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Oral history interview with Ethel Thurston, 2001

Creator: Thurston, Ethel
Project: Animal Advocates Oral History Collection
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcript: 58 pages Sound recording: 5 sound cassettes
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
Full CLIO record >>

Biographical Note

Ethel Thurston (1911-2006) was a professor of music and leader of two animal advocacy societies. She graduated from Vassar College in 1933 and was studying music in France with Nadia Boulanger at the time of the Nazi occupation. She assisted Boulanger in escaping France with historical documents in her luggage. Thurston received her PhD in music from New York University in 1954, and spent the following two decades teaching music at Manhattan College of Music, Hunter College, Saint John's University, Bry Mawr, and other Colleges. Upon retirement in 1973, Thurston began devoting her energies to two animal protection organizations: Beauty Without Cruelty USA and the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research. The first provides consumers information about obtaining personal and household products made and tested without harm to animals. The second provides grants to scientists developing alternatives to animal testing.

Scope and Contents

Ethel Thurston begins this two session interview by describing her childhood experiences, including experiences with dogs. She discusses her education, including interest in ethics, and studying music with Nadia Boulanger in France. She discusses her experiences with Christianity, and examines attitudes of different sects towards animals. She also describes her experiences studying and teaching music in New York from the 1940s onward. Thurston discusses becoming interested in alternatives to animal testing during the 1950s through Ellen Seiling. She discusses meeting and communicating with the United Kingdom's National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) in the 1960s-1970s, including Colin Smith and Muriel Dowding. She discusses starting the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research (AFAAR) at the request of NAVS and the need to for activists to work with scientists. She discusses AFAAR's structure, major projects, activities, and scientists involved with AFAAR, including John Petricciani, Roland Nardone, and Bjorn Ekwall. She also analyzes the activities of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of Animals (PeTA), American anti-vivisection societies, and her organization Beauty Without Cruelty USA.

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Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2016.

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