Mother Ruth Dies at 89

Episcopal News Service. January 8, 1987 [87003]

NEW YORK (DPS, Jan. 8) -- The Rev. Mother Ruth, founder of the Community of the Holy Spirit, an Episcopal religious order for women, died on Dec. 22, 1986, after a two-month illness.

The third child of an interracial marriage, she was born Ruth Elaine Younger on Oct. 1, 1897, here. Because of racial bias in the United States at that time, she entered the Canadian Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto and was Life Professed on Dec. 29, 1922.

Mother Ruth graduated from St. Hilda's College, University of Toronto, receiving her B.A. degree with honors in natural science. At graduation she was awarded the Governor General's Medal and the Prince of Wales Prize in Natural Science. She obtained her teaching degree at the Ontario College of Education and taught for several years at the Qu'Appelle Diocesan College of Education and at the Bishop Bethune College in Oshawa. Upon her appointment as treasurer of St. John's Surgical Hospital, she returned to Toronto.

In 1949, Sister Ruth and Sister Edith Margaret, both of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, were granted a leave of absence by their Community to begin new work here. On Feb. 2, 1950, they opened St. Hilda's School on Morningside Heights with a class of eight preschool children. From the very beginning, the school encouraged and maintained a fully integrated faculty and student body. With Sister Ruth as Headmistress, the school flourished, expanding grade by grade, eventually offering co-educational academic training from nursery through grade 12 under the name St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's School. In 1952, the Rev. Mother earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in education from Columbia University. She served as Headmistress of St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's School until her retirement in 1985.

The Community of the Holy Spirit was formally instituted on Aug. 27, 1952, when the Sisters' vows were transferred from the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine. Sister Ruth was elected the Reverend Mother of the new Community, an office which she held until 1976.

Under Mother Ruth's direction and leadership, the Community of the Holy Spirit also founded the Melrose School, a country-day school near Brewster, N.Y. and St. Cuthbert's Retreat House, also in Brewster.

In 1967, Mother Ruth became the first woman to be awarded the Bishop's Cross of the Diocese of New York, receiving it from Bishop Horace W. B. Donegan. The award honors outstanding service to the diocese.

The Rev. Mother was a Commander Sister in the American Society of the Most Ven. Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

Her history of the Community and its work, In Wisdom Thou Hast Made Them, has recently been published by Adams, Bannister and Cox.

The Rev. Mother traveled extensively in the United States and in England, lecturing on the religious life and on education.

Following the Community's custom, the Rev. Mother's ashes will be interred at the Convent in Brewster. A memorial service will be held for her on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 19, 1987, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine here.

In lieu of flowers, the Community requests that contributions be made to The Mother Ruth Memorial Fund, St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's School, 619 West 114th Street, New York, NY 10025.