After being fired from Hastings College for heterodox theology, Willard Uphaus ran the National Religion and Labor Foundation from 1934 to 1953, during which time he was active in international peace efforts and supported a variety of causes deemed suspect by the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). As the US-Soviet Cold War heated up, he joined efforts to promote peaceful coexistence including the World Peace Congress held in Warsaw in 1950. In 1954, he was appointed Executive Director of the World Fellowship Center in Albany, NH, just in time to get caught up in Attorney General Louis Wyman’s search for “subversives.”
Under the Subversive Activities Act, passed by the legislature in 1951, Wyman used subpoenas and undercover agents to seek out those who might be engaged in “subversion.” No one was ever charged under the law, which was finally repealed in 1994.
Willard’s refusal to turn over the Center’s guest records to Wyman touched off a 6-year legal battle, which after a decision upholding Wyman’s right to demand the records led to Uphaus being sent to the Merrimack County Jail on contempt charges in 1959. During the year he spent in jail, the Uphaus case became known worldwide as an example of the excesses of anti-communism.
After release from jail just before Christmas in 1960, Uphaus, then 70 years old, returned to World Fellowship which he directed until retirement in 1969. His memoir, Commitment, gives a fascinating glimpse at the life of a radical during challenging times.
Uphaus retired from World Fellowship in 1970 and founded Amity House in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he died in 1983.
Founded in 1941 as a summer retreat for people interested in peace, the World Fellowship Center now has eighty years of experience as a home away from home for radicals of various stripes. Spread out in a wooded campus of 455 acres on the edge of the White Mountains, World Fellowship offers a rustic spot for summer vacations complete with healthy meals and daily educational and cultural programs of speakers, performers, and recreational activities for all ages.
Beginning with the theme, “In times of war, prepare for peace,” World Fellowship has been a gathering point for activists in areas such as civil rights, disarmament, ecological awareness, and international understanding. At a time when many White Mountain hotels still openly discriminated against Blacks and Jews, World Fellowship’s sign on Route 16 proclaiming “all races and creeds welcome” displayed for all to see that it was someplace apart.
When Dr. Willard Uphaus took over as director in 1953, he and the Center immediately came under the scrutiny of Louis Wyman, the state’s new Attorney General, who was looking for “subversives” at the behest of the state legislature. When Dr. Uphaus appeared willingly for an interview, bearing information about the Center’s programs but refusing the order to turn over the guest list, a legal tangle began that lasted for years. Although the national “Red Scare” led by Senator Joseph McCarthy was peaking, Wyman was just gaining steam. When in 1959 the US Supreme Court upheld the attorney general’s authority to demand World Fellowship’s guest list and Dr. Uphaus once more refused to comply, he was sent to jail for contempt. Turning 70 at the Merrimack County Jail in Boscawen, Dr. Uphaus had time to write a memoir, Commitment, which still stands as a record of the period’s anti-communist insanity and the consequences of conscientious resistance.
When Dr. Uphaus and his wife Ruth retired in 1970, Rev. Christoph and Katherine “Kit” Schmauch took over. Given Christoph’s birth in what had become the German Democratic Republic and his active involvement in East-West peacemaking, the Center continued to be held in suspicion by Cold Warriors. Yet it persisted, adding speakers focused on emerging feminist and ecological matters to its programs, expanding the grounds, and putting in organic vegetable gardens.
As the 21st century dawned, Andrea Walsh and Andy Davis succeeded the Schmauchs as Directors, seeking to make the Center even more accessible, multi-cultural and LGBT-friendly. As the decades have passed, generations of guests, staff, and visitors have found World Fellowship to be a place for personal and community renewal, surrounded by a world in which peace, human rights, and survival of a livable environment seem always to be within reach but only if people committed to transformational change are willing to take action.
World Fellowship says its mission is to promote “global justice and connections between people, communities, and nature through education, recreation, and creative expression.” At World Fellowship, you can “vacation in this place that prioritizes progressive politics, environmental harmony, offers opportunities for the enjoyment and understanding of nature, and models organic gardening.”
WFC strives to model a culture of kindness and inclusivity and invites guests and staff to “join in transformation for liberation from socially constructed lines and boxes of race, class, gender, sexuality, age, abilities, experience, nationality, ethnicity and beliefs.”
As a non-profit organization, World Fellowship depends on generous donors as well as the fees collected from guests. For more information, visit WorldFellowship.org.