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In Loving Memory of Dorothy Emerson (1943-2019)

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 6, 2019

We offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of the Rev. Dr. Dorothy M. Emerson, who died on May 13, 2019, at the age of 75.

Dorothy was born on November 20, 1943, in Long Beach, CA, to parents Howard Douglas Emerson and Eloise Clark Emerson. She graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, CA in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in German Literature, following which she earned her Master of Arts in Psychology and Education, from the Humanistic Psychology Institute, CA in 1974. She then worked as a consultant for several non-profit and social service organizations before following her call toward ministry. In 1988, Dorothy received her Master of Divinity from the Harvard Divinity School.

Rev. Emerson was ordained on September 25, 1988, by The First Universalist Society of Wakefield, MA, where she carried out her first ministry from 1987 to 1989. From 1989 until 1991, she served the First Church in Belmont, MA, as an Interim Associate Minster. In 1992, Dorothy accepted a call to settled ministry from the UU Church of Medford, MA, where she served for six years. Over the next decade, Rev. Emerson completed parish and community ministries at three congregations: the UU Church of Weymouth, MA (1998-1999); the Unitarian Society of New Haven, CT (2003); and the First Parish Church in Billerica, MA (2008-2010).

Rev. Emerson carried out a great deal of service on behalf of the denomination. She served as an Interim Religious Education Director for the First Parish of Watertown, MA (1988-1989) and as Executive Director for the UU Women’s Heritage Society (1999-2005). She also edited several volumes of UU history including Standing Before Us: Unitarian Universalist Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936 (Skinner House, 1999).

Outside of her ministry, Dorothy served as chairperson for the Black Concerns Working Group of the Massachusetts Bay District, and as a member for the NAACP, Mystic Valley Area Branch; Sustainable Business Networks of Massachusetts; and WAND, Women’s Action for New Directions. She was co-founder of Rainbow Solutions, Inc, a socially responsible investing firm in Medford, MA. Moreover, Dorothy had several books and articles published in her lifetime. Some of her works includeWomen’s History Is Political Action (1989); Glorious Women: Award-Winning Sermons about Women (2004); and Sea Change: the unfinished agenda of the 1960s (2018). In her spare time, Dorothy enjoyed being with friends and family. She loved reading mysteries by women, traveling and exploring the beauty of nature.

Dorothy is survived by her wife Donna E. Clifford; her son Damian Elrod and his wife Kathy Vlietstra; her grandson Zade Elrod; as well as her sister and two brothers.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of one’s own choosing, as well as to the UURMaPA’s UU Rainbow History Project. If you prefer to donate to the Rainbow Project, please make your check payable to Treasurer Dave Hunter with “In honor of Dorothy Emerson” in the memo line, and send to 535 Gradyville Road, Newtown Square, PA 19073.


A green burial took place at 3:30 pm on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Cedar Grove Burial Ground, Limington, York County, ME. A celebration of Dorothy’s life was held at 10 am on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, 70 W Emerson St, Melrose, MA 02176.

Notes of condolences may be sent to Donna Clifford at 51 Cedar St. Apt # 4101, Woburn, MA 01801.

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