RVMHS Explores Mildred Scott Olmsted’s Century
For nearly 60 years, social justice crusader and peace activist Mildred Scott Olmsted lived at Thunderbird Lodge, which is now home to the Rose Valley Museum and Historical Society. Beginning next weekend, the house will host an exhibit about its former resident, highlighted by a lecture on Sunday, May 19, by Delaware County historian and Swarthmore resident Nancy Webster.
Olmsted, said Webster, “was the perfect example of act locally, have an effect globally. She was part of a distinguished generation.” Born in 1890, Olmstead served as a relief worker in Europe at the end of World War I, where she met future Common Pleas Court Judge Allen S. Olmsted II, one of the founders of the ACLU. They married in 1921 and subsequently moved to Rose Valley.
Olmsted became Executive Secretary of the Pennsylvania Branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1922. She was later named president of its U.S. section, a post she held for two decades, and traveled the world as its international representative. A committed Quaker and civil rights activist, she was involved in many progressive causes in the Philadelphia area — birth control, rights of working women, civil liberties and rights of conscience.
Webster, who met her as a child, will recount personal stories of Olmsted’s accomplishments. She recalled accompanying her mother to “endless meetings” in the Olmsteds’ living room. “She started the Delaware County chapter of the NAACP, and African-Americans who were not welcome at local hotels often stayed at their house,” Webster said.
The May 19 lecture, from 4 to 6 p.m., will be followed by a small reception. The donation is $20 per person ($15 for RVMHS members) and reservations may be made by calling 484-444-2961. Payment can be made online or at the door.
The exhibit, which may be viewed during the museum’s open weekends — May 18-19, June 8-9 and July 20-21, includes documents, photographs, pamphlets and flyers from the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, reflecting the couple’s lives, politics and activities.
Thunderbird Lodge is located at 41 Rose Valley Road; parking is available at the School in Rose Valley. For more information, visit rosevalleymuseum.org.