Emma Byrne



Emily A. Byrne

Emily Anderson Brown was born on July 18, 1921 in Glasgow, Scotland. She was only 18 years old when WWII began. Getting a job at the Post Office, Emma was responsible for sending and receiving telegrams. Without telephones all urgent news of births and deaths, for example, was sent by telegram.

Emma and Tom Byrne were married soon after the war, and their son David was born in 1952. Moving to Hamilton, Ontario in Canada in 1955, Tom found work with the Westinghouse Corporation, and their daughter Celia was born there. The family moved to Maryland in 1960 where Emma studied sociology at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC), and graduated summa cum laude in 1970. While a student Emma and Tom took the family to protest marches in Washington to speak out against the war in Vietnam.

Emma and Tom began attending Sandy Spring Friends Meeting in 1970 after they moved to Columbia, Maryland. Drawn to Quakerism partly due to their peace witness, Emma always worked for peace and social justice. At one demonstration with Patapsco Friends in Columbia during the run-up to the first Iraq invasion, passers-by assaulted her as she stood with her sign, “War is not the answer!”

Emma was a board member of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, a member of the Howard County Clergy for Social Justice, Community Building Howard County, and she volunteered with the county’s Martin Luther King Commission, the Christian Women’s Thrift Shop, Focus on Peace Week, and the Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network.
In 2000, the Howard County Commission named Emma Byrne as “Volunteer of the Year” for her work in the community. She received the Martin Luther King Award for her Peace and Social Justice work in Howard County, and UMBC recognized her in 2003 with a Special Alumni Award for her community action work.

Emma combined her activism with her love of song in her “Peace Rap,” which she wrote and performed to introduce conflict resolution in the schools:

There are rules for playing fair
So listen now and be aware
Whether you’re big or whether you’re small
The rules apply for one and all.
If there’s a problem, play it cool
Listen to the other guy, don’t be a fool
If you want to fix it, do it right
Use your brain, and not your might.
You gotta stop sneering
You gotta stop naming
You gotta stop bossing
You gotta stop blaming
That’s no way to treat a friend
Those put-downs that you send
You’ve gotta show that you play fair
And you gotta show that you really care.