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Mildred Moody Eakin

By Sloane Drayson-Knigge & Janet R. Stafford



There are paintings of past professors on the walls of Seminary Hall. Most of them, done in the representational style of the nineteenth-century, are of men in dark suits. However, two of the paintings are different. Their style is twentieth century - bright colors, a bit impressionistic - and their subject matter is female. Ask most of the students in the Theological School at Drew University (Madison, NJ), and they will be able to tell you that one of the women is theologian and former professor Nelle Morton. But then they turn to the other painting. Some students may know that the woman next to Nelle Morton had something to do with Christian education. However, most admit that they do not know her name, let alone what she did.

The woman in the painting is Mildred Moody Eakin, Assistant Professor of Religious Education, and the first full-time female faculty member of the Theological School at Drew University.

Mildred Olivia Moody was born 28 March 1890 in Wilson, New York to Alfred James and Mary Evelyn (Petit) Moody. After graduating from Wilson Academy in 1906, she attended Syracuse University, where she majored in English and history. Moody received an A.B. degree in 1910, then returned to Wilson and taught in the local high school.

At this point, her story might have been the same as many young women of her time, but young Mildred Moody seemed to be determined to take on a larger role. Dedicated to changing the landscape of her culture, she accepted a position in 1916 as Director of Children's Activities for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. While working for the W.C.T.U., she focused on educational matters, and created the Loyal Temperance Legion for children and youth. She also served as the W.C.T.U.'s Associate National Director in 1919. That same year, however, she left to take a job as the Director of Elementary Education in the Methodist Episcopal Church's Board of Education in the Kansas City, Missouri Divisional Office. From 1919 to 1921, Moody was responsible for overseeing work related to children's educational ministries in seven states.

In 1921, Moody moved to Chicago to become Superintendent of the Department of Elementary Education in the Central office of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In this position, she once again focused on children's work. She was involved in experimental two-and-a-half-hour church school sessions, and sought to integrate Sunday school and missionary education curriculum materials. While in Chicago, she became a colleague of notable people working in the religious education field at the time, individuals such as Arlo Ayres Brown, James V. Thompson, and Lynn Harold Hough (all of whom eventually came to teach at Drew University). While in Chicago, Moody produced a series of motivational stories called Tales of Golden Deeds and a teacher's text, Kindergarten Course for the Daily Vacation Bible School.

During her eleven years in Chicago, Moody became affiliated with the International Council of Religious Education. In 1926, she was named chairperson of the International Council's Children's Advisory Section. The next year, she was made Director of Leadership Training for the International Council's Committee on Religious Education of Children, a position that she held until 1932. All through the late 1920s and into the early 1930s, she was a regular contributor to the organization's periodical, The International Journal of Religious Education. In 1929, she and Elva M. Westbrook wrote a book, A Survey of Agencies Working with and for Children, which was published by the International Council.

Life changed for the busy Christian educator in 1931 when she married Biblical scholar Frank Eakin, and when her new husband took a position as an editor at Macmillan Publishing Company in New York City. Mildred Moody Eakin left the Methodist Episcopal Church's central office to take up residence in New Jersey. In 1932, Eakin became Director of Religious Education at Wyoming Presbyterian Church in Millburn, New Jersey. That same year, though, some of her Chicago colleagues (now at the Drew University Theological School) encouraged Eakin to teach courses at Drew in the area of religious education.

In 1937, Eakin left Wyoming Presbyterian to accept a position as Director of Religious Education at Hillside Presbyterian Church in Orange, N.J. Until 1941, she continued to straddle the practical demands of the local church and the academic rigors of teaching at the Theological School. In 1941, the energetic woman took on a new challenge as the Director of a demonstration school sponsored by the Religious Education Department at Drew and held at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Madison, N.J. According to Paul B. Maves, a Drew colleague from 1949 to 1954, Eakin was one of the pioneers in developing the demonstration school. It served as a training venue for both church school leaders and seminarians (1970, TS 2).

The 1930s also saw Eakin continue her education. Her biographical information indicates that she had attended the University of Chicago from 1930-1931. When Mildred Moody and Frank Eakin married and moved eastward, she entered New York University to study for a master's degree. She graduated in 1934. Her master's thesis - which had a title nearly as long as the text - was called, "A study of references to Hebrews (Jews) in Protestant Church School lesson materials, elementary division: with a view to estimating their probable or possible influence in fostering attitudes on the part of Church School pupils towards present-day Jews or Judaism." More noteworthy, though, is the research found in her thesis. Carefully reviewing Protestant Sunday school materials produced for children, Eakin tracked references to Jews to see whether they were portrayed in a negative or positive manner. She chose to use materials representing the northern and southern branches of the Presbyterian Church, the Christian Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Congregational Church, and the large and smaller Methodist denominations. What she sought to do was present "a fair picture of what the majority of Protestant boys and girls (ages about 4 to 11 inclusive) in evangelical churches are being taught, directly or by implication, concerning the Jews . . . " (1934, p. 5). In all, she read 108 textbooks for teachers, 81 textbooks for pupils, 780 leaflets for pupils, 576 pages of periodical materials, and 12 books for parents - a total of 14,607 pages in all (p. 4).

Eakin found that there were appreciative references to Jews. For instance, pupils learned that Jesus and his disciples were Jews and that Judaism gave birth to Christianity. Furthermore, writers injected into their material an awareness that Jews exist in the contemporary world. However, the materials also had drawbacks: there were negative references, a tendency to treat the Old (Hebrew) Testament and Judaism as inferior to and surpassed by Christianity; more writers reproduced, rather than softened, the New (Greek) Testament hostility toward Jews; and Jews were not infrequently portrayed as enemies of both Jesus and Christianity (p. 65).

Her research led her to several questions. (1) Is it appropriate for lesson writers to highlight anti-Jewish material found in the New Testament, and how should church school teachers approach such potentially prejudicial material? (2) Will teaching Christian children that Christianity is the "fulfillment of and successor to a decadent Judaism" have a negative effect on future Jewish-Christian relations? (3) What should be the response of Christian publishers and educational leaders to the many negative references to Biblical Judaism? For instance, should they (and would they) accept responsibility for derogatory references? (4) Is it appropriate to include negative opinions from Christian leaders of the past about Judaism and Jews, even though many of the opinions are no longer held by contemporary Christians? (5) Should not curriculum materials be conscious of giving Jews and Judaism credit for customs and laws that are considered good and valuable? (6) Should lesson writers view Jews as "an ancient people only" or should they strive to help children understand that Judaism continued through the centuries as a living religion and that Jews are a contemporary people? (7) Would it not be desirable to take a cue from lessons written to inculcate goodwill among other racial and ethnic groups, and devise lessons that have the express purpose of creating goodwill toward Jews as well? (pp. 75-77.)

In her thesis, Eakin advised that "before a complete picture can be had the curriculum materials used by all Protestant denominations will need to be examined," including resources written for youth and adults (p. iii). Eakin's thesis preceded a study of curriculum materials done at Drew University under the sponsorship of the American Jewish Committee. This larger study had its roots in a 1930 article written by Dr. Everett Ross Clinchy and Paul A. Reynolds of the Cornell University graduate school.

Clinchy was Director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and Executive Secretary of the Committee on Goodwill between Jews and Christians (Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America). He and Reynolds researched references to Jews in Sunday school curriculum material used in nine Protestant denominations. By 1931, Clinchy was advising and working closely with the American Jewish Committee in planning a more comprehensive study. In 1932, Drew University, under the sponsorship of the American Jewish Committee, was requested to start a three-year study of Protestant church school material. The "Drew Study" committee was formed in September-November of 1934 and the work was finished in 1935 (Thompson, 1935, II). Aside from doing her own research for her thesis, Eakin was part of the "Drew Study" as well. She and Mildred Alberta Magnuson, Director of the Week-day Religious Schools (Delaware, Ohio) reviewed materials for the "Elementary Division" (Thompson, 1935, III).

The nine-person committee for the "Drew Study" was charged with reading and evaluating the quarterly, monthly, and weekly issues of teacher publications for references to Jews, as well as other racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Along with Eakin and Magnuson, the committee included study supervisors James V. Thompson, Professor of Religious Education, and Rowena Ferguson, Associate Editor of Church School Publications in Nashville, Tennessee; Drew University's Instructor in Religious Education and Counselor of Women Students Helene Katherine Mosier, graduate student and YMCA employee Howard Wesley Brown, and graduate student Anna Macijauska - all of whom reviewed materials aimed at youth ("Young People's Division"); and graduate student and pastor (Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church) George Russell McCahan, who reviewed materials for adult students (Thompson, 1935, III). The ninth member of the team was not named, but may possibly have been Dr. Everett Ross Clinchy. Clinchy, who received a Ph.D. from Drew University is the first person mentioned in the study's "Acknowledgments" section (Maves, 1970, TS 2).

In February of 1935, the plan was presented to denominational editors and publishers gathered (most likely) at the International Council of Religious Education conference in Chicago. Previous to the meeting, though, most of the approved publishing houses already had begun to supply the committee with materials. Fifty-three "Official Protestant Church publications" were evaluated. The span of the research included periodicals published from May 1934 through April 1935. Under the supervision of Thompson and Ferguson, six members of the team read approximately 20,000 pages of material (Thompson, 1935, I-II).

The results of the study were sobering. The committee reported that all the materials seemed to have "the basic assumption that white people are somewhat superior to all their fellows" (Thompson, 1935, III). Furthermore, "American white Nordic culture and white Nordic group" was portrayed as "the world's saviour" (Thompson, 1935, IV). The study went on to note that there was "ignorance of the rites, customs, ideals, and purposes, of other racial and cultural groups in our midst" (Thompson, 1935, IV). However, all was not completely bleak, for the study group also found "an increase in the awareness of both editors and writers of the entire inter-faith, inter-cultural relations" area (Thompson, 1935, IV). The committee was confident that the absence of specific references to groups other than Protestants of northern European descent would eventually be corrected. In particular, they hoped that Jews would be portrayed as a contemporary people, rather than as an extinct people living only during the times of the Old (Hebrew) Testament. The researchers were well aware of the growing worldwide danger to Jews. The copy of the study housed at Drew University contains the following hand-written addendum: "The Nazi expulsion no doubt will aid in modifying this conception" (Thompson, 1935, IV). The handwriting bears a strong similarity to Eakin's hand. The note indicates members of the committee understood that the contemporary political environment would force curriculum editors and authors to portray Jews as a contemporary (and threatened) people.

To correct the obvious shortcomings found in Sunday school materials, the study's authors suggested that curriculum writers and editors needed to: (1) educate themselves regarding the ethnic, racial, and religious groups present in the United States; (2) reject the notion that Americans of European descent had a duty or divine right to dominate the world's people; (3) include a variety of materials (such as biographies, narratives, and news) that make specific reference to the multiple religious, racial, and ethnic groups in the United States; (4) attempt to engender "new attitudes of expectation, of respect, confidence, and appreciation for peoples of other colors, conditions, races, and cultures" in order to create "favorable prejudices toward these peoples as persons all of which would be in harmony with the life and teachings of Jesus" (Thompson, 1935, IV-V).

Working on her thesis and the 1935 "Drew Study" appears to have been a watershed moment for Eakin. Most of the books and essays that she produced from 1936 on were devoted to promoting "favorable prejudices" toward other people. In other words, she took her own advice. In this endeavor, she focused on two questions: "Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to be a neighbor?" For instance, in 1936 and 1937, she published: Exploring Our Neighborhood: A Third and Fourth Grade Church School Enterprise: A Guide for Teachers; Under the Church Flag: Pupil's Work Book No. 1: Exploring Our Neighborhood; A Manual on the American Negro for Leaders of Junior Children, and In Anybody's Town: (Exploring Our Neighborhood, Pupil's Work Book II). In 1936, she and husband Frank also published A Junior Teacher's Guide on Negro Americans: Based on We Sing America [by] Marion Cuthbert.

The study enriched her value at Drew University as well. In 1934, she was promoted to instructor in the Religious Education department. During the 1940s, Mildred Moody Eakin (often with Frank Eakin as co-author) wrote several more books. All had to do, one way or the other, with the religious education of children. In addition, she authored books aimed at parents, church school teachers, and pastors. Articles for the International Journal of Religious Education and Religious Education found Eakin addressing the issues of Protestant-Catholic relationships and interracial/interfaith experiences in religious education. Mildred and Frank Eakin also penned a Religious Education article: "Christian nurture: A century after," an analysis of Horace Bushnell's ground-breaking book, Christian nurture.

After 1941, the Eakins made it a habit to co-author various materials. Regarding the collaborative process, Frank Eakin told readers that his wife "is the family specialist in this field. My part in the making of these books is to marshal materials from her wide range of contacts, study and reflection, make contributions of my own where broader matters of religious history and thought are involved, and cast the whole into form for publication" (1949, p. vii). There is no doubt Frank Eakin understood his wife to be the primary scholar and theorist in their books.

In the mid-1940s, Eakin was involved in a second "Drew Study." The three volumes of A Study of Protestant Church School Literature Used in 1946 was published by Drew University's Division of Religious Education. The Drew University Library holds Volume II (curriculum materials for elementary-age pupils) and Volume III (on materials for youth and adults). However, all three volumes can be found at the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Human Relations Research Library (Horowitz).

Once again, Eakin was part of a team evaluating materials for elementary school age children. The committee obtained curriculum resources from the following denominations: Methodist, the Northern Baptist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational-Christian, Protestant Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, and Unitarian (Thompson, 1946-47, vol. II, p. i).

The committee noted that, in the more than ten years that had passed after the previous study, the potential existed for significant changes to be made in curriculum materials. Upon comparison with the 1935 study, though, the study found that progress had been less than stellar. It was true, the writers observed, that they had found numerous references to relations between Jews and Gentiles, and "Negro" (the writers' term for Americans of African heritage) and white Americans. Yet, the reality was quite different. "More than 23,000 pages of materials were required to yield the less than 1,300 references - an average of about one reference, significant or insignificant, to eighteen pages. And the insignificant pages greatly outnumber the significant" (Thompson, 1946-47, vol. II, p. 107). Thus, what appeared to be a large number of references turned out to be fewer and insignificant references to race and religion. Additionally, the committee was chagrined to discover that a unit dedicated to developing goodwill toward Judaism and Jewish neighbors contained even fewer lessons than a similar unit produced in the mid-1930s. The researchers were even more disturbed to find that (1) platitudes abounded in the 1940s curriculum materials, and (2) the materials still lacked any biographical material about Jews (Thompson, 1946-47, vol. II, pp. 109-110).

It was not all bad news, though. Eakin and the other researchers reported that materials designed for primary-level children (usually 1st-3rd grade) showed an actual and significant increase in the frequency of favorable references to Jews and Judaism. Furthermore, lesson writers of the mid-1940s tended to use more up-to-date scholarly reference materials than did their counterparts of the mid-1930s. Lesson writers also provided pupils and teachers with appropriate reference materials with regard to Jewish-Gentile and "Negro"-white relations - and some of the books were by Jewish or "Negro" writers. Lastly, the committee discovered that publishing houses were providing parents with information on what their children were learning in Sunday school, probably in the hope that the learning would continue at home (Thompson, 1946-47, vol. II, p. 109).

In order to improve curriculum materials, the writers made seven recommendations. (1) The secondary aim of some Biblical units should be helping children appreciate contemporary Jews and Judaism. (2) The primary aim of materials about African mission is, of course, Christian mission in Africa; but a secondary aim in some materials should be to help children appreciate all people of African heritage, including those living in the United States. (3) Publishers and lesson writers must understand that relationships with "Negroes" and contemporary Jews cannot be adequately developed through secondary goals in Biblical or missionary units (in other words, these important topics demand units of their own). (4) All three types of units must make use of contemporary biographies. (5) Teaching pictures for all three units need to present Jews at worship in contemporary as well as Biblical settings; people of African descent need to be portrayed wearing both African and American style dress. (6) A plan should be devised to help church and home cooperate so that children come in contact with people and customs of different races and religions. (7) Lesson writers should do the following: avoid platitudes; never treat Jews, Judaism, and Palestine as the past alone; never emphasize the value of Christianity by denigrating Judaism and Jews; never become sentimental about Jewish or "Negro" cultures; and never teach "smugness" (Thompson, 1946-47, vol., II, pp. 111-112).

On the whole, Eakin and the other researchers were rather dismayed. They noted that, "During the years between the two studies the problem of Gentile-Jewish relations confronted the world in new and more horrible forms, challenged vital Christianity as never before" and yet Protestant Sunday school materials for children "show little disposition to take up the challenge" (Thompson, 1946-47, vol. II, p. 110). They conclude their summary with the following observation:

This is perhaps the point which most needs stressing in connection with the entire study. If and when the churches decide to make a determined attack on anti-Semitism, and on the very serious problem of having in Christian and democratic America some twelve million people whose situation at best is that of second-class Christians and citizens - if and when such a decision is made by the churches a far more direct and purposeful attack on these problems than present lesson materials exemplify will have to be made. (Thompson, 1946-47, vol. II, 110).

In short, shifts would be made only by changing the direction of curriculum materials, religious education, and perhaps even congregational life itself.

As in the 1930s, the "Drew Study" of the mid-1940s seemed to have had an effect on Eakin's career. In 1948, thanks to the foresight of Dean Fred Holloway, she became Assistant Professor of Religious Education - and the first full-time female professor at Drew University. However, Eakin lived before the second wave of American feminism. Moreover, she was no feminist (at least, she did not consciously identify herself as a feminist). Thus, she advanced no further at Drew, and remained an Assistant Professor until her retirement in 1954. In 1955, Nelle Morton, who was to become another notable theologian and Christian educator, was invited by the theological school to teach religious education.

During the 1950s, Eakin was busy practicing what she preached. She worked to improve relations between racial groups in her home town (Maves, 1970, TS2). She also noticed an overlooked group at the university - seminarians' wives and children - and strove to improve and enrich their lives (Portraits of Women Faculty). She also found time to write, primarily with her husband, Frank. Together, Mildred Moody Eakin and Frank Eakin wrote "Religious education for liberal progressives: Evaluations," for Religious Education. She penned "As the twig is bent: What we can do—In children's groups" for the International Journal of Religious Education. She and Frank Eakin produced an article for the Christian Century that was the basis of their major work, Sunday school fights prejudice (1953). Their book, based upon the findings of the 1946 curriculum studies done at Drew, as well as studies reputedly done at Drew in 1948-49, 1949-50, and 1950-51, used layperson's language to encourage a target audience of pastors and educators to include methodologies that would foster appreciation for, understanding of, and communication with Jewish and "Negro" neighbors.

In 1954, Eakin retired from Drew University and moved to Debary, Florida. After the active, productive life she had at Drew, one might suspect that Eakin would have felt let down. However, in 1970, when Paul Maves visited the Eakins at their new home in Lakeland, Florida, she reported that she was very happy in retirement because she finally was able to spend time with her husband, volunteer in her community, and work in her garden. (Maves, 1970, TS 2.)

In 1984, paintings of both Eakin and Nelle Morton were hung in Seminary Hall of the Drew University Theological School. The conveners of the portrait dedication hoped that Eakin would be present at the ceremonies; however, she was unable to attend due to illness. Mildred Olivia Moody Eakin died in 1986 at the age of 96.

Contributions to Christian Education

Mildred Moody Eakin's contribution to Christian education is quiet, but determined and far-reaching. She pioneered the demonstration/laboratory school model. Her impact on her students was long-standing and profound. Many credit her with shaping their approach to Christian education and ministry. Finally, she was utterly committed to using Christian education to change the American religious landscape. Despite the fact that she is not well known today for any theological or pedagogical works, her desire and efforts to uproot racism, anti-Semitism, and ethnic and religious hatred make her a notable Christian educator of the twentieth century.

According to Maves, liberal theology, progressive education, Eakin's own practical observations of children, and a visionary husband were her major influences. He noted that, despite pressures exerted on her and her field by neo-orthodox trends - and despite the fact that progressive Christian education was falling out of fashion - Eakin had a vision of life that would not let her go. She was utterly invested in children and religion, as well as troubled by tensions among cultural, religious, and racial groups. Thus, she engaged herself in the work of changing the landscape of American culture through the religious education of children. Simply put, Eakin practiced what she preached on campus, in the church, and in community.

In the community, she sought to build bridges between racial groups. Maves recalled that Eakin "was a moving spirit behind" a group of white and African-American Christians in Madison, N.J. "who came together to learn to communicate across the color line and to demonstrate the meaning of 'They will know we are Christians by our love'." Moreover, she continued to be involved in her community even after retirement (Maves, 1970, TS 2).

However, Eakin's passion for the "lesser of these" even extended beyond racial, ethnic, and religious considerations. For instance, she recognized that the wives of theological school students were a neglected group on the Drew University campus. Prior to 1954, women were not ordained in the Methodist Church; but for Eakin that did not mean clergy wives did not need education. She doggedly developed the Drew Wives Class, wherein she taught young women the delicate art of being married to a pastor. The units for the class included "The Wife as Housekeeper," "Economics of the Parsonage," "Pastoral Privileges," and "The Wife as Worker in Organizations." The unique aspect of the classes is that they did not seek to create meek, cheerful pastoral spouses. Rather, they investigated the politics and processes by which the minister's wife not only could survive, but also find her role - one that she defined and claimed for herself - in the local church. Eakin encouraged young women to use "indirect leadership" to develop congregational leadership. A clergy wife would develop congregational leaders to would carry out the church's ministries, thereby avoiding the trap of being assigned roles to which she did not feel called. The process was purposely designed to help young women married to ministers to uncover the ministries to which they were best suited.

Eakin's concern for the children of theological students was obvious when she promoted the construction of new seminary apartments and fought for the installation of a playground on the campus (Portraits of Women Faculty). The commemorative booklet produced in 1984 for the unveiling of Eakin and Nelle Morton's portraits at the Drew Theological School, contains the following memory by Letha J. Markham:

Her love and concern for children was always evident. We had a two-year old daughter when we entered Drew, and planning classes around a program that included care for her was rather unique in those years. I believe Mrs. Eakin was supportive of the new apartments being added to the campus to provide for family student life on campus. Youngsters on the campus were a milestone, and I do remember Mrs. Eakin being concerned and involved in the selection of play equipment for both outdoors and indoors for Wendall [sic] Hall apartments. (Portraits of Women Faculty)

Taking risks to help others learn was part of Eakin's life. In 1950, she and Maves, Director of the religious education department, wanted to create a Christian education resource center at Drew (Maves, 1950, Annual Report, p. 2). In the fall of 1950, after Eakin finally had been granted office space at the Theological School, she dedicated part of her office to a display of periodicals and curriculum materials. The door to her room was unlocked when classes were in session, and only locked at night and on the weekends to keep the more expensive materials from walking off. Using a faculty office for such a purpose, though, was a new idea - one that may have pushed the envelope a bit too much. In October 1950, Paul Maves issued a memo to Dean Paul Tucker Craig assuring the dean that the display would in no way interfere with Eakin's ability to use the room privately for student conferences. Apparently, the dean was worried that the privacy of faculty-student meetings would be disrupted by seminarians in search of the latest curriculum materials (Maves, 1950, Memorandum). Eakin's gift no longer remains at Drew. The Ministry Resource Library in Seminary Hall which contained materials for theological school students to review and borrow was lost several years ago to the demand for office space.

Eakin's involvement in the "Drew Studies" is of primary importance, though. She was among the first people to take a hard look at how racial, religious, and ethnic groups were portrayed in church school materials. Her research in the early 1930s and mid-1940s challenged curriculum writers and publishers to think about how race, religion, and ethnicity were portrayed in their resources.

However, the significance of the "Drew Studies" does not end with the 1946-47 report. The Eakins' book, Sunday school fights prejudice, indicates that curriculum studies were not only done in 1946, but also during the years 1948-49, 1949-50, and 1950-51 (1953, p. vii). Maves notes that, in the 1950s, the research was moved to Yale University, where another study was conducted under the direction of Dr. Bernhard E. Olson. (Maves, 1970, TS 2). Elsa Olson-Bruckner writes that Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer, Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, made the change when he decided to use a four-pronged approach. The research into Protestant curriculum materials was given to Yale University, where it was known as "The Yale Study" and/or "The Yale Intergroup Project." St. Louis (Jesuit) University researched Roman Catholic curriculum materials, Southern Methodist University had oversight of the southern Protestant curriculum materials, and Dropsie College (Philadelphia) saw to Jewish publications. The combined effort of all four studies was called "the self-study project." (1984, p. 71). It is significant that Bernhard Olson had been a student at Drew from 1938-1942, and had been involved in the on-going research into Protestant church school material during his student years. He also was Eakin's assistant in 1943-44 while she wrote Getting acquainted with our Jewish neighbors (p. xxi.). In 1963, Olson published his interpretation of the research in the acclaimed book, Faith and prejudice.

Typically, Eakin's work in the field of intergroup studies led to practical results on her part. Taking her own advice to produce texts that addressed the issues raised by the studies, she wrote (often in collaboration with Frank Eakin), A junior teacher's guide on Negro Americans, A manual on the American Negro for leaders of junior children, Exploring our neighborhood, Under the church flag, In anybody's town, Getting acquainted with Jewish neighbors, The church-school teacher's job, Your child's religion, The pastor and the children, Sunday school fights prejudice, plus other related books and articles. Eakin is one of the foreparents of curriculum studies in race, religion, and ethnicity. She also can be considered the one who helped initiate the study of anti-Semitism, and the role of Christianity in it, at Drew University. Dr. Michael D. Ryan, in 1972, was the first professor to teach "Death Camp Theology" in the Theological School.

Beyond simply finding fault with portrayals of race, religion, and ethnicity in curriculum materials, Eakin sincerely believed that with some effort, churches and denominational publishing companies could change the landscape of American culture. She had faith that healthy, affirming portrayals of all groups of people could not help but have an influence on relationships in the United States. In addition, she felt that efforts by local congregations and families to get to know their neighbors would educate the next generation and thereby effectively reduce religious, racial, and ethnic prejudices.

Mildred Moody Eakin was part of a group of mid-twentieth century Christian educators who believed that changes in racial, ethnic, and religious relations should, and could, be made. Their articles can be found in Religious Education and the International Journal of Religious Education, as well as in denominational periodicals. Many of their textbooks can be found on the shelves of university, theological school, and college libraries. Their voices can be heard in mid-twentieth-century denominational reports for educational departments. As a group, they pressed leaders and teachers in local congregations to take risks by putting their children and the children of other racial, religious, ethnic, and social groups together, and by investigating creative and respectful ways to communicate and live together. Mildred Moody Eakin was, indeed, one of the important Christian educators of the twentieth century.

Works Cited

  • American Jewish Committee (1930, May 22). Unsigned letter to Dr. Cyrus Adler. Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Human Relations Library, New York, NY.
  • Clinchy, E. R. (1930, May). The borderland of prejudice. The Christian Century, 623-627.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1934). Study of references to Hebrews (Jews) in protestant church school lesson materials, elementary division, with a view to estimating their probable or possible Influence in fostering attitudes on the part of church school pupils toward present-day Jews or Judaism. Unpublished master's thesis, New York University, New York. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University Libraries.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1949). The church-school teacher's job. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1952). Syllabus for Drew Wives' class, (Spring Semester), Mildred Moody Eakin file, Drew University Library Archives, Madison, NJ.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1953). Sunday school fights prejudice. New York: Macmillan.
  • Horowitz, C. (2005, December 20). Index to enclosed ICRE material. Email from Cyma Horowitz to Dr. Sloane Drayson-Knigge.
  • Maves, P. B. (1950, May 19). Annual report to Dean Clarence Tucker Craig. Paul Maves file, Drew University Library Archives.
  • Maves, P. B. (1950, October 16). Memorandum from Paul B. Maves to Dean [Clarence Tucker] Craig. Paul Maves file, Drew University Library Archives.
  • Maves, P. B. (1970, Spring). Mildred Moody Eakin: Master teacher. The Drew University Magazine, TS 1-2.
  • Olson-Bruckner, E. (1984). My brother, Bernhard. Winburne, PA: Intergroup Center Press.
  • Portraits of Women Faculty (1984). Brochure printed to commemorate the portraits of Mildred Moody Eakin and Nelle Morton. Drew University Archives, Madison, NJ.
  • Thompson, J. V., et. al. (1947-48). A study of protestant church school literature used in 1946 in three volumes. Madison, N.J.: Division of Religious Education, Drew University.
  • Thompson, J. V., Eakin, M. M., Brown, H. W., Magnuson, M. A., McCahen, G. R., & Mosier, H. K. (1935). A study of official protestant church school periodicals for children, young people and adults, as related to inter-racial, inter-cultural attitudes, 1934-1935. Madison, N.J.: Dept. of Religious Education, Theological School, Drew University.
  • Who's Who in America (1950). Mildred Moody Eakin. Who's Who in America, (26), 768. Chicago: The A. N. Marquis Company.


Books and Studies

  • Gobbel, A. Roger, Gobbel, Gertrude, and Ridenhour, Thomas R. (1984). Helping Youth Understand the Bible: A Teaching Resource. Atlanta: John Knox Press.
  • Moody, M. O. (1923). Tales of golden deeds. New York: The Abingdon Press.
  • Moody, M. O. (1925). Kindergarten course for the daily vacation church school. New York: Abingdon.
  • Moody, M. O. & Westbrook, E. M. (1929). A survey of agencies working with and for children. Chicago: The International Council of Religious Education.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Shaver, E. L. (1934). Teaching junior boys and girls. New York: The Methodist Book Concern.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1934). Study of references to Hebrews (Jews) in protestant church school lesson materials, elementary division, with a view to estimating their probable or possible influence in fostering attitudes on the part of church school pupils toward present-day Jews or Judaism. Unpublished master's thesis, New York University, New York. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University Libraries.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1934). Teaching junior boys and girls; A textbook in the standard course in leadership training, outlined and approved by the International Council of Religious Education. New York: Printed for the Leadership Training Publishing Association by the Methodist Book Concern.
  • Thompson, J. V., Eakin, M. M., Brown, H. W., Magnuson, M. A., McCahen, G. R., & Mosier, H. K. (1935). A study of official protestant church school periodicals for children, young people and adults, as related to inter-racial, inter-cultural attitudes, 1934-1935. Madison, N.J.: Dept. of Religious Education, Theological School, Drew University.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1936). A junior teacher's guide on Negro Americans: Based on we sing America [by] Marion Cuthbert. New York: Friendship Press.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1936). A manual on the American Negro for leaders of junior children. New York: Missionary Education Movement, Council of Women for Home Missions.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1936). Exploring our neighborhood: A third and fourth grade church school enterprise: A guide for teachers. New York: The Abingdon Press.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1936). Under the church flag, pupil's work book no. 1: Exploring our neighborhood. New York: The Abingdon Press.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1937). In anybody's town: Exploring our neighborhood, pupil's work book II. New York: The Abingdon Press.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1939?). Worship in the junior department of the church. Chicago: Methodist Episcopal Church, Board of Education, Department of Religious Education of Children.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1940). Evangelism with junior boys and girls. Chicago: Methodist Episcopal Church, Board of Education, Department of Religious Education of Children, Division of Religious Education in the Local Church.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1942). Your child's religion. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1944). Getting acquainted with Jewish neighbors. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1944). Let's think about our religion. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1947). The pastor and the children. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Thompson, J. V., et al. (1947-48). A Study of Protestant Church School Literature Used in 1946 in Three Volumes, Vol. II: "Elementary Division Materials," Madison, N.J.: Division of Religious Education, Drew University.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1949). The church-school teacher's job. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, Frank (1953). Sunday school fights prejudice. New York: Macmillan.


  • Moody, M. O. (1926, March). Church-school equipment for the primary department. International Journal of Religious Education, 2 (6), 43-44.
  • Moody, M. O. (1926, July-August). Principles of program building in the children's division of the church school. International Journal of Religious Education, 2 (10-11), 25-27.
  • Moody, M. O. (1926, September). Promotion day plans in the children's division of the church school. International Journal of Religious Education, 2 (12), 46-48.
  • Moody, M. O. (1927, September). Selecting personnel for leadership in elementary education. International Journal of Religious Education, 3 (12), 12-14.
  • Moody, M. O. (1928, April). Practical methods of temperance education with children. International Journal of Religious Education, 4 (7), 16-17.
  • Moody, M. O. (1928, December). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for January. International Journal of Religious Education, 4, 26-28.
  • Moody, M. O. (1929, January). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for February. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (4), 29-30.
  • Moody, M. O. (1929, February). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for March. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (5), 29-30.
  • Moody, M. O. (1929, March). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for April. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (6), 28-29.
  • Moody, M. O. (1929, April). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for May. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (7), 28-29.
  • Moody, M. O. (1929, May). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for June. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (8), 31-32.
  • Moody, M. O. (1929, July). Suggestions for building worship programs: Primary department programs for September. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (10), 31-32.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1933, March). Which tool shall I use? - Selecting and using fruitful procedures. International Journal of Religious Education, 9 (7), 14-15, 2.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1944). Intercultural education: Best practices in church and synagogue school. Religious Education, 39 (2), 91-94.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1945, May-June). Protestant-Catholic good-will effort: The question of objectives. Religious Education, XL (3), 129-133.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1946, January). Then the school tried it too. International Journal of Religious Education, 22 (5), 15-16.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1948, Autumn-Winter). [Review of The modern parent and the teaching church by Wesner Fallow, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1946]. Journal of Religious Thought, 5, 125-126.
  • Eakin, F. & Eakin, M. M. (1949, May-June). Christian nurture: A century after. Religious Education, XLIV (3), 136-140.
  • Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1950, November 15). Can sunday school fight prejudice? The Christian Century, XLVII (46), 1358-1359.
  • Eakin, F. & Eakin, M. M. (1950). Religious education for liberal progressives: Evaluations. Religious Education, XLV (2), 84-86.
  • Eakin, M. M. (1954, February). As the twig is bent: What we can do in children's groups. International Journal of Religious Education, 30 (6), 14-15.

Reviews of Eakin's Books

  • Baxter, E. M. (1948, July-August). The pastor and the children. Religious Education, XLIII (4), 252-253.
  • have, E. J. (1949, October). The church school teacher's job. Religious Education, XLIV (5), 310.
  • Fahs, S. L. (1942, November-December). Your child's religion. Religious Education, XXXVII (6), 378-379.
  • H.C.M. (1947, September). The pastor and the children. International Journal of Religious Education, 31.
  • Heim, R. D. (1949, August). The church school teacher's job. Lutheran Quarterly, 1, 345-346.
  • Kindergarten course for the daily vacation Bible school. (1925, April). Religious Education, XX (2), 170-171.
  • L.J.C. (1949, May). The church school teacher's job. International Journal of Religious Education, 31-32.
  • M.S.C. (1945, March-April). Getting acquainted with Jewish neighbors. Religious Education, XL (2), 120-121.
  • M.T. (1943, February). Your child's religion. International Journal of Religious Education, 38.
  • P.R.H. (1945, May). Let's think about our religion. International Journal of Religious Education, 31-32.
  • Schloerb, R. W. (1945, September-October). Let's think about our religion. Religious Education, XL (5), 308-309.
  • Tales of golden deeds. (1924, April). Religious Education, XIX (2), 157-158.

Excerpts from Publications

Eakin, M. M. (1944). Getting acquainted with Jewish neighbors. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Many Christian Americans of course number Jewish-Americans among their acquaintances, but it would be a good thing if such acquaintances were more widespread than it is. The tendency for different groups in our country to stick to themselves, contacting members of other groups only when necessary for business or similar reasons, is not a wholesome tendency. As long as this group isolation exists the opinions we form about other groups than our own are largely opinions of people en masse, not of individuals. Such opinions in the nature of the case cannot be very accurate; it is all too likely that they will be prejudiced.
Personal acquaintance is the best corrective. When mention of Jews brings to our minds not a picture of an imagined type-person but of Mr. Kaufmann and Mrs. Markowitz and Sammy Silberman and Rosie Goldfarb—men and women and boys and girls whom we know, people like ourselves with good qualities mixed with not-so-good—we are safeguarded in the best possible way against intolerance, against un-Christian and un-American ideas and feelings and attitudes.
To think of people as people regardless of their ancestry or creed is not only the Christian way and the democratic way but also the common-sense way, the way to find life rich, enjoyable. Shutting ourselves up in a shell of supposed racial superiority, or any kind of shell which separates us from people different from ourselves, is a sure way to make our lives narrow, dull, unhappy. (pp. 1-2)

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1953). Sunday school fights prejudice. New York: Macmillan.

Sunday school's tradition makes Bible study central. Does not this main interest lose ground when attention is directed to complex modern problems? & #8230 The answer is that attempts to combat prejudice are closely connected with the biblical interest, not separate from it. The fight against prejudice is in a basic sense the Bible's fight.
To take a single example, faith in God as Father and men as brothers is, anyone will agree, prominent in the Bible. Well, treatment to which Negroes are commonly subjected in the America to which they belong with the rest of us has the effect of denying the validity of such a faith. Is it surprising, then, that Sunday-school lesson writers, starting with the Bible and the fatherhood of God, sometimes find themselves dealing with Negro-white relations? The question is hardly whether such a shift is natural, justified. It is rather whether the biblical truths are to be handled at long or short range, in the abstract or in terms of life. And if we give attention to the examples of the great biblical figures themselves the answer is clear: Amos and Isaiah and Jesus and Paul had a habit of getting down to cases. The church-school materials do get down to cases& #8230 but not yet very much in comparison with the total bulk of the materials. This chapter demonstrates not so much achievement as noteworthy pioneering; reiteration of Scripture truth becomes more definite, more pointed, more applied, leading to implementation in some instances. And here is the challenge. Overmuch dependence on talking about the great religious persons and truths, producing pupil boredom and often scorn, has been the bane of Sunday school. With this background in mind it is hardly too much to say that the prejudice against minority groups which exists in nearly all our neighborhoods, great evil as it is, can be to Sunday school a great teaching aid. It can make Bible truths specific, arouse keen and purposeful desire for their application. Pupil readiness for such teaching as is here suggested and illustrated is a demonstrated fact. Teacher and parent readiness comes with successful experience. (pp. 13-14)

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1942). Your child's religion. New York: Macmillan Company.

The big question as regard your child's religion is not whether he will have one. Religiousness will be a part of his environment; he can hardly escape it. Churches are almost everywhere, here in America, and whether one attends their services or not one lives in a psychic and social atmosphere which is partly of their making. The idea of God is universally familiar and contributes to the forming of even the crudest life philosophy. Almost as much can be said of the idea of revelation associated with the Bible.
But this religious influence to which our children will be subject, as we have been subject to it, will not necessarily make good people of them. Unfortunately such unlovely and dangerous things as pettiness, provincialism, snobbishness, intolerance, and superstition have a place along with things vital and precious in our religious heritage. The problem then is not how to help our children grow up as religious men and women. It is rather how to do our best to assure that their religiousness shall be enlightened, enriching, strengthening. (pp. xi-xii)

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1947). The pastor and the children. New York: Macmillan Company.

A third reason for Sunday school so often being left to untrained and incompetent lay leadership, even in churches whose ministers have devoted many years to gaining a general and professional education, is that the pastor, for all his schooling, is probably quite incapable of supervising an educational program and knows that he is incapable. . . . That the pastor knows his weakness at this point is to his credit. That his denomination has connived in his lack of training for this important part of his job is not to its credit. (p. 76)
No matter what the obstacles, or what his limitations, the minister should interest himself to the fullest extent practicable in the Sunday school of his church. If he fails to do this he will have lost an opportunity both of service and of personal growth.
There are hopeless-looking situations, I know. A student of mine this year has two pastorates a few miles apart. Both congregations must have their regular services Sunday morning, or think they must. The hours are different, and the young pastor, driving from one church to the other, can conduct both services each Sunday. But the Sunday-school session at one church is held while he is preaching at the other - an arrangement which effectively immobilizes him as far as church-school work is concerned. The minister has not been entirely balked, however. He has gathered around him a group of older boys whose leisure time was dangerously unprovided for and organized them into a club with an unused room at that parsonage as headquarters. . . . They would attend Sunday school if he could teach them, or if any teacher equal to the task was available. Without waiting for these favorable circumstances to materialized he is doing what he can, and it is a good deal. It meets an important need. I commend his example to other pastors frustrated as he has been. (pp. 78-79)

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, Frank (1950). The church-school teacher's job. New York: Macmillan Company.

The two snares to which I have referred - exalting Jesus in unwise ways and making the New Testament an instrument of anti-Semitism - appear often as one. In dealing with New Testament passages in which the Samaritans appear it is common for lesson writers and teachers to bring out and dwell upon Jewish hatred of this minority group. The Jewish-Samaritan feud, with all too many parallels in human history down to our own time, is a part of the New Testament scene. It is, if one pleases, a Bible fact. But beyond this, we saw in another connection, it offers a convenient way of exalting Jesus. Many times, in printed lesson materials and in Sunday-school classrooms, his enlightened tolerance appears against a background of Jewish hate. In like manner the story of Zacchaeus the publican becomes a canvas on which is pictured a member who has good qualities which blind Jewish leaders cannot see but which Jesus at once discerns. The Cleansing of the Temple gets similar treatment. So do various incidents connected with the missionary work of Saint Paul, Jewish malevolence in these contexts serving to highlight the heroic devotion of the early Christian missionaries and their Christlike spirit.
All this is natural enough. It can be justified. But not, I think, on grounds which to most of us would appear to be "Christian." It hardly seems to go with the spirit of Jesus that we should exalt ourselves by pushing the other fellow down, and it hardly accords with our sense of the exalted character of our religion or of its founder that we should need to demonstrate the greatness of either in such ways as I have illustrated. For the church-school teacher more than questions of history are involved here; there are also questions of common fairness in neighborhood relations, questions of whether we want to aid and abet, here in America, the attitudes of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
A third snare which may catch the unwary church-school teacher is excessive trust in what might be called teaching by motto. Unless our best educational psychology is badly off the track - and unless a pretty wide range of observation and experience with elementary school procedures, religious and secular, have sadly misled me and others - more dependence is placed on the golden-text idea, and in general on memorizing biblical or classical epitomes of truth, than these teaching techniques can reasonable be expected to bear. (pp. 87-88)

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, Frank (1942). Your child's religion. . New York: The Macmillan Company.

The book is designed to help parents understand and shape their child's faith so that their child's religion is "enlightened, enriching, strengthening" ( xii). The Eakins cover a wide array of subject matter: God, prayer, Jesus, death, the Bible, church school, church, home, community, other religions, races and nations, the poor, and adolescent rebellion. They conclude with a list of suggested readings.

Eakin, M. M. (1944). Getting acquainted with Jewish neighbors. . New York: The Macmillan Company.

In this guide for church school leaders and teachers, Eakin explains why it is important for Christian children to become acquainted with Jewish neighbors. She then offers practical plans for helping children gain an understanding of Jewish people and customs, and presents concrete ways in which church school leaders can foster real friendships among Christians and Jews.

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1950). The church-school teacher's job. . New York: The Macmillan Company.

The book addresses the many components of being a Sunday school teacher. The Eakins look at lessons, planning with the pupils, how to structure units and projects, worship, the Bible, discipline, the church school history, and the relationship between the church school and the public school, the church school and the home, and the church school and the church. As with their other works, the book is full of real-life examples that illustrate their points.

Eakin, M. M. & Eakin, F. (1953). Sunday school fights prejudice. . New York: The Macmillan Company.

Using evidence from curriculum studies done in 1946, 1948-49, 1949-50, and 1950-51, the Eakins argue that Sunday school has the potential to change attitudes and practices in the U.S.A. with regard to relationships with Jews and African-Americans. The Eakins make use of specific examples from church school curriculum materials to illustrate how Sunday school can be a tool for the growth of Biblically-based love and understanding.

Author Information

Sloane Drayson-Knigge

Sloane Drayson-Knigge is an adjunct professor in both the Casperson School of Graduate Studies and the Theological School at Drew University (Madison, NJ). Her Ph.D. is from Drew University. She and Janet Stafford have been interested in the life and work of Mildred Moody Eakin since the mid-1980s.

Janet R. Stafford

Janet R. Stafford is Director of Youth and Children at Manasquan United Methodist Church (NJ) and is an Adjunct Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Madison, NJ). She has an M.Div. and a Ph.D. from Drew University.