were raised. In one of our many conversations about anti-Semitism, Dr. Michael Ryan asked me if I knew about "The Drew Studies" with the suggestion to look into them. I had heard the phrase somewhere, but shelved the idea of tracking them 'til that beleaguered point in time – P.D. (post-dissertation). Dr. Kenneth Rowe added the next bit of intrigue. Waiting for the line of march to begin one May commencement, Ken brought up some material that he had seen and asked if I knew about it. "No, but I know of Mildred Moody Eakin." As the saying goes, the rest is history--or rather, the reclamation of Mildred's history. Little did we know when we began our research that she was at the center of "The Drew Studies." Or that the name, "The Drew Studies" was actually shorthand for a series of studies with very long titles. We've spent many hours with Mildred. We enjoy being in her company.

Dr. Sloane Drayson-Knigge
Dr. Janet R. Stafford

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General Brochure

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Teachers of Drew, 1942

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Alumni Notes, Spring 1970

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Who’s Who in America. A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women, Vol. 26, 1950-1951, (Chicago: The A. N. Marquis Company, 1950)

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Other Resources

Drayson-Knigge, Sloane and Stafford, Janet (2007). Mildred Moody Eakin: Who is my neighbor? Unpublished pamphlet (updated), originally produced for the authors' presentation given March 3, 2004 at the Drew University Theological School, Madison, N.J.

Maves, Paul B. 1950. Annual report to Dean Clarence Tucker Craig, (May 19), Paul Maves file, Drew University Library Archives.

Maves, Paul B. 1950. Memorandum from Paul B. Maves to Dean [Clarence Tucker] Craig, (October 16), Paul Maves file, Drew University Library Archives.

Maves, Paul B. 1970, Spring. Mildred Moody Eakin: Master teacher. The Drew University magazine, TS 1-2.

Olson-Bruckner, Elsa. (1984). My brother, Bernhard. Winburne, PA: Intergroup Center Press.

(1984). Portraits of women faculty. Brochure printed to commemorate the portraits of Mildred Moody Eakin and Nelle Morton. Drew University Archives, Madison, NJ.

The Mildred Moody Eakin papers. Drew University Archives. Madison, New Jersey. Papers are currently being processed.

(1976, July). The prominent Pettit family. Wilson Historical Society Newsletter, Wilson, NY, 5(7), 1.

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Content provided by Cheryl Oestreicher, University Archives, Dr. Sloane Drayson-Knigge, Dr. Janet Stafford. Site designed by Sarah Ashley, Instructional Technology Services.