Who wrote the Serenity Prayer?

New Evidence

As searchable historical text collections continue to expand, new kinds of research on famous quotations are possible. Below are the earliest variants of the Serenity Prayer I have retrieved to date from the Newspaperarchive, ProQuest, and Google Books databases. As more and more powerful research tools become available, we may well learn more about the origins of the prayer.


“We need new faith in our own highest ideals,” says Miss Mildred Pinkerton, executive secretary of the Syracuse Y.W.C.A. She calls attention to new determinations, new interests in her annual report recently submitted. Quotes the prayer—“O God, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and insight to know the one from the other.”

  —Syracuse Herald, January 16, 1936, page 22

In her report for the year ending July 1, Miss Constance Leigh, superintendent of the [Newington Home for Crippled Children], expressed thanks. … "I would in closing this brief report voice the hope that we may have the courage to change what should be altered, an understanding and serenity to face what cannot be changed, and the wisdom to recognize one from the other."

  —Hartford Courant, October 27, 1938, page 13

Parent Teachers' Association members filled the main auditorium at Ada high school Friday night in a county-wide meeting to hear Mrs. Edyth Thomas Wallace, home counselor of Oklahoma City’s public schools. … "The prayer," said the speaker, "of both parents should be ‘Oh God, give me serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, give me courage to change that which can be changed and wisdom to tell the one from the other.’"

  —Ada (Oklahoma) Evening News, February 19, 1939, page 5


The Middlesex Women’s Club of this city was hostess yesterday at a session of the 10th district conference held at Liberty hall yesterday morning and afternoon. … Mrs. Henry W. Hildreth … ended with this statement: "God give me serenity to accept things I cannot change; the courage to change those I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

  Lowell (Mass.) Sun, April 16, 1940, page 7


We must have the serenity to accept what we cannot change within ourselves, the courage to attempt to change what we can, and the wit to know one from the other.

  —Esther Lloyd-Jones and Ruth Fedder, 
   Coming of Age (1941), page 256


Comprehensive reports of the 29th annual Farmers Short Course at A. and M. College gave particular interest to the meeting of the Clio Club held Wednesday at the home of Mrs. Carl Walker. … Summary of the entire short course, ably expressed in a poem by Miss Mildred Horton, state home demonstration agent, was repeated:

  “God, give me the courage to change
  What must be altered;
  Serenity to accept
  What cannot be helped
  And insight to determine
  One from the other.”

  Valley Star-Monitor-Herald (Brownsville, Texas),
       August 17, 1941, page 3 (Society section)


“Community Living in Which Youth Takes a Part," was the subject of an address by Rose Cologne, visiting professor at Pennsylvania State College, to the regular Tuesday college convocation, Dec. 2. … As a guide to the right kind of activity, she recommended that college people try to develop "courage to change that which can be changed, serenity to face that which cannot be changed, and insight to tell one from the other."

  Indiana (Pa.) Evening Gazette, December 5, 1941, page 2


SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON … Prayer Thought: O God, give me serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed; and the wisdom to know one from the other.

  Hillsboro (Ohio) Press-Gazette, April 24, 1942, page 2-B



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