Priscilla Backman Scholarship for Activism Fund

Priscilla Backman pictured in a school photograph c. 1940 (R) and protesting the war (L) in Iraq. Priscilla Backman Scholarship for Activism honors her life and legacy while supporting women activists seeking college degrees.

The Priscilla Backman Scholarship for Activism is made possible by a generous contribution from the Peter Backman and Annie Christopher Fund, Spencer Backman, and Sienna Flanders through the Vermont Community Foundation.

This permanently endowed scholarship will provide tuition aid to women who seek to complete their undergraduate degrees at Goddard College. Recipients will have demonstrated financial need and an established commitment to activism, social justice, and/or sustainability.

The scholarship honors the life and legacy of Priscilla Ruth Davis Backman (1922-2015), a 1943 graduate of Goddard’s Junior College and a 1946 graduate of the Bachelor of Arts program. Backman’s friends and family knew her to be a strong anti-war activist and a tax resister—because the national budget includes large allocations for war and the manufacturing of arms. She was also involved in the movement to abolish the death penalty and organized factory workers. In 1953, the Federal Bureau of Investigations blacklisted Backman and her husband, Harold, for their labor organizing.

Later, Backman became heavily involved in the anti-nuclear movement. She returned to Goddard in 1965 to establish and direct the Off-Campus Work Term program. Additionally, she volunteered at a homeless shelter, the Natural History Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Camp for the Blind in Rockland County. She was also a lifelong member of The Women’s Relief Corps in North Calais. In the 1990s, and until she could no longer make the trip, Backman often volunteered in Goddard’s Archive with her brother, Forest K. Davis, a former dean and faculty member.

In recognition of Backman’s lifetime of service and her many contributions to Goddard College, she was posthumously awarded Goddard’s Presidential Award for Activism in August of 2016. She is the fifth person to receive the award.

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