by Lesley Higgins-Biddle
Anne Higgins died on October 21, 2019, at her home in North Haven, Connecticut. Known for her commitment to social justice and racial equity, Anne was active in greater New Haven as a founding leader of People Against Injustice (PAI), with a special concern for prison reform and changes to Connecticut’s drug policy. She was active in New Haven/León Sister City Project after traveling to Nicaragua in her 60s and in the United Church of Christ state conference Peace and Social Concerns committee, which led her to be arrested for protests against nuclear weapons in Groton at the submarine base and in Washington, D.C. As an ordained minister, Anne believed unequivocally in “talking the talk and walking the walk.”
Anne was born in Bridgeport where her grandfather had been a progressive minister at Park Street Congregational Church on the city’s East Side. She attended a new, John Dewey-based elementary school that encouraged young girls to play sports, explore their intellectual gifts, and challenge social norms. She graduated from Smith College (1943) with a major in art and then became one of the first women to graduate from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity, subsequently becoming an ordained Congregational minister. At Yale Anne met the love of her life, Arthur Higgins, with whom she co-pastored small rural churches in upstate New York, Colorado and Maine, at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.
Anne and Arthur moved back to Connecticut to serve parishes in Chester and Wilton, and raise their four children. While in Wilton they became very active in civil rights, with Arthur attending the March on Washington and Anne becoming active in SNCC and CORE chapters in nearby Norwalk. Anne’s critique of the American power structure was a major inspiration for her art and she created many paintings that expressed both oppression and hope, often at the same time.
Throughout her life, Anne remained indomitably committed, both aesthetically and ethically, to a life well lived and that ‘spoke truth to power.’ From her friend Paula Diehl: “Her last years of ministry took the form of programming for elders in affordable housing. She always tried to increase residents’ world-view and help them to better tolerate and understand those who were not like them.”
Anne is sorely missed by her sons, Bart and Gerry, and her daughters, Lesley and Ethel, who are pictured here with her at an exhibition of her paintings at the New Haven Friends Meeting in 2018. Anne’s friends from PAI, the Nicaraguan Prayer Group, and the Friends Meeting, are grateful for having known her. The sparkle in her eyes will be missed by everyone who knew her.