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Ursula Marsh Scott

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Ursula Marsh Scott died peacefully in her sleep at home in Asheville on Friday, March 11, 2005. She was born March 16, 1923 in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Eleanor Taylor, an outspoken suffragette, and Benjamin Marsh, a grassroots lobbyist and anti-war activist. She attended Friend’s Seminary, a Quaker High School, in New York City, where she encountered Quaker beliefs in social justice and pacifism that were to inform her thinking for the rest of her life. She graduated in 1941, the year her brother Michael registered as a conscientious objector to World War II.

In 1942, she went to a work camp in West Virginia and learned there that extreme poverty existed in the U.S. She graduated from Swarthmore College, Pa. in 1945 and went to work for the Congress of Industrial Organizations and then the American Federation of Labor in their housing program, believing that organized labor would turn the world around. In 1949, she graduated from Radcliffe College with a masters degree in sociology. In 1950, she married Wallace Scott and moved to Amherst, Mass. Six years and two daughters later the family moved to Vermont, where a third daughter was born. There Wallace taught history at Bennington College for 20 years.

In the 1960s, while raising her children, Ursula’s concerns about nuclear weapons testing and her convictions about civil rights reenergized her commitment to social activism, on the local and national levels. She worked to develop low income housing, ran for the local school board, was involved in local Democratic politics and became well known to Vermont Congressional delegates in Washington through her tireless letter writing on peace and justice issues. She worked at the United Counseling Services in Bennington and at the Park McCullough House in North Bennington. She was an active member of the Bennington Friends Meeting (Quakers) and the New England Yearly Meeting.

Ursula and her family lived in Europe on two occasions, during her husband’s sabbaticals; in 1962, they traveled in a VW microbus and camped in Italy, France, Ireland and Germany; in 1967-68, they lived in Oxford, England. Both experiences gave her a new perspective on global politics.

Soon after Ursula and her family returned from Oxford, they moved to Trumbull Hill Road in Shaftsbury.

Following the sudden death of her husband in 1976, Ursula worked for the next six years as a volunteer in various communities, including Koinonia Partners in Ga., Pendle Hill in Pa., the Fellowship of Reconciliation in N.Y., and Jubilee Partners in Ga. In 1982, she returned to Shaftsbury, organized a peace resource center in Bennington, helped to create a sisters city project with Somotillo, Nicaragua, and sponsored the exchange of peace activists from the Soviet Union. On trips she called her “self-education”, she traveled to Nicaragua a total of six times, the USSR three times, and China and Cuba once each.

In 1994, Ursula moved to Asheville to be near her daughter and her granddaughters. She plunged into the community of activists and peacemakers, becoming involved with the Asheville sister cities, the mediation center, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the French Broad Food Coop, the School of the Americas Watch, and tutoring children in the city school system. In 1998, she moved into West Asheville’s Westwood co-housing community, as part of her quest to simplify her life. There she found a home and made many dear friends.

Her spiritual home was always among Quakers and at the time of her death, she was an active member of the Asheville Society of Friends. At the end of her life she was working to set up a peace resource service to educate high school youth about options to military service and polishing her bridge game through a course at the College for Seniors. Ursula returned to her pond and cabin on Trumbull Hill every summer.

She found delight in time spent with her children, Deborah and Catherine of Asheville and Torie, of Portland, Ore., their husbands, Robert Haskins, Phil Jamison and Ernest Jones, and her three grandchildren, Sarah and Alice Jamison, and Roland Scott.

In all aspects of her life, Ursula’s choices were guided by the principles of simplicity, honesty and pacifism. She seemed to channel most of her aggressive impulses into the playing of croquet, card games and Ping-Pong. She nurtured friendships across time and around the world. She surrounded herself with learning and reading, remaining informed and inflamed about current events until her last breath.

Financial contributions in Ursula’s memory may be made Sage City Symphony or to the peace resource center, locally; to the Friends’ Committee on National Legislation in Washington, D.C. or to other organizations working on issues of social and economic justice. Contributions of spirit may be made by working every day to increase understanding between people and to restore our beautiful planet.

A celebration of Ursula’s life will take place on June 8 at 4 p.m. at the carriage house at the Park McCullough House, under the care of the Bennington Friend’s Meeting.
Published in Bennington Banner from Mar. 18 to Mar. 19, 2005
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