Steere, Douglas V. (Douglas Van), 1901-1995Variant names
Douglas and Dorothy Steere served the Society of Friends for much of their adult lives and their influence remains strong to this day. Douglas V. Steere was born on August 31, 1901 in Harbor Beach, Michigan and was educated at Eastern High School in Detroit; Michigan Agricultural College, earning a BS in Agriculture in 1923; and Harvard University, earning his MA in Philosophy in 1929 and his PhD in 1931. As a Rhodes Scholar, Steere attended Oxford University from 1925 to 1928, earning both a BA and an MA. Dorothy Lou MacEachron was born on December 22, 1907 in Grand Haven, Michigan, and graduated with distinction from the University of Michigan in 1928. After their marriage in 1929, they worked together for Quakerism and for the American Friends Service Committee until his death in 1995.
From 1928 to 1964, Douglas Steere was professor of philosophy at Haverford College. He was the Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1936, the William Belden Noble Lecturer at Harvard University in Boston in 1943, and Rauschenbush Lecturer in Rochester, NY in 1953. From 1961 to 1962, Douglas Steere served as visiting professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary. The Steeres' involvement with the Society of Friends included memberships, travels, and hands-on work throughout their professional lives. They were instrumental in planning Pendle Hill, a Quaker study center located in Wallingford, PA in 1930. Based in his Quaker beliefs, Douglas Steere objected to military service during World War II. Soon after the war ended, Douglas Steere “helped organize Quaker relief efforts in Finland, Norway and Poland … [and] urged recovery efforts by American Friends Service Committee in Europe,” (NY Times Obituary). From the mid 1940s to 1960s, the Steeres traveled under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee in order to work with Quaker relief projects in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and Africa. While continuing their work in these regions, Douglas Steere served as Chairman of the Friends World Committee for Consultation, arranging meetings with international theologians from 1964 to 1970, especially in Japan and India, in order to explore ecumenism and encourage communication. In 1964, he represented the Society of Friends at the Second Vatican Council.
Dorothy Steere was a member of American Friends Service Committee from 1945 to 1980. Her first contribution to this organization was as a work camp leader in 1945, and in 1949 she served on the American Friends Service Personnel Committee. Steere noted that her special interest in the committee was in “communication with people of all kinds, growth and awareness of ourselves as persons, of others, and their needs.” This commitment to all peoples can be seen in her involvement with Civil Rights during the 1950s and 1960s. Between 1956 and 1958, Dorothy Steere corresponded with Martin Luther King Jr. on issues such as the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and race relations in the South.
Douglas and Dorothy Steere were members of Radnor United Meeting of the Society of Friends from 1936 to 1995. Douglas was also a member of the American Friends Service Committee, serving as a member of the Board and chairman of the Work Camp Committee. He was the developer of the Finnish Settlement Movement in 1945; a member of the Pendle Hill Board from 1930 to 1991; and chairman of the Board. He served as Secretary of the Theological and Philosophical Societies from 1930 to 1995, and was also involved in the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality which grew out of Vatican Council II. In 1975 he gave the Haverford College commencement speech. He earned many honorary degrees and was knighted as Knight First Class of the White Rose of Finland in 1984 in recognition of his relief and reconstruction work in Finland following World War II under the American Friends Service Committee’s Finnish Settlement Movement.
Douglas Steere authored many books including Prayer and Worship, 1938; Time to Spare, 1938; a translation of Kierkegaard’s Purity of the Heart, 1938; On Beginning from Within, 1943; Doors into Life, 1948; On Listening to Another, 1955; Work and Contemplation, 1957; Dimensions of Prayer, 1963; Spiritual Councils and Letters of Baron Friedric von Hugel, serving as editor and providing an introductory essay on von Hugel; and God’s Irregular: Arthur Cripps, 1973. In addition, he authored many pamphlets as well as introductions to and chapters in books. The Steeres coauthored Friends Work in Africa which was published in 1955. In 1984, he edited the book Quaker Spirituality, which included selected writings from Quaker writers such as John Woolman, Rufus Jones, Thomas Kelly, and Isaac Pennington.
Dorothy Steere gave many talks and addresses at retreats, conferences, and religious meetings. Several of her essays were featured in Quaker journals and publications such as Inward Light, Friendly Woman, and The Friend. Steere also wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Whole World in His Hands" in 1965.
According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled “Quaker Couple Best Friends-and the Best of Friends,” the Steeres met in 1925 just before he traveled to England as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. Their courtship resulted in a great number of letters and they married in 1929 and had two children, Helen and Anne. Their sixty-five year marriage, “for many Friends … was a model Quaker union,” (Hamm, p. 208).
On February 16, 1993, Douglas V. Steere died, aged 93, from Alzheimer’s Disease. Dorothy M. Steere died on February 10, 2003 at the age of 95 years.
Hamm, Thomas D. The Quakers in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. New York Times Obituary. “Douglas Steere, 93, Author, Professor And Quaker Leader.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/16/obituaries/douglas-steere-93-author-professor-and-quaker-leader.html (accessed October 9, 2009).
Raftery, Kay. “Quaker Couple Best Friends-and the Best of Friends.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 6, 1994.
American Friends Service Committee Minute of Appreciation for Dorothy M. Steere, September 10, 1980.
From the guide to the Douglas V. and Dorothy M. Steere papers, 1896-2003, (Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|World War II|
|Philosophy--Study and teaching|
|Vatican Council (2nd : 1962-1965)|
|Religion--Study and teaching|