Badass Mama: Elise M. Boulding

Elise Boulding in 1980. Nancy Wasserman.

A Norwegian born, American Quaker sociologist, Elise M. Boulding helped shape the academic discipline of Peace & Conflict Studies, and was an avid women’s and peace activist. Along with her husband, Boulding raised five children. Using her home life as inspiration for her academic pursuits, Boulding argued the importance of strong families and the mother’s influence in the foundation of worldwide peace. She once wrote,

“I have long been convinced that families are the primary agents of social change in any society.”

Elise Boulding: Writings on Feminism, the Family and Quakerism

At its core, Boulding believed peace is an everyday practice, and practice began in the familial unit. She believed families run like a small society, where nurturing, teaching, play, teamwork, and social skills, like negotiation, are developed. Everyone has various roles, and has freedom to experiment within safe-set boundaries, and yet, households are uniquely comprised, just like society, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Looking to the innate wisdom and playfulness of children, Boulding believed children were essential to ending global crises.

Her research alone makes her a kickass feminist, but it is the way in which she thoughtfully reflected upon her experiences as a mother, infusing it into everything she did, that really makes her stand out as a badass mama.

Although she passed away in 2010, her work lives on, and she will be honored this year as one of the 2019 National Women’s History Alliance Nominees Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.

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