The English-Speaking Union

About Us

Mission & History

English in Action flag


The English-Speaking Union of the United States

Expands minds

Strengthens friendships

Unlocks opportunities

Through the use of the English language.

Founded in 1920, the English-Speaking Union of the United States is a national membership organization with more than 4,000 members organized in 65 Branches across the country. ESU members and volunteers are the pillars of our educational and cultural programs as they work in their local communities to carry the ESU mission forward. The English-Speaking Union of the United States shares fellowship with more than 50 independent ESUs around the world, including the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth in London.

For 100 years, the ESU educational and cultural programs have enriched the lives of American students, teachers, English language learners and ESU members.


Founder of ESU, Evelyn Wrench

The English-Speaking Union of the United States was created to fulfill a mission. It was formally organized in the United States in 1920, two years after the establishment of its counterpart in Britain, the ESU of the British Commonwealth, and arose from the conviction of its founder, Sir Evelyn Wrench and a group of like-minded American and British friends, that maintenance of the close personal and national ties forged during World War I was necessary for the preservation of peace. Sir Evelyn firmly believed that given the opportunity to know one another personally, people who shared a common language would soon discover that they also shared similar values, whatever their differences in nationality or background. 

Over its century of achievement, the ESU has regularly recast itself in response to the changing context of American society and interests. Entering into its second century, the English-Speaking Union is dedicated to increasing its national and international leadership in education and exchange through the following programs:

Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC) is a need-based scholarship program empowers recent immigrants with the skills, resources and networks to build successful lives in the U.S. It offers English classes, weekly conversation practice, professional development and community integration.

English in Action helps language learners master conversational English. Students and volunteers meet weekly to improve fluency and build cross-cultural understanding. A hallmark of the program is the comprehensive tutor training and support.

Evelyn Wrench Speaker Series  In cooperation with the ESU Branches across the country, the oldest ESU program presents prominent speakers in the fields of history, politics, the arts, literature and current events.

Luard Morse Scholarships  is a merit-based scholarship that provides $25,000 for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to study for a semester at a British university of their choice during their junior year.

Middle School Debate  is designed to help adolescents develop critical thinking and language arts skills through public speaking, this program engages more than 2,000 students in weekly debate activities and Saturday tournaments.

National Shakespeare Competition The ESU National Shakespeare Competition is a performance-based education program. High school students develop analytical and communication skills by performing Shakespeare at the school, community and national levels. Since 1983 more than 360,000 students have brought the timeless works of Shakespeare to life.

Secondary School Exchange  (SSE) Since 1928, the ESU has provided merit-based scholarships that provide tuition, room and board for US students to spend a "Gap" year in a secondary school in the United Kingdom and UK students to spend a "Gap" year in a secondary school in the United States between high school and college.

TLab (Travel and Learn Abroad) provides teachers and lifelong learners educational enrichment programs at Oxford, the University of Edinburgh and Shakespeare's Globe in London.

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