Elise Boulding portrait

Elise Boulding

Author, The Underside of History: A View of Women through Time

Born in Oslo, Norway, in 1920, Boulding moved with her family to the United States at the age of three. All of her work was strongly influenced by her conversion at a young age to the peace-oriented church of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. In fact, it was at a Quaker meeting in 1941 that Boulding met her future husband, the famed systems theorist Kenneth Boulding. Throughout her long career she explored and celebrated connections between women’s lives and their unique contributions to the creation of peace cultures. This commitment received formal expression when she chaired the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, among many organizational positions she held. But it was in her scholarship and many writings we learn the essence of her message. First, is that we have much to learn from women and others who have been historically marginalized about what peace really means in the actual living of life, lessons that we might not learn by reviewing the broadest, highest level contours of history. And secondly, that peace cultures exist now in countless forms and that our task is to recognize them and actualize them as widely as possible. Indeed, she often shared in this regard her husband’s maxim: “What exists is possible.”

For many years late in her life, Boulding was a close friend of the Center, speaking at numerous events, including the 1999 cultures of peace conference where she delivered the keynote. In 1995 she delivered remarks upon receiving the Center’s 1st annual Global Citizen Award. In 2002, the Center’s Patti Marxsen interviewed Dr. Boulding and Randall Forsberg on issues relating to war and terrorism. Upon Dr. Boulding’s death in 2010, the Center’s founding Executive Director Virgina Benson composed this heartfelt remembrance. That same year, Boulding’s dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda, Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen, was published by the Center’s Dialogue Path Press.