Remembering long-time GNHLHA member Ruth Calvin Emerson

01 Jul 2010 2:00 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

Ruth Calvin Emerson: March 8, 1921-April 25, 2010

To My Friends

Find joy in the struggle against tyranny.

Stand against racism.

Fight injustice and oppression.

Play seriously.

Teach the children.

Defend the women and the men fighting to be free.

Support your comrades in struggle.

Dance against war.

Sing for peace.

Help the unions make us strong.

Love one another.

Put your life on the line.


This was Ruth Emerson’s message as told to her friend Sherman Malone to pass on.

Read a tribute to Ruth by GNHLHA Member Joelle Fishman here.

Long time GNHLHA member Ruth Emerson passed away on April 25th at the age of 89. A celebration her life was held at the New Haven Peoples Center on June 26th. It was attended by many of her friends and colleagues.  The brief snapshot of her life printed for that event is taken from the “Biography in Progress” currently being written by her stepson, Robert Emerson:

Ruth Calvin Emerson, a teacher, attorney, loyal friend and passionate advocate for civil rights passed away on April 25, 20910 at Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Connecticut.

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1921, Ruth loved music and played flute and trombone in her school years. She was an enthusiastic Girl Scout, one of five Scouts who represented the United States in an international meeting of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in Switzerland in 1938.

Ruth attended Oberlin College, graduating in 1943. During World War II, she served in the Women’s Army Corps, Signal Corps, from 1944-1956 and was stationed in Fort Myers in Virginia and Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Following the completion of her military service, Ruth entered Yale Law School, graduating in 1950. She was one of only six women in her class of 160.

After her graduation from Yale Law School, Ruth worked in Washington, D.C. as an enforcement attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. She returned to Connecticut in 1953 and entered private practice in New Canaan but soon left to become a teacher and psychological tutor in New York City.

Ruth married Yale Law School Professor Thomas Emerson ’31 in 1960 and remained married to him for 31 years until his death at age 83.

Ruth was one of the early practitioners of Words in Color, an innovative method of teaching developed by the educator Dr. Caleb Gattegno. Like Gattegno, Ruth believed in the subordination of teaching to learning and the active involvement and awareness of the student. Beginning in 1970, she taught Words in Color at High School in the Community, and several years later to teachers in New Haven and students referred to her by other educators.

Throughout her adult life, Ruth was a committed progressive and political activist. She was involved with organizations such as the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (now Defending Dissent) and numerous other civil rights and human rights organizations.

She was a frequent writer of brief and powerful letters to the editor about law and politics. In 2006, she co-founded the Connecticut non-profit, Haiti Marycare, Inc, to support two pre-schools and a rural health clinic in Haiti.

Written by Joan Cavanagh, GNHLHA Director

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 • •

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