During a recent seminar presented by writer, philosopher and La Verne alumnus Jon Hall, titled “Toward World Understanding: The Awakening of Gladdys Muir,” students were given a glimpse into the life of Gladdys Muir, a former La Verne professor who was a prominent figure in the Brethren movement and a peacemaker in society.
Muir was a Brethren missionary and educator who believed in spreading Christianity and reforming society. She traveled extensively, teaching and evangelizing in various parts of the world. Muir’s master’s thesis described how colleges spread ideas and sentiments, transmitting values and teachings of one God, establishing schools, and transitioning from oral to written knowledge so they can learn to read the Bible.
In 1927, the first account of La Verne’s history published was about the Brethren of La Verne. It specifies the transition from Spanish occupation to Anglo settlements, then the Brethren settlements. Muir was involved in collecting and questioning history, not just for evangelization but also for civil rights. She was a professor of history at the University of La Verne.
“I thought it was interesting, and it’s important to learn the history of our school and how Gladdys Muir was a part of the University,” Katelyn Graham, a sophomore psychology major, said.
Hall discovered Muir’s approach to history tied educational development to cultural heritage. Her passion for transmitting values in society was seen in her belief that the brethren and she were responsible for upholding the values in society.
The Brethren would take the identities of people from biblical times and use that narrative to evangelize. They hosted missionary study classes, using different books to instill these Christian characters into students from a non-brethren or a non-religious perspective.
“History is always in the making,” Jordan Ihrig, a sophomore psychology major, said. “There’s always something going on and something to take down.”
Hall emphasized the importance of understanding multiple perspectives, not just accepting a single narrative. One of Muir’s professors, Arthur Frederic Basil Williams, taught her that historians needed to view their writing with creative imagination and make people feel that they are living in the moment and bring it to life. Williams told Muir she was holding back her potential by teaching basic history and encouraged her to be a scholar.
Hall’s seminar on history and education encouraged students to learn more about the history around our neighborhood and how it has made a difference in the world. Hall began his research during his time as an undergraduate.
“It is amazing he did research while he was an undergrad because it’s pretty hard to do research and go to school at the same time,” Emily Anaya, a sophomore kinesiology major, said.
As societies continue to grapple with questions of colonialism, the study of Muir’s work on the Church of the Brethren provides insight into the different layers of history.
“To me is the window which we look at Muir, even if she talks about being a missionary, but her along with the other peacemakers I like, talks about how they can lead us to a positive change in society,” Hall said.
Hall has done extensive research on Muir, pulling books from archives, analyzing paintings from museums and compared videos online to what is written in books trying to match characters and locations.
Hall holds a bachelor’s in history, a minor in philosophy from the University of La Verne, and a master’s in history from Cal State Fullerton. His work has been published in various magazines and online publications.
Jasmine Soria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an earlier version of this story, the name of Arthur Frederic Basil Williams was misspelled. Additionally, the photo caption has been edited to clarify Gladdys Muir’s work at La Verne College and Manchester College. The Campus Times regrets the errors.
Upon reading this article about my lecture, I have the following feedback. Although the article is mostly correct in its depiction of the event and its overall spirit, there are a couple errors with the reporting that require further clarification.
First, the section: “Muir was a Brethren missionary and educator who believed in spreading Christianity and reforming society. She traveled extensively, teaching and evangelizing in various parts of the world.” is worded in a way that may unintentionally mislead readers of this article about the lecture’s content. It would be more accurate to rewrite that section as follows: “Muir was a Brethren historian who taught history with missionary zeal and wanted to reform society per the Social Gospel movement. While she initially believed in spreading Christianity, Muir learned more about the world and other religions throughout her life.” I suspect the confusion with the wording in that sentence likely originated from an attempt to summarize what I lectured about prior to my discussion of Muir’s Master’s thesis (i.e., historical context for the Brethren’s settlement of Lordsburg in tandem with their involvement in the Modern Missionary Movement). Regarding Muir’s travels, the lecture mainly covered her studies of International Relations at Geneva and of History at the University of Edinburgh.
The latter point brings me to my second concern: misspelling. Muir’s professor’s name was “Arthur Frederic Basil Williams,” not “Federick.” Although the way I pronounced it may have added to the confusion, and granted some publications spelled it “Frederick,” asking for the spelling during the Q&A session (or after the lecture) would have been wise. Reporters for this newspaper (and any newspaper for that matter) when covering a lecture or a likewise event should ask questions during the allotted Q&A session if they need clarification or are unsure of something that was said; alternatively, the reporters could ask for the lecturer’s email address.
Thirdly, the photograph’s caption needs reworking. While it is true that Muir launched Peace Studies at La Verne College (or LVC, not “ULV” as the college was not a university in the late 1940s), she taught the subject at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana. The primary sources featured in the slides presented at the lecture made that clear. Accordingly, I have provided in this comment weblinks to the files of those PowerPoint slides and my presentation notes for the lecture.
Weblink for slides Powerpoint:
Weblink for slide image sources:
Weblink for lecture notes:
While the comments above may seem excessive, I only wish to clarify unintentional errors with the reporting. I should mention that Dr. Clark recorded my lecture and the lectures of the other Artful Reframing researchers who have given one thus far. Those recordings should be consulted alongside any newspaper articles written about them, as they are merely summaries of what the lectures covered.