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George H. and Elizabeth G. Watson Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-268

Scope and Contents

Elizabeth G. Watson's extensive papers document years of ministry, writing, and personal correspondence. Watson’s work centered on oppressed people. The focus of her ministry often concerned social justice. For example she led workshops about race relations and was an advocate for equality for homosexuals. Her subject matter ranged from poetry (she studied Whitman, Rilke, and Emily Dickinson), overcoming grief (one of her daughters was killed in a car accident in her twenties), and women reclaiming the spiritual as well as physical world. She studied women in the Bible and was particularly interested in Liberation Theology, the idea that the traditional hierarchy of the Christian faith is counter to Jesus’ teachings of peace and empowerment of the disempowered. Watson applied this idea to Third World. In her teachings she stressed that Quakers also were not living simply enough and were not sufficiently living the idea that God existed to benefit the powerless and the poor.

George Watson's papers include correspondence, writings, published and unpublished, and lectures. Of particular interest is material relating to his conscietious objection during World War II, papers from his time at both Roosevelt University and Friends World College, and records relating to his many television appearances.

The collection is divided into five series, each subdivided into individual and joint sections:

  1. Journals
  2. Correspondence
  3. Writings
  4. Lectures and Presentations
  5. Biographical Material


  • Creation: 1970-1999


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth Grill was born Jan. 1, 1914, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As a child, she was inspired to the preaching ministry especially by her maternal grandfather, a Methodist minister in South Dakota. She began her career as a speaker as a teenager. Elizabeth graduated from Miami University, Ohio, in 1936. During her college years, she joined the Miami Speakers Bureau and preached in small churches which could not afford a minister. She was awarded a scholarship to study at the Chicago Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago Divinity School. In Chicago she was drawn to urban ministry.

George H. Watson was born in Illinois in 1915, the son of Perley M. and Margaret E. Watson. He grew up in Ohio and graduated from Miami University and the University of Illinois. He earned a PhD at the University of Chicago in Political Science. Watson's first job was as an Instructor at Southern Illinois University but he soon moved back to Chicago to take a position as research director for the Federation of Tax Administrators.

George Watson married Elizabeth Grill in 1937, and in 1938 they both joined 57th Street Meeting of Friends. The Watsons had four children and also raised three orphaned sisters from Germany who had been pen pals of the Watson daughters.

During the War, the Watsons were deeply involved in AFSC activities, the relocation of Japanese-Americans, and other Quaker activities. George was drafted as a conscious objector in 1945 and after the War began long career teaching at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago. Elizabeth worked with the AFSC and the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Both George and Elizabeth became active in Friends World Committee for Consultation.

In 1972, the Watsons moved to Long Island, NY, where George became head of Friends World College. Elizabeth was prominent as a liberal Quaker preacher and also worked as curator of the Walt Whitman birthplace in Huntington, NY. While at Friends World College, the Watson helped found Lloyd Harbor Friends Meeting and Elizabeth was active as a speaker in New York Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference.

In 1980 George retired, and the couple moved to Friends Community in Easton, Mass. They traveled extensively in the ministry in the U.S. and Canada. They were Fellows at Woodbrooke College, England, in 1983-1984, and later served as Friends in Residence at Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center in Wallingford, Pa. In 1991, they moved to Minneapolis where their daughter Carol lived, and they became active in Minneapolis Friends Meeting. Elizabeth died Feb. 24, 2006.


23 linear ft. (43 boxes)

Language of Materials



Elizabeth Grill Watson was a Quaker minister, feminist theologian, Bible scholar, and writer. George H. Watson was a Quaker educator and President Emeritus of Friends World College. The collection primarily documents their ministries focused on social justice.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Watson Family, 2006 (2006.016), 2012 (2012.002)

The first donation of Elizabeth Watson's papers was made by her family after her death in 2006. It was received from the Watson home arranged in folders, presumably by Elizabeth G. Watson. This order has been generally retained. However, the writing and journals were consolidated into separate series and organized chronologically when possible. Photo albums were removed to FHL picture storage. A second gift came to the Library in 2012 through Jean Watson McCandless.

Separated Materials

Two albums removed to PA 146. They document the Watsons’ mission to Asia in 1988.

Elizabeth Watson’s published papers and a sound-recording of a lecture are catalogued in tripod, the Library on-line catalogue.

An Inventory of the George H. and Elizabeth G. Watson Papers
FHL staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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