A doctor who authored a highly regarded study on tuberculosis reflects on personal achievement

Miriam Brailey

Miriam Brailey 1900–1976

Miriam, a Vermont native who studied medicine and earned a doctorate in public health, was the director of the Johns Hopkins tuberculosis clinic in Baltimore by the age of forty-one. She authored a highly regarded study on the disease that is still referenced today. But despite her success and the accolades it brought her, she was inwardly lonely. As a Quaker with ideals of social harmony, she struggled to make sense of the “dividedness and lovelessness” she saw all around her. In 1950, she protested the Red Scare by refusing to sign a government-mandated loyalty oath, and lost her position as a result.

In 1959, Miriam joined the Bruderhof, which she had been visiting for a year. As she explained in a letter, she wanted to become part of a community “without religious cant and false piety, where people work for each other instead of competing against each other,” and to “participate in an ideal I have always believed in but never had the chance or the courage to try.” Over the next several years, until her eyesight failed her, she served in the community as a physician. 

On the evening she became a member, Miriam told the community:

Love can’t be willed. Yet it is our will – self-concern and pride – that keeps us from the visitation of love. The price of having love to give other people is the price of becoming small. That doesn’t happen much unless you are in a group with the same commitment and purpose and frankness. We need each other, badly, in order to prevent God from being eclipsed by our own personalities and achievements. Even a little displacement of the ego lets in enough of God so that it seems wonderful to risk everything for it.

Love is not consolation. It is light.
Simone Weil, philosopher 1909–1943
Sharing community online: Melinda edits videos for the Bruderhof’s YouTube channel.

Your Turn

Enter your questions or reactions here and we’ll pass it on to author Clare Stober.

The Book

A Window into a Christian Community at 100 Years

With photography by British photojournalist Danny Burrows, this 300-page hardcover book celebrates what is possible when people take a leap of faith. It will inspire anyone working to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable future.

Book Cover in blue

Get a Sneak Preview

Sign-up below to download a free sampler of this book. You'll also be notified by email as new stories are posted.

We will never share your email address with unrelated third parties. Read our Privacy Policy.