Walking with the Saints
Adelaide Teague Case
Adelaide Teague Case was born on January 10, 1887 in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in New York City. She was the first woman appointed to a full professorial rank in any Episcopal or Anglican seminary in 1941 when she joined the faculty of Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts as professor of Christian Education. She devoted her life to religious education and social justice.
She received a B.A. in mathematics and philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1908. She began graduate studies in history and sociology at Columbia University in 1910, but was forced to withdraw within a year because of her illness. She battled ill health for most of her life. She returned to graduate school at Columbia University in 1917, this time to study religious education. She gained her Ph.D. in 1924.
Adelaide was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. She experienced a conversion experience after college. Thereafter, the living Christ became the dominant force in her life and ministry. She was so attracted to the sacramental and liturgical life of the church that in 1915, she joined the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a society of lay women in the Episcopal Church dedicated to intercession, thanksgiving, simplicity of life, annual retreats, Christian unity, and social justice. She remained an active member of the "Companions" during her lifetime,
Adelaide’s graduate studies focused on the "progressive" education movement and child-centered methodologies. She fundamentally believed that religious education must relate to people’s social environment. She developed related subspecialties in Christian social ethics, and the role of the Bible in education and worship.
She was so courageous that she - in her fifties - gave up a professorship at Columbia University with a very good salary and students and colleagues who appreciated her, to move to Cambridge for a much lower salary at a seminary where some of the students refused to take her classes because she was a woman. In fact, her transition to the seminary community was slow and painful, despite her outstanding qualification and reputation.
As important as her excellent scholarship in teaching and writing was, Adelaide was also an activist "in the real world". The long list of the organizations she served includes the American Jewish Congress, the Women's Division of Beth Hayaled, the Riverside Colored Orphanage, the National Y.W.C.A., the boards of the Religious Education Association, the Church League for Industrial Democracy (later, the Episcopal League for Social Action), the Childhood Education Association, the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship, Windham House, the International Council of Religious Education, the Federal Council of Churches, the Church Society for College Work, the Student Christian Movement, and the National Committee of the Episcopal League for Social Action. She also was one of the few women who served on the National Council of the Episcopal Church.
She was intolerant of racism and discrimination in any form. She, courageously, housed and sponsored Japanese American students during the World War II internment camp period. At a time when Episcopal Theological School did not accept women students into degree programs, Adelaide not only proposed programs for women or the admission of women into degree programs every year from her arrival at the seminary until her death, but also taught many women as "special students" and helped them find a place in the church where they could exercise their gifts.
Adelaide was an amazing teacher, mentor, leader, scholar, and activist with a deep sense of humanity and boundless compassion. But above all, as one of her students noted, "She was a true believer in Christ and you saw him living in and through her.”