Eileen Flanagan speaks about spirituality on television and radio, at national conferences, and on college campuses. A leader in her Quaker community, her award-winning writing addresses people of all backgrounds, helping them to live with greater serenity and courage. Although she holds a BA from Duke and an MA from Yale, her greatest life lessons have come from caring for her two children and her dying mother, experiences that are woven throughout her writing.
The granddaughter of Irish immigrants, Eileen Flanagan was raised in a working class Catholic family just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She left the Roman Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday of her freshman year of college when she realized she wasn’t sure she believed everything in the Profession of Faith. For several years she felt closest to God in the woods, but eventually found her spiritual home in the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) where people seek divine guidance in silence and community. (Visit Eileen's explanation of Quakerism in a Nutshell and her Quaker Background page to learn more.)
Eileen's professional journey has also been circuitous. After graduating from Duke University, she spent two and a half years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching in Botswana (Southern Africa). She loved the simplicity of village life, but her African experience opened her eyes to the great inequalities of the world. When she returned to the United States, she became involved in social justice issues, including supporting the unions at Yale University, where she became a graduate student. After completing her MA at Yale, she went to work knocking on doors as a grassroots fundraiser, a job that taught her how her own attitude influenced the reactions of other people. A few years of full-time activist work made Eileen realize the importance of spiritual grounding, so she became a resident student at Pendle Hill, where she began to write, something she had enjoyed since childhood.