Remembering Dr. Elise Boulding: Great Mother of the Peace Movement

18 Jul

Dr. Elise Boulding, mother, peacemaker, educator, visionary, writer passed away on June 24, 2010 in Needham, Massachusetts at age 89.

Dr. Boulding, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Dartmouth College and Former Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association, dedicated her life to her family and students and to raising the next generation of peacemakers.  She also helped establish the National Peace Academy and served as the Honorary Chair of its Advisory Council.

Elise Boulding on a National Peace Academy: May 9, 2008

Elise Boulding: A Life in the Cause of Peace by Mary Lee Morrison

Her biographer, Mary Lee Morrison, founder of Pax Educare, Inc. wrote a profile on the webpage of the National Peace Academy that states:

Early perceptions of peace education were that it was education toward the abolition of war and that it was an “arm” of the peace research movement. In the years following the Second World War, and particularly in the last thirty years, new ideas have expanded the concept of peace education. Boulding’s writings and those of other feminists in the 1970s laid the groundwork for the work of later educators who embraced ideas of connectedness, caring and imaging and the importance of thinking globally and acting locally. Many of Boulding’s ideas predated contemporary thinking on the importance of ecological sustainability and the dangers inherent in “cultures of war.”

In 1979 President Jimmy Carter appointed Elise to the Congressional Commission on Proposals for a National Academy of Peace and Conflict Resolution, now known as the United States Institute of Peace. She was the sole woman appointed to the Matsunaga Commission. A look at Boulding’s role in the process leading up to the final Commission report and the subsequent founding of the United States Institute of Peace provides a fascinating look at the Commission process itself and the events leading up to it as well as a view of some of the inherent conflicts.


According to an article in the Boston Globe, she gave an interview with Alan AtKisson in 1990 called “Concentrating on Essence: From family to community to nation and biosphere, peace on our planet depends on the power of love” where she said:

“We can’t simplify the world.  There’s no wand we can wave to remove the complexities around us…So, in a profound sense, we have to take responsibility for living on the planet.”

Life of an International Woman Peacemaker:

In a 2003 interview with Julian Portilla of Beyond Intractability.org, Dr. Boulding said:

“I would say my 18 years as a full-time homemaker; peace building in the family, and raising kids to be peacemakers was a very important part of my life. I’ve always learned a lot from kids. I’ve done a lot of research on NGO’s and the role they have played on civil society; locally, nationally and internationally. I’ve studied a lot different fields, including women, fields of development, and especially the development of peace culture through history.”

Writings of Elise Boulding

Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen by Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda

  • The Underside of History: A View of Women through Time (New York: Halsted, 1976)
  • Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World (New York, New York: Teachers College Press, 1988)
  • One Small Plot of Heaven: Reflections on Family Life by a Quaker Sociologist. (Philadelphia, Pendle Hill Press, 1989)
  • Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History (Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 2000)
  • Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen, Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda (Dialogue Path Press, 2010)

Elise Boulding and the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue

Elise Boulding & Winston Langley, Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, & Dialogue, 9/20/08

Elise Boulding’s Message to Present and Future Generations

  • We have to learn citizenship in the United Nations and help develop it.
  • Go into any situation as an apprentice.
  • Remember women and children in any situation you are working for.
  • Include people of all ages in the conflict resolution process, but especially include young people.
  • Include art, music, dance, poetry and theatre in peacemaking. The human spirit needs that.
  • History books frequently emphasize “conflicts.” There are other stories that include cooperation and peacebuilding.
  • Have fun! If we get totally serious, it gets too heavy.  We have to lift our spirits.
  • Create a 200-year present envisioning process as a way to think about change.  Fred Polak believed that societies that have a positive image of the future are empowered by their own images to act creatively in the present.
  • I would advise people to spend some time doing some imagining about what kind of world they are working for. (Write it down and revisit it from time to time.)
  • There needs to be a second United Nations Assembly, a People’s Assembly made up of the 10,000 ethnic peoples that live across state boundaries.
  • Learn about the great role of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in peacemaking and creating treaties at the United Nations.

(See audio interview of Elise Boulding by Julian Portilla for detailed quotes.)


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2 Responses to “Remembering Dr. Elise Boulding: Great Mother of the Peace Movement”

  1. Tim Symonds December 17, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Elise Boulding’s life shows how much better this endangered Earth would be if a million Elises were enabled to take authority and make their voices heard loud, clear and for ever, until humankind truly understands the way of peace is the only route to human survival and the survival of every other living entity. It seems incredible that a great United Nations’ Security Council Resolution like 1325 reached its 10th year in 2010 and has had almost no palpable effect at all, with women totally absent from the peace negotiating tables across the globe, viz Sri Lanka, Iraq, Kosova, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Aceh etc etc.

    • Interconnected News January 30, 2011 at 3:54 am #

      Tim Symonds,

      Thank you for your words about Elise Boulding. She truly was a Mother of Peace and a role model for all peacemakers. She wanted future generations to stand up for peace.

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