Washington Gladden Biography

Washington Gladden (February 11, 1836 – July 2, 1918) was a leading American Congregational pastor and early leader in the Social Gospel movement. He was a leading member of the Progressive Movement, serving for two years as a member of the Columbus, Ohio city council and campaigning against Boss Tweed as acting editor of the New York Independent. Gladden was probably the first leading U.S. religious figure to support unionization of the workforce; he also opposed racial segregation. He was a prolific writer, with 40 books to his credit, as well as a number of hymns.

Gladden was born in 1836 in Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania to devout parents as Solomon Washington Gladden. Gladden's father died when he was six and he spent much of his childhood living with his uncle on a farm in Owego, New York. At the time, western New York State was known as the Burned-Over District because it had been the center of a number of religious revivals. He joined the temperance movement as a boy.

Gladden became a journalist at the age of 16 and changed his name around the same time. However, he was keen to become a clergyman studying at the Owego Free Academy and graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. While at Williams, Gladden wrote its alma mater song, The Mountains.