Beverly Jean Wildung Harrision was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. She graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul in 1954 and received her Master of Religious Education and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Beverly also received honorary doctorates from Macalester College in 2006 and Chicago Theological Seminary in 2010.
A lifelong Presbyterian who worked as an associate campus minister at University of California in Berkeley in the 1960s, Beverly Harrison increasingly devoted less of her professional time to organized religion and more of her energy to networks of religious feminists who emerged with irrepressible faith, strong intellect, and passionate commitment in the 1970s and 1980s.
Regarded widely by her graduate students and colleagues throughout the world as the "mother of Christian feminist ethics", Beverly's ground-breaking book on abortion, Our Right to Choose (1983) continues to be heralded by theological students and religious scholars for its fine-tuned feminist methodology and its thesis that women's reproductive freedom is essential to not only women's lives but moreover to the strength and integrity of the entire social order.
Beverly's second book, Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics (edited by Carol S. Robb, 1985), was another major contribution to the emerging field of feminist ethics and theory. Her third book, Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics (2004), which was published after her retirement in collaboration with six of her former graduate students, collected significant essays together in a final volume of her writings.
Beverly was on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary from 1967 until her retirement in 1999. In addition to working with several generations of students in Christian feminist ethics, Dr. Harrison lectured widely throughout this time. She was visiting scholar in theological settings in places throughout the world, including Uppsala, Seoul, Zurich, Hamburg, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Canberra, and Auckland.
In January 2013, Beverly Harrision posthumously received the Society of Christian Ethics "Lifetime Achievement" Award, the second ever recipient of this distinguished recognition. She served as President of this organization in 1983, the first woman to hold this office. Throughout her career, Beverly was an active member of the Feminist Ethics Consultation of which she was a founder in the 1970s.
In addition to her work in the field of reproductive rights and human sexuality, Beverly wrote and taught extensively in the field of economic ethics. As she continued to be attuned to the interests and scholarship of her colleagues, she became increasingly involved in environmental studies as they intersect with economic, racial, sexual, and gender issues. As important to her legacy as her written work and teaching, Beverly Harrison's mentoring of younger scholars in feminist ethics has been publicly acknowledged and celebrated in various ways and places since her retirement.
She was a passionate advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender justice, including gay marriage. For more than thirty years, Beverly and her beloved life companion and theological colleague Carter Heyward collaborated in workshops, classes, and publications. Beverly and Carter were among the co-authors of God's Fierce Whimsy: Christian Feminism and Theological Education (1985).
In retirement, Beverly Harrison joined Carter Heyward and several other women in forming an intentional residential community of women, "Redbud Springs," in the mountains of North Carolina. During the last years of her life, Beverly helped found the Mountain Community of St. Clare, a small justice-based community of "recovering" Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and others. She remained active, insofar as she was able, in the work of justice. She was an enthusiastic member of the Democratic Party in Transylvania County and rejoiced in the re-election of President Obama.
Beverly Wildung Harrison died in Transylvania County Community Hospital in Brevard, North Carolina. Carter Heyward survived her.