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  • As the founding editor of the Family-Studies blog, Anna Sutherland played an instrumental and formative role in the blog’s development and in the success it enjoys today. Tweet This
  • "Anna Sutherland played a crucial role in launching the editorial voice of The Institute for Family Studies, and for this we are forever grateful.” Tweet This

We were stunned and heartbroken last week to learn that our beloved colleague, Anna Sutherland passed away suddenly on March 6 from a cardiac condition. Anna was not yet 30 years old, married only six years to her college sweetheart, Ed, and the loving mother of three beautiful daughters, ages 4, 2, and four months old. 

As the founding editor of the Family-Studies blog, Anna played an instrumental and formative role in the blog’s development and in the success it enjoys today. She was one of the original and most powerful voices on its pages, writing over a hundred blog posts—most during her time as editor (and later this week, we’ll dedicate the Friday Five to Anna by sharing five of our favorite posts). 

Anna meant so much to me personally, even though I only knew her for a short time. She was my first introduction to IFS when I was a guest writer, serving as a friendly and encouraging editor who greatly improved my articles. Later, when she decided to step down from her position, she spent hours equipping me to take over her job, including traveling here to North Carolina when she was six months pregnant with her second child to train me on the technical issues. When she handed over the reins, she left behind pages of detailed but surprisingly engrossing instructions, where she covered everything from how to format a post to helpful tips about how to best serve certain writers. When she said she wanted to continue writing for IFS as a regular contributor, I was elated, though I must admit it was difficult to actually “edit” her. Anna was just so good at what she did—as flawless a writer as she was an editor. She could put together a blog post on a complicated study in a few hours if necessary, yet she humbly shrugged this off as though anyone could do it. 

But no one could do exactly what Anna did. And one of the things she did best, for those who had the pleasure of working with her, is to encourage others and use her skills to bring out the best in them. That is certainly what she did for me, and I consider myself blessed to have been touched by the gift of her life.

Anna was a gift to all who knew her, but her greatest gift was to her three children. As her obituary states, “more than anything else, Anna loved being a mother. She gave herself to her children.” When I asked her why she wanted to step down from her position as editor, she said she wanted to devote more time to her children. In 2018, when she was pregnant with her third daughter, she said she needed to take a break from writing for the blog in order to focus more attention on her growing family and because she wanted to devote more time to her church, where she had recently founded a ministry for new moms and struggling families. And when I asked Anna to offer some advice for new moms for a Mother’s Day blog post last year, her answer reflected the joy she felt about motherhood and how wise she was for someone so young: 

“When you're doing something that tests your patience—feeding your newborn at 3 a.m., managing a toddler's tantrum, answering your preschooler's 47th ‘why’ question of the morning—you can do it because you have to, with gritted teeth, or you can do it because you love your kid and they need you. You'll be happier as a mom if you strive for the second mindset."

We don’t pretend to understand why this amazing, gifted, and loving young mother was taken from this world so soon. But perhaps we can take solace in the knowledge that Anna lived her short life in devotion to others. And, as one person commented on Twitter, "it seems like she packed a lot of life into her short time." 

It is also comforting to know that Anna came from a large, loving, Catholic family and community of faith—the kind of family and faith community that will ensure that her grieving husband and daughters are not alone in their grief but will be surrounded by love and the help they need going forward. 

And even as we mourn, we can be grateful that Anna’s legacy will continue through the beautiful words she left us—in the articles she penned here at this blog and in other publications, as well as in the reports and books she edited. Anna was a gift to the Institute for Family Studies, and we will do our best to honor her in our future work. 

On that note, we wanted to share a handful of personal reflections about Anna from the Institute for Family Studies board, fellows, and contributors who knew and loved her.

IFS board chairman Rick Hough:

“Anna was such a lovely, smart, hard-working and dedicated editor. She was terrific for IFS, and it would not have succeeded the way that it has without her. When I ran across contributors to the blog, they often commented on Anna and asked after her. She made a real difference on our behalf.”

IFS senior fellow W. Bradford Wilcox:

“Anna was a humble, considerate, diligent, intelligent, and wise writer, editor, and colleague. She took our blog from nowhere (we were getting a few thousand page views a month when she started) and helped launch it as a major voice in the national conversation about marriage and family life in America. She was adept at taking wooden prose and making it come to life, at deftly managing sometimes prideful and difficult writers, and at writing columns of her own. In all of this, she was wise beyond her years. Anna played a crucial role in launching the editorial voice of The Institute for Family Studies, and for this we are forever grateful.”

IFS senior fellow Scott Stanley:

“Anna was a kind and generous person, and a bright light who I knew as an excellent writer and editor. She loved words, and she loved seeing good ideas made clear. Her work was strong, helpful, and kind, and greatly advanced the work of the Institute for Family Studies.”

IFS research fellows David and Amber Lapp:

“Anna was always a wise and kind editor, both gracious and gifted. She was able to take a rambling, unwieldy 3,000-word submission and brilliantly reorder it into something palatable and persuasive. Her curiosity and insight were a treasure to us. Her life and her work were a witness to the good of marriage and family, and we grieve her loss.”

IFS senior fellow Bill Coffin:

“I only knew Anna through hundreds of emails we exchanged over the years and her prolific writings (125 posts on the IFS blog alone!). You could build a great course in marriage and family using only her posts! She was a gift to IFS.”

IFS contributing editor, Ashley McGuire

“I had the privilege of working with Anna for many years. I was so impressed with her editing skills that I asked her to help me with my book. But where Anna and I bonded was over being young, working moms. We were both forging professional paths while building a family. Our children are not that far apart in age, and we both understood what it meant to schedule a day's work around a toddler's nap. It was infinitely clear to me that Anna was a very devoted mother and that she prioritized her life around deep-seated values. Anna exuded grace, virtue, and serenity; I admired her from the moment I began working with her. I am deeply saddened by her passing and know that I am not alone in being permanently touched by the gift of having spilled some ink with her in this brief, earthly life.” 

Read more about Anna Sutherland's amazing life and find details about her funeral, or how to leave a memorial in her honor, here.