Gladden, Washington Rader

Born: February 11, 1836
Died: July 2, 1918

Ohio connection: Former Resident


Washington Gladden was born in Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania in 1836. His father died when he was six years old, and he spent much of his childhood on his uncle`s farm in Oswego, New York. He became a journalist at age sixteen. He received a B.A. from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1859, and was ordained to the ministry in 1860. That same year, he married Jennie Cohoon, and they would have three children together. Gladden pastored churches in New York and Massachusetts before he settled in at the First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio, in 1882. He served there until his retirement in 1914. Becoming one of the most influential Protestant religious leaders in the country, he worked to make the social gospel movement a reality. This movement placed a strong emphasis on social justice, and was often considered to be a rival to fundamentalist Christianity. Gladden may have been the first religious figure in the United States to support unionization of the workplace. He was also strongly opposed to racial segregation. In addition to his church ministry and social activism, he was actively involved in local politics, serving as a member of the Columbus City Council. He was the author of more than forty books, many of which included his sermons and addresses. Some of his titles were Plain Thoughts on the Art of Living; The Christian Way; Applied Christianity;The Church and the Kingdom; Who Wrote the Bible?; Social Salvation; Christianity and Socialism; The Church and Modern Life; and Recollections. He was editor of the Independent from 1971 until 1975, and contributed frequently to numerous periodicals. He was also a writer of hymn lyrics, his most well-known being “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee.” He was president of the Ohio State University for a time, and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame for his work in opposing anti-Catholic prejudice. Washington Gladden died July 2, 1918.