If you go
What: Boulder Women in the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, with Wendy Bohling
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March, 7
Where: Chautauqua Community House, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder
More info: chautauqua.com
It's a particularly good time to remember the life of Elise Boulding. Immigrant, wife, mother, feminist, scholar and peace activist, Boulding was a woman ahead of her time.
When she was 3 years old, Elise Biorn Hansen immigrated to the United States from Norway with her family. It was 1920, and sentiments against immigrants ran high in the United States. As Elise grew up, she retained her native language and through the stories she heard, she regarded her homeland as her safe haven. That notion was shattered when the Nazis invaded Norway in 1940. If war could come to Norway, it could come anywhere, she reasoned. She decided then that she would spend her life working toward peace.
Long before the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s, Elise was speaking out against war and nuclear weapons testing. In college, she became involved with the pacifist Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. A Quaker meeting was where she first met economist Kenneth Boulding, an immigrant from England, and they married after a brief courtship.
The academic life of Kenneth took them to many parts of the United States including the historically black university Fisk in Tennessee and later the University of Michigan. Elise began work on her Ph.D. in sociology, but was interrupted by the needs of her five children. Motherhood shaped her belief that children could and should be taught nonviolent ways to solve conflict. The family moved to Boulder in 1967, after Kenneth accepted a job as economics professor at the University of Colorado. Carol Taylor Boulder County History
She was elected chair of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1968. Work for the WILPF took her all over the world. Once, she traveled with a group of American women for a meeting with Russian women to discuss means for diffusing strained relations.
Elise completed her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1969. She was just shy of 50 years old. In Boulder, she taught sociology at CU. She and her husband created the Peace and Conflict Studies program at CU in the late 1960s. In fact, she helped create a number of peace organizations and peace academic programs throughout the country.
After her children were raised, she took opportunities apart from her husband. She accepted a job at Dartmouth College and eventually chaired the sociology department there. After retiring in the mid-1980s, she settled back in Boulder for years of reflection and writing.
Locally, she served on the board of the Parenting Place for a decade. She taught Sunday school at the Boulder Friends Meeting and worked with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. In 1990, she was honored with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, from the American Friends Service Committee. She didn't win. However, she was the inaugural recipient of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's Peacemaker of the Year Award in 1996.
Kenneth died in Boulder in 1993. A few years later, Elise went to live with her daughter in Massachusetts. Upon leaving Boulder she remarked, "There is such a terrific combination of talents and concerns for making a better community here, a better life economically, a focus on social justice and solving conflicts without using force."
She died in Massachusetts in 2010 at the age of 89.
Her obituary in the Washington Post quoted Colman McCarthy, a peace activist and former Post columnist, as writing, "Elise Boulding was to peace studies what Rachel Carson was to conservation and Margaret Mead to anthropology."
Her causes were global as well as local and she was recognized at every level. Elise was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1996. Her story is featured in the 1999 book "Women of Consequence: The Colorado Women's Hall of Fame," by Jeanne Varnell.
The inspiring achievements of Elise Boulding and other remarkable Boulder women will be presented at a Women's History Month program as part of the Chautauqua History Series.
Carol Taylor and Silvia Pettem write about history for the Daily Camera. Email Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org, Silvia at email@example.com or write to the Daily Camera, 2500 55th St., Suite 210, Boulder, 80301.
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