Activist, poet, and academic Renny Golden was born in 1937 and raised in Chicago, Illinois.
Golden entered the Dominican order of nuns when she was nineteen. She earned Bachelors of Arts degree from Sienna Heights College in 1960, a Masters of Education from Wayne State University in 1968, and a Doctorate of Ministry at Chicago Theological Seminary with a specialization in Liberation Theology and Social Science in 1976.
The civil rights movement and her involvement in helping the poor dramatically changed her life, and she left the convent before taking her final vows. "I had to leave the convent to find God among the poor," she said.
In 1972, after moving to Chicago, she and another teacher began the adult education program, St. Mary's Adult High School. Adult education would continue to be a passion for Golden, and in 2002 Golden, with the help of Sister Jean Hughes, began another adult high school called St. Leonard's Adult High School, which served former prisoners. In 2005 she also started a bi-lingual adult education school, The Dorothy Stang Popular Education Adult High School.
Her introduction to Liberation Theology and the learning of the killings of thousands by the El Salvadorian military in the 1980s radically changed her activism.
She first visited El Salvador in 1985, where she learned about the struggles of women involved in the resistance movement and recorded their stories, which resulted in her book The Hour of the Poor, the Hour of Women, published in 1991. She also became active in the underground railroad that helped El Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees flee to sanctuary churches and synagogues in the United States, and co-authored Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad, published in 1986.
She has had several other books published, including Disposable Children: Americas Child Welfare System. Golden also was a college professor, and she taught twenty-seven years at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) as well as several years at Harvard Divinity School, Walpole Prison, Columbia College, and most recently as Professor Emeritus at University of New Mexico.
Golden has often been nominated and awarded for her social activism, writing, and teaching. At NEIU, some of these accolades include the Faculty Excellence Award she received four times and the Womens Studies Social Justice Award in 2005, which was named the Renny Golden Award. She was a finalist for the C. Wright Award for her book War on Families: Imprisoned Mothers and the Families They Life Behind, and received the Crossroads Publishing Womens Studies Award for The Hour of the Poor, The Hour of Women.