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History of the Quakers

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History of the Quakers

The Religious Society of Friends began as a movement in England in the mid 17th century in Northern England. Members are informally known as Quakers, as they were said "to tremble in the way of the Lord." The movement in its early days faced strong opposition and persecution, but it continued to expand across the British Isles and then in the Americas and Africa.

The Society of Friends, while always small in membership, has been influential in the history of reform. The state of Industrial Revolution, especially in England and Pennsylvania.

During the 19th century Friends in the United States suffered a number of separations which resulted in the formation of different branches of the Society of Friends. Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) estimated in 2007 there were 359,000 Friends worldwide [1]


  • George Fox and the Religious Society of Friends 1
  • Nayler's sign 2
  • Other early controversies 3
  • Women and equality 4
  • Persecution in England 5
    • The ending of official persecution in England 5.1
    • Netherlands 5.2
  • William Penn and settlement in colonial Pennsylvania 6
    • Persecution in the New World 6.1
  • Eighteenth century 7
    • Slavery Abolition 7.1
  • Nineteenth century 8
    • Quaker influence on society 8.1
    • Theological schisms 8.2
      • Hicksites 8.2.1
      • Gurneyites 8.2.2
      • Beaconites 8.2.3
    • Native Americans 8.3
  • Twentieth-century developments 9
    • Kindertransport 9.1
    • War Rescue Operations, and The One Thousand Children 9.2
    • Costa Rica 9.3
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

George Fox and the Religious Society of Friends

Quakerism pulled together groups of disparate Seekers that formed the Religious Society of Friends following 1647. This time of upheaval and social and political unrest called all institutions into question, so Fox and his leading disciples--James Nayler, Richard Hubberthorne, Margaret Fell, as well as numerous others—targeted "scattered Baptists," disillusioned soldiers, and restless common folk as potential Quakers. Confrontations with the established churches and its leaders and those who held power at the local level assured those who spoke for the new sect a ready hearing as they insisted that God could speak to average people, through his risen son, without the need to heed churchmen, pay tithes, or engage in deceitful practices. They found fertile ground in northern England in 1651 and 1652, building a base there from which they moved south, first to London and then beyond. In the early days the groups remained scattered, but gradually they consolidated in the north—the first meeting being created in Durham in 1653—to provide financial support to the missionaries who had gone south and presently abroad. Before long they seemed a potential threat to the dignity of the Cromwellian state. Even arresting its leaders failed to slow the movement, instead giving them a new audience in the courts of the nation.[2]

Nayler's sign

In 1656, a popular Quaker minister, James Nayler, went beyond the standard beliefs of Quakers when he rode into Bristol on a horse in the pouring rain, accompanied by a handful of men and women saying "Holy, holy, holy" and strewing their garments on the ground, imitating Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. While this was apparently an attempt to emphasize that the "Light of Christ" was in every person, most observers believed that he and his followers believed Nayler to be Jesus Christ. The participants were arrested by the authorities and handed over to Parliament, where they were tried. Parliament was sufficiently incensed by Nayler's heterodox views that they punished him savagely and sent him back to Bristol to jail indefinitely.[3] This was especially bad for the movement's respectability in the eyes of the Puritan rulers because some considered Nayler (and not Fox, who was in jail at the time) to be the actual leader of the movement. Many historians see this event as a turning point in early Quaker history because many other leaders, especially Fox, made efforts to increase the authority of the group, so as to prevent similar behaviour. This effort culminated in 1666 with the "Testimony from the Brethren," aimed at those who, in its own words, despised a rule "without which we ... cannot be kept holy and inviolable"; it continued the centralizing process that began with the Nayler affair and was aimed at isolating any separatists who still lurked in the Society. Fox also established women's meetings for discipline and gave them an important role in overseeing marriages, which served both to isolate the opposition and fuel discontent with the new departures. In the 1660s and 1670s Fox himself travelled the country setting up a more formal structure of monthly (local) and quarterly (regional) meetings, a structure that is still used today.[4]

Other early controversies

The Society was rent by controversy in the 1660s and 1670s because of these tendencies. First, John Perrot, previously a respected minister and missionary, raised questions about whether men should uncover their heads when another Friend prayed in meeting. Soon this minor question broadened into an attack on the power of those at the centre. Later, during the 1670s, William Rogers of Bristol and a group from Lancashire, whose spokesmen John Story and John Wilkinson were both respected leaders, led a schism. They disagreed with the heightening influence of women and centralizing authority among Friends closer to London. In 1666, a group of about a dozen leaders, led by Richard Farnworth (Fox was absent, being in prison in Scarborough), gathered in London and issued a document that they styled "A Testimony of the Brethren." It set rules to maintain the good order that they wanted to see among adherents and excluded separatists from holding office and prohibited them from travelling lest they sow errors. Looking to the future, they announced that authority in the Society rested with them.[5] By the end of the century, these leaders were almost all now dead but London's authority had been established; the influence of dissident groups had been mostly overcome.

Women and equality

One of their most radical innovations was a more nearly equal role for women, as Taylor (2001) shows. Despite the survival of strong patriarchal elements, Friends believed in the spiritual equality of women, who were allowed to take a far more active role than had ordinarily existed before the emergence of radical civil war sects. Among several Quaker female writers of the 1650s and 1660s were

  • Quaker Heritage Press Reprints and on-line versions of classic Quaker works with links to works at other websites.
  • Quaker Information Center
  • A Quaker Page at the Street Corner Society
  • Article by Bill Samuel on the Beginnings of Quakerism in
  • Early Modern Quaker Texts Post-Reformation Digital Library

External links

  • Gummere, Amelia, ed. The Journal and Essays of John Woolman (1922) online edition
  • Jones, Rufus M., ed. The Journal of George Fox: An Autobiography online edition
  • Mott, Lucretia Coffin. Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott. edited by Beverly Wilson Palmer, U. of Illinois Press, 2002. 580 pp
  • West, Jessamyn, ed. The Quaker Reader (1962, reprint 1992) - collection of essays by Fox, Penn, and other notable Quakers
Primary sources
  • Abbott, Margery Post et al. Historical Dictionary of the Friends (Quakers). (2003). 432 pp.
  • Bacon, Margaret Hope. "Quakers and Colonization," Quaker History, 95 (Spring 2006), 26–43.
  • Barbour, Hugh, and J. William Frost. The Quakers. (1988), 412pp; historical survey, including many capsule biographies online edition
  • Barbour, Hugh. The Quakers in Puritan England (1964).
  • Benjamin, Philip. Philadelphia Quakers in an Age of Industrialism, 1870-1920 (1976),
  • Braithwaite, William C. The Beginnings of Quakerism (1912); revised by Henry J. Cadbury (1955) online edition
  • Braithwaite, William C. Second Period of Quakerism (1919); revised by Henry Cadbury (1961), covers 1660 to 1720s in Britain
  • Brock, Peter. Pioneers of the Peaceable Kingdom (1968), on Peace Testimony from the 1650s to 1900.
  • Bronner, Edwin B. William Penn's Holy Experiment (1962)
  • Connerley, Jennifer. "Friendly Americans: Representing Quakers in the United States, 1850-1920." PhD dissertation U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 2006. 277 pp. Citation: DAI 2006 67(2): 600-A. DA3207363 online at ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Dandelion, Pink. The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction (2008). ISBN 978-0-19-920679-7.
  • Davies, Adrian. The Quakers in English Society, 1655-1725. (2000). 261 pp.
  • Doherty, Robert. The Hicksite Separation (1967), uses the new social history to inquire who joined which side
  • Dunn, Mary Maples. William Penn: Politics and Conscience (1967)
  • Frost, J. William. The Quaker Family in Colonial America: A Portrait of the Society of Friends (1973), emphasis on social structure and family life
  • Frost, J. William. "The Origins of the Quaker Crusade against Slavery: A Review of Recent Literature," Quaker History 67 (1978): 42-58,
  • Hamm, Thomas. The Quakers in America. (2003). 293 pp., strong analysis of current situation, with brief history
  • Hamm, Thomas. The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907 (1988), looks at the impact of the Holiness movement on the Orthodox faction
  • Hamm, Thomas D. Earlham College: A History, 1847-1997. (1997). 448 pp.
  • Hewitt, Nancy. Women's Activism and Social Change (1984).
  • Illick, Joseph E. Colonial Pennsylvania: A History. 1976. online edition
  • Ingle, H. Larry Quakers in Conflict: The Hicksite Reformation (1986)
  • Ingle, H. Larry. First among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism. (1994). 407 pp.
  • Ingle, H. Larry. "Nixon's First Cover-up: The Religious Life of a Quaker President." (2015). 272 pp.
  • James, Sydney. A People among Peoples: Quaker Benevolence in Eighteenth-Century America (1963), a broad ranging study that remains the best history in America before 1800
  • Jones, Rufus M., Amelia M. Gummere, and Isaac Sharpless. Quakers in the American Colonies (1911), history to 1775 online edition
  • Jones, Rufus M. Later Periods of Quakerism, 2 vols. (1921), covers England and America until World War I.
  • Jones, Rufus M. The Story of George Fox (1919) 169 pages online edition
  • Jones, Rufus M. A Service of Love in War Time: American Friends Relief Work in Europe, 1917-1919 (1922) online edition
  • Jordan, Ryan. "The Dilemma of Quaker Pacifism in a Slaveholding Republic, 1833-1865," Civil War History, Vol. 53, 2007 online edition
  • Jordan, Ryan. Slavery and the Meetinghouse: The Quakers and the Abolitionist Dilemma, 1820–1865. (2007) 191pp
  • Kennedy, Thomas C. British Quakerism, 1860-1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community. (2001). 477 pp.
  • Larson, Rebecca. Daughters of Light: Quaker Women Preaching and Prophesying in the Colonies and Abroad, 1700-1775. (1999). 399 pp.
  • LeShana, James David. "'Heavenly Plantations': Quakers in Colonial North Carolina." PhD dissertation: U. of California, Riverside 1998. 362 pp. DAI 2000 61(5): 2005-A. DA9974014 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Milligan, Edward The Biographical dictionary of British Quakers in commerce and industry, 1775-1920, Sessions of York, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85072-367-7.
  • Moore, Rosemary. The Light In Their Consciences: Faith, Practices, and Personalities in Early British Quakerism, (1646–1666), Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-271-01988-3
  • Nash, Gary. Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1680-1726 (1968)
  • Punshon, John. Portrait in Grey: A short history of the Quakers. (Quaker Home Service, 1984).
  • Rasmussen, Ane Marie Bak. A History of the Quaker Movement in Africa. (1994). 168 pp.
  • Russell, Elbert. The History of Quakerism (1942). online edition
  • Ryan, James Emmett. Imaginary Friends: Representing Quakers in American Culture, 1650-1950. (2009). ISBN 978-0-299-23174-3
  • Smuck, Harold. Friends in East Africa (Richmond, Indiana: 1987)
  • Trueblood, D. Elton The People Called Quakers (1966)
  • Tolles, Frederick B. Meeting House and Counting House (1948), on Quaker businessmen in colonial Philadelphia
  • Tolles, Frederick B. Quakers and the Atlantic Culture (1960)
  • Vlach, John Michael. "Quaker Tradition and the Paintings of Edward Hicks: A Strategy for the Study of Folk Art," Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 94, 1981 online edition
  • Walvin, James. The Quakers: Money and Morals. (1997). 243 pp.
  • Yarrow, Clarence H. The Quaker Experience in International Conciliation (1979), for post-1945
Further reading
  1. ^ Quaker World Statistics Map
  2. ^ H. Larry Ingle, First among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism (1996)
  3. ^ Leo Damrosch, The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus: James Nayler and the Puritan Crackdown on the Free Spirit(1996), pp 66, 221
  4. ^ Rosemary Moore, The Light In Their Consciences: Faith, Practices, and Personalities in Early British Quakerism, (1646-1666) (2000)
  5. ^ Moore,Rosemary The Light in Their Consciences: The Early Quakers in Britain, 1646-1666, University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press (2000) pp 224-26.
  6. ^ Orlando Project site: Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  7. ^ Kay S. Taylor, "The Role of Quaker Women in the Seventeenth Century, and the Experiences of the Wiltshire Friends." Southern History 2001 23: 10-29. Issn: 0142-4688, not online
  8. ^ Charles II, 1662: An Act for preventing the Mischeifs and Dangers that may arise by certaine Persons called Quakers and others refusing to take lawfull Oaths, Statutes of the Realm: volume 5: 1628-80. 1819. pp. 350, 351. Retrieved 2013-10-08.  ^
  9. ^ Ingle, First Among Friends, 212-14
  10. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia 1917, Entry on Society of Friends
  11. ^ Lodge, Richard The History of England - From the Restoration to the Death of William III 1660-1702 (1910) p268
  12. ^ William I. Hull (1938). The Rise of Quakerism in Amsterdam, 1655-1665. Swarthmore College. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  13. ^ a b William Isaac Hull (1970). William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania. Genealogical Publishing Com.  
  14. ^ British Travellers in Holland During the Stuart Period: Edward Browne and John Locke As Tourists in the United Provinces. BRILL. 1993. p. 203.  
  15. ^ J Z Kannegieter (1972). Geschiedenis van de Vroegere Quackergemeenschap te Amsterdam. Scheltema & Holkema. p. 326.  
  16. ^ HANDBOOK OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS. 1952. pp. 38, 40. Retrieved 2013-02-25. 
  17. ^ Joseph E. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: A History (1976) p 225
  18. ^ David Yount How the Quakers invented America (2007). pp. 83-4
  19. ^ Edward Digby Baltzell, Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia (1996) p.86
  20. ^ Kenneth T. Jackson article in The New York Times December 27, 2007
  21. ^ Harold Wickliffe Rose. The Colonial House of Worship in America. New York: Hastings House, Publishers, 1963, p. 518.
  22. ^ Wood, Betty Slavery in colonial America, 1619-1776 AltaMira Press (2005) p14
  23. ^ Fischer, David Hackett Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America Oxford University Press (1989) p601
  24. ^ a b (Zuber 1993, 4)
  25. ^ a b Ralph 2008
  26. ^ (Marietta 1991, 894-896)
  27. ^ Levi Coffin (1880). Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad: Being a Brief History of the Labors of a Lifetime in Behalf of the Slave, with the Stories of Numerous Fugitives, who Gained Their Freedom Through His Instrumentality, and Many Other Incidents. Robert Clarke & Company. pp. 671, 705. 
  28. ^ Thomas D. Hamm, "'New Light on Old Ways': Gurneyites, Wilburites, and the Early Friends," Quaker History (2004) 93#1 pp 53-67.
  29. ^ Thomas D. Hamm, "The Divergent Paths of Iowa Quakers in the Nineteenth Century," Annals of Iowa (2002) 61#2 pp 125-150.
  30. ^ Robert W. Doherty, The Hicksite Separation A Sociological Analysis of Religious Schism in Early Nineteenth Century America (1967)
  31. ^ A Short History of Conservative Friends
  32. ^ William Kostlevy (2009). Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement. Scarecrow Press. p. 68. 
  33. ^ For an account of how British Friends (London Yearly Meeting) transformed from evangelical to liberal Christian thinking, see Thomas C. Kennedy, British Quakerism 1860-1920: the transformation of a religious community (2001)
  34. ^ Joseph E. Illick, "'Some Of Our Best Friends Are Indians...': Quaker Attitudes and Actions Regarding the Western Indians during the Grant Administration," Western Historical Quarterly (1971) 2#3 pp 283-294 in JSTOR
  35. ^ "Historical Summary" from Mid-America Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice.
  36. ^ "Locations of FGC Conferences and Gatherings", FGC website.
  37. ^ Earlham School of Religion website
  38. ^ Eve Nussbaum Soumerai and Carol D. Schulz, A voice from the Holocaust (2003) p. 53
  39. ^ Mara Vorhees and Matthew Firestone, Costa Rica (2006) p. 187


List of Quakers

See also

In 1951 a group of Quakers, objecting to the military conscription, emigrated from the United States to Costa Rica and settled in what was to become Monteverde. The Quakers founded the Cheese Factory and a Friends School and, in an attempt to protect the area's watershed, purchased much of the land that now makes up the Monteverde Reserve. The Quakers have played a major role in the development of the community.[40]

Costa Rica

Before and during the Second World War, the Quakers, often working with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee or Œuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE), helped in the rescue from Europe of mainly Jewish families of refugees, in their flight finally to America. But in some cases, only the children could escape - these mainly Jewish children fled unaccompanied, leaving their parents behind, generally to be murdered by the Nazis. Such children are part of the One Thousand Children, actually numbering about 1400.

War Rescue Operations, and The One Thousand Children

In 1938-1939, just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, 10,000 European Jewish children were given temporary resident visas for the UK, in what became known as the Kindertransport. This allowed these children to escape the Holocaust. American Quakers played a major role in pressuring the British government to supply these visas. The Quakers chaperoned the Jewish children on the trains, and cared for many of them once they arrived in Britain.[39]


During the 20th century, two Quakers, Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon, both from the Western evangelical wing of the group, were elected to serve as presidents of the United States, thus achieving more secular political power than any Friend had enjoyed since William Penn.

Quakers in Britain and the Eastern United States embarked on efforts in the field of adult education, creating three schools with term-long courses, week-end activities, and summer programs. Woodbrooke College began in 1903 at the former home of chocolate magnate University of Birmingham, while Pendle Hill, in the Philadelphia suburb of Wallingford, did not open until 1930. Earlier, beginning in 1915 and continuing for about a decade, the Woolman School had been created by Philadelphia Hicksites near Swarthmore College; its head, Elbert Russell, a midwestern recorded minister, tried unsuccessfully to maintain it, but it ended in the late 1920s. All three sought to educate adults for the kind of lay leadership that the founders Society of Friends relied upon. Woodbrooke and Pendle Hill still maintain research libraries and resources.

By that time, the differences between Friends were quite clear, to each other if not always to outsiders. Theologically, a small minority of Friends among the "liberals" expressed discomfort with theistic understandings of the Divine, while more evangelical Friends adhered to a more biblical worldview. Periodical attempts to institutionally reorganize the disparate Religious Society of Friends into more theologically congenial organizations took place, but generally failed. By the beginning of the 21st century, Friends United Meeting, as the middle ground, was suffering from these efforts, but still remained in existence, even if it did not flourish. In its home base of yearly meetings in Indiana especially, it lost numerous churches and members, both to other denominations and to the evangelicals .

In the 1960s and later, these categories were challenged by a mostly self-educated Friend, New Foundation Fellowship, which blazed forth for a decade or so but had about disappeared as an effective group by the end of the century.

EFI was staunchly evangelical and by the end of the century had more members converted through its missionary endeavors abroad than in the United States; Southwest Friends Church illustrated the group's drift away from traditional Quaker practice, permitting its member churches to practice the outward ordinances of the Lord's Supper and baptism. On social issues its members exhibited strong antipathy toward homosexuality and enunciated a pro-life position on abortion. At century's end, Conservative Friends held onto only three small yearly meetings, in Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, with Friends from Ohio arguably the most traditional. In Britain and Europe where institutional unity and almost universal unprogrammed worship style were maintained, these distinctions did not apply, nor did they in Latin America and Africa where evangelical missionary activity predominated.

Rooted in the Midwest, especially Indiana, and North Carolina, FUM was historically more rural and small-town in its demographics. The Friends churches which formed part of this body were predominantly programmed and pastoral. Though a minority of its yearly meetings (New York, New England, Baltimore, Southeastern and Canada) were also affiliated with Friends General Conference and over the decades became more theologically liberal and predominantly unprogrammed in worship style, the theological position of the majority of its constituent yearly meetings continues to be often similar in flavor to the Protestant Christian mainstream in Indiana and North Carolina. In 1960, a theological seminary, Earlham School of Religion, was founded in FUM's heartland - Richmond, Indiana - to offer ministerial training and religious education.[38] The seminary soon came to enroll significant numbers of unprogrammed Friends, as well as Friends from pastoral backgrounds.

Disagreements between the various Quaker groups, Friends United Meeting, Friends General Conference, Evangelical Friends International, and Conservative yearly meetings, involved both theological and more concrete social issues. FGC, founded in 1900[37] and centered primarily in the East, along the West coast, and in Canada, tended to be oriented toward the liberal end of the political spectrum, was mostly unprogrammed, and closely aligned with AFSC; by the last part of the century it had taken a strong position in favor of same-sex marriage, was supportive of gay rights, and usually favored a woman's right to choose an abortion. Its membership tended to be professional and middle class or higher.

To overcome such divisions, liberal Quakers organized so-called worldwide conferences of Quakers in 1920 in London and again in 1937 at Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges in Pennsylvania, but they were too liberal and too expensive for most evangelicals to attend . A more successful effort at unity was the Evangelical Friends International. Beginning in 1955 and continuing for a decade, three of the yearly meetings divided by the Hicksite separation of 1827, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, as well as Canadian Yearly Meeting, reunited.

World War I at first produced an effort toward unity, embodied in the creation of the American Friends Service Committee in 1917 by Orthodox Friends, led by Rufus Jones and Henry Cadbury. A Friends Service Committee, as an agency of London Yearly Meeting, had already been created in Britain to help Quakers there deal with problems of military service; it continues today, after numerous name changes, as Quaker Peace & Social Witness. Envisioned as a service outlet for conscientious objectors that could draw support from across diverse yearly meetings, the AFSC began losing support from more evangelical Quakers as early as the 1920s and served to emphasize the differences between them, but prominent Friends such as Herbert Hoover continued to offer it their public support. Many Quakers from Oregon, Ohio, and Kansas became alienated from the Five Years Meeting (later Friends United Meeting), considering it infected with the kind of theological liberalism that Jones exemplified; Oregon Yearly Meeting withdrew in 1927.[36] That same year, eleven evangelicals met in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to plan how to resist the influence of liberalism, but depression and war prevented another gathering for twenty years, until after the end of the second world war.

During the 20th century, Quakerism was marked by movements toward unity, but at the end of the century Quakers were more sharply divided than ever. By the time of the first World War almost all Quakers in Britain and many in the United States found themselves committed to what came to be called "liberalism," which meant primarily a religion that deemphasized corporate statements of theology and was characterized by its emphasis on social action and pacifism. Hence when the two Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings, one Hicksite, one Orthodox, united in 1955—to be followed in the next decade by the two in Baltimore Yearly Meeting—they came together on the basis of a shared liberalism . As time wore on and the implication of this liberal change became more apparent, sharpening lines of division between various groups of Friends became more accentuated.

Twentieth-century developments

[35] The Quakers were involved in many of the great reform movements of the first half of the 19th century. After the Civil War they won over President Grant to their ideals of a just policy toward the American Indians, and became deeply involved in

Native Americans

The Beaconite Controversy arose in England from the book A Beacon to the Society of Friends, published in 1835 by Isaac Crewdson. He was a Recorded Minister in the Manchester Meeting. The controversy arose in 1831 when doctrinal differences amongst the Friends culminated in the winter of 1836–1837 with the resignation of Isaac Crewdson and of 48 fellow members of the Manchester Meeting. About 250 others left in various localities in England including prominent members. A number of these joined themselves to the Plymouth Brethren and brought influences of simplicity of worship to that society. Notable among the Plymouthists who were former Quakers included John Eliot Howard of Tottenham and Robert Mackenzie Beverley.

For the most part, Friends in Britain were strongly evangelical in doctrine and escaped these major separations, though they corresponded only with the Orthodox and mostly ignored the Hicksites.[34]


Starting in the late 19th century, many American Gurneyite Quakers, led by Dougan Clark, Jr., adopted the use of paid pastors, planned sermons, revivals, hymns and other elements of Protestant worship services. They left behind the old "plain style."[33] This type of Quaker meeting is known as a "programmed meeting". Worship of the traditional, silent variety is called an "unprogrammed meeting", although there is some variation on how the unprogrammed meetings adhere strictly to the lack of programming. Some unprogrammed meetings may have also allocated a period of hymn-singing or other activity as part of the total period of worship, while others maintain the tradition of avoiding all planned activities. (See also Joel Bean.)

In the early 1840s the Orthodox Friends in America were exercised by a transatlantic dispute between Joseph John Gurney of England and John Wilbur of Rhode Island. Gurney, troubled by the example of the Hicksite separation, emphasized Scriptural authority and favored working closely with other Christian groups. Wilbur, in response, defended the authority of the Holy Spirit as primary, and worked to prevent the dilution of the Friends tradition of Spirit-led ministry. After privately criticizing Gurney in correspondence to sympathetic Friends, Wilbur was expelled from his yearly meeting in a questionable proceeding in 1842. Probably the best known Orthodox Friend was the poet and abolitionist editor John Greenleaf Whittier. Over the next several decades, a number of Wilburite-Gurneyite separations occurred.[32]


The Society in Ireland, and later, the United States suffered a number of schisms during the 19th century. In 1827–28, the views and popularity of Elias Hicks resulted in a division within five yearly meetings, Philadelphia, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Baltimore. Rural Friends, who had increasingly chafed under the control of urban leaders, sided with Hicks and naturally took a stand against strong discipline in doctrinal questions. Those who supported Hicks were tagged as "Hicksites," while Friends who opposed him were labeled "Orthodox." The latter had more adherents overall but were plagued by subsequent splintering. The only division the Hicksites experienced was when a small group of upper class and reform-minded Progressive Friends of Longwood, Pennsylvania, emerged in the 1840s; they maintained a precarious position for about a century.[31] In two 2014 books, Remaking Friends: How Progressive Friends Changed Quakerism & Helped Save America and Angels of Progress: A Documentary History of the Progressive Friends, Radical Quakers in a Turbulent America, Chuck Fager sought to thrust his subjects into a central position in 19th century developments among Hicksites with his dogged insistence that they provided much of the intellectual basis feeding into Friends General Conference. Not altogether convincing, his works still focused needed attention on those who sometimes called themselves "Friends of Human Progress."


During the Second Great Awakening after 1839 Friends began to be influenced by the revivals sweeping the United States. Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife Hannah Whitall Smith, Quakers from New Jersey, had a profound impact. They promoted the Wesleyan idea of Christian perfection, also known as holiness or sanctification, among Quakers and among various denominations. Their work inspired the formation of many new Christian groups. Hannah Smith was also involved in the movements for women’s suffrage and for temperance.

Quakers found that theological disagreements over doctrine and evangelism had left them divided into the Gurneyites, who questioned the applicability of early Quaker writings to the modern world, and the conservative Wilburites. Wilburites not only held to the writings of Fox (1624–91) and other early Friends, they actively sought to bring not only Gurneyites, but Hicksites, who had split off during the 1820s over antislavery and theological issues, back to orthodox Quaker belief.[29] Apart from theology there were social and psychological patterns revealed by the divisions. The main groups were the growth-minded Gurneyites, Orthodox Wilburites, and reformist Hicksites. Their differences increased after the Civil War (1861–65), leading to more splintering. The Gurneyites became more evangelical, embraced Methodist-like revivalism and the Holiness Movement, and became probably the leading force in American Quakerism. They formally endorsed such radical innovations as the pastoral system. Neither the Hicksites nor Wilburites experienced such numerical growth. The Hicksites become more liberal and declined in number, while the Wilburites remained both orthodox and divided.[30]

Theological schisms

At first Quakers were barred by law and their own convictions from being involved in the arena of law and politics. As time went on, a few Quakers in England and the United States did enter that arena. Joseph Pease was the son of Edward Pease mentioned above. He continued and expanded his father’s business. In 1832 he became the first Quaker elected to Parliament. Noah Haynes Swayne was the only Quaker to serve on the United States Supreme Court. He was an Associate Justice from 1862-1881. He strongly opposed slavery, moving out of the slave-holding state of Virginia to the free state of Ohio in his young adult years.

Quakers were not apt to participate publicly in the arts. For many Quakers these things violated their commitment to simplicity and were thought too “worldly.” Some Quakers, however, are noted today for their creative work. John Greenleaf Whittier was an editor and a poet in the United States. Among his works were some poems involving Quaker history and hymns expressing his Quaker theology. He also worked in the abolition movement. Edward Hicks painted religious and historical paintings in the naive style and Francis Frith was a British photographer whose catalogue ran to many thousands of topographical views.

In the early days of the Society of Friends, Quakers were not allowed to get an advanced education. Eventually some did get opportunities to go to university and beyond, which meant that more and more Quakers could enter the various fields of science. Thomas Young an English Quaker, did experiments with optics, contributing much to the wave theory of light. He also discovered how the lens in the eye works and described astigmatism and formulated an hypothesis about the perception of color. Young was also involved in translating the Rosetta Stone. He translated the demotic text and began the process of understanding the hieroglyphics. Maria Mitchell was an astronomer who discovered a comet. She was also active in the abolition movement and the women’s suffrage movement. Joseph Lister promoted the use of sterile techniques in medicine, based on Pasteur’s work on germs. Thomas Hodgkin was a pathologist who made major breakthroughs in the field of anatomy. He was the first doctor to describe the type of lymphoma named after him. An historian, he was also active in the movement to abolish slavery and to protect aboriginal people. John Dalton formulated the atomic theory of matter, among other scientific achievements.

Prison reform was another concern of Quakers at that time. Elizabeth Fry and her brother Joseph John Gurney campaigned for more humane treatment of prisoners and for the abolition of the death penalty. They played a key role in forming the Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate, which managed to better the living conditions of woman and children held at the prison. Their work raised concerns about the prison system as a whole, so that they were a factor behind Parliament eventually passing legislation to improve conditions further and decrease the number of capital crimes.

Quakers actively promoted equal rights during this century as well. As early as 1811, Elias Hicks published a pamphlet showing that slaves were "prize goods"—that is, products of piracy—and hence profiting from them violated Quaker principles; it was a short step from that position to reject use of all products made from slave labor, the free produce movement that won support among Friends and others but also proved divisive. Quaker women such as Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony joined the movement to abolish slavery, moving them to cooperate politically with non-Quakers in working against the institution. Somewhat as a result of their initial exclusion from abolitionist activities, they changed their focus to the right of women to vote and influence society. Thomas Garrett led in the movement to abolish slavery, personally assisting Harriet Tubman to escape from slavery and to coordinate the Underground Railroad. Richard Dillingham died in a Tennessee prison where he was incarcerated for trying to help some slaves escape. Levi Coffin was also an active abolitionist, helping thousands of escaped slaves migrate to Canada and opening a store for selling products made by former slaves.

In the realm of industry Joseph Storrs Fry in Bristol.

During the 19th century, Friends continued to have an impact on the world around them. Many of the industrial concerns started by Friends in the previous century continued as detailed in Milligan's Biographical dictionary of British Quakers in commerce and industry, with new ones beginning. Friends also continued and increased their work in the areas of social justice and equality. They made other contributions as well in the fields of science, literature, art, law and politics.

Quaker influence on society

Nineteenth century

However, there were many prominent Quakers who stuck to the belief that slavery was wrong, and were even arrested for helping the slaves out and breaking the law. Richard Dillingham, a school teacher from Ohio, was arrested because he was found helping three slaves escape in 1848. Thomas Garrett had an Underground Railroad stop at his house in Delaware and was found guilty in 1848 of helping a family of slaves escape. Garrett was also said to have helped and worked with Harriet Tubman, who was a very well known slave who worked to help other slaves get their freedom. Educator Levi Coffin and his wife Catherine were Quakers who lived in Indiana and helped the Underground Railroad by hiding slaves in their house for over 21 years. They claimed to have helped 3,000 slaves gain their freedom.[26] [28] Susan B. Anthony was also a Quaker, and did a lot of antislavery work hand in hand with her work with women’s rights.

The Southern states, however, were still very prominent in keeping slavery running. Because of this, an informal network of safe houses and escape routes—called the Underground Railroad—developed across the United States to get enslaved people out of America and into Canada or the free states. The Quakers were a very prominent force in the Underground Railroad, and their efforts helped free many slaves. Immediately north of the Mason-Dixon line, the Quaker settlement of Chester County, Pennsylvania—one of the early hubs of the Underground Railroad—was considered a “hotbed of abolition." However, not all Quakers were of the same opinion regarding the Underground Railroad: because slavery was still legal in many states, it was therefore illegal for anyone to help a slave escape and gain freedom. Many Quakers, who saw slaves as equals, felt it was proper to help free slaves and thought that it was unjust to keep someone as a slave; many Quakers would “lie” to slave hunters when asked if they were keeping slaves in their house, they would say “no” because in their mind there was no such thing as a slave. Other Quakers saw this as breaking the law and thereby disrupting the peace, both of which go against Quaker values thus breaking Quaker belief in being pacifistic. Furthermore, involvement with the law and the government was something from which the Quakers had tried to separate themselves. This divisiveness caused the formation of smaller, more independent branches of Quakers, who shared similar beliefs and views.

From 1755-1776, the Quakers worked at freeing slaves, and became the first western organization in history to ban slaveholding. They also created societies to promote the emancipation of slaves.[27] From the efforts of the Quakers, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were able to convince the Continental Congress to ban the importation of slaves into America as of December 1, 1775. Pennsylvania was the strongest anti-slavery state at the time, and with Franklin's help they led "The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting The Abolition of Slavery, The Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and for Improving the Condition of the African Race".[25] In November 1775, Virginia's former royal governor claimed that all slaves would be freed if they were willing to fight for Great Britain. This subsequently encouraged George Washington to allow slaves in the colonies to enlist as well so that they all did not try to run away and fight in Great Britain to get their freedom. Because George Washington passed this law, about 5 thousand African Americans served for the constitutional forces, and gained their freedom when they were done with their service. By 1792 states from Massachusetts to Virginia all had similar anti-slavery groups. From 1780-1804, slavery was largely abolished in all of New England, the Middle Atlantic states, and the North West territories.

The first two prominent Friends to denounce slavery were Anthony Benezet and John Woolman. They asked the Quakers, "What thing in the world can be done worse towards us, than if men should rob or steal us away and sell us for slaves to strange countries".[25] In that same year, a group of Quakers along with some German Mennonites met at the meeting house in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to discuss why they were distancing themselves from slavery. Four of them signed a document written by Francis Daniel Pastorius that stated, "To bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against."[26]

Most Quakers owned slaves when they first came to America; to most Quakers "slavery was perfectly acceptable provided that slave owners attended to the spiritual and material needs of those they enslaved."[23] 70% of Quakers owned slaves in the period from 1681 to 1705; however, from 1688 some Quakers began to speak out against slavery until by 1756 only 10% of Quakers owned slaves.[24]

Slavery Abolition

By the late 18th century, Quakers were sufficiently recognized and accepted that the United States Constitution contained language specifically directed at Quaker citizens — in particular, the explicit allowance of "affirming," as opposed to "swearing," various oaths

Another issue that became a concern of Quakers was the treatment of the mentally ill. Tea merchant, William Tuke opened the Retreat at York in 1796. It was a place where the mentally ill were treated with the dignity that Friends believe is inherent in all human beings. Most asylums at that time forced such people into deplorable conditions and did nothing to help them.

One such issue was slavery. The Germantown (Pennsylvania) Monthly Meeting put their opposition to slavery into their minutes in 1733, but abolitionism did not become universal among Quakers until its promotion by concerned members such as John Woolman. Woolman was a farmer, retailer, and tailor from New Jersey who became convinced that slavery was wrong. Before that time, some Quakers owned slaves. In general they opposed mistreatment of slaves and promoted the teaching of Christianity to them. Woolman argued that the entire practice of buying, selling, and owning human beings was wrong in principle. Other Quakers started to agree and became very active in the abolition movement. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting prohibited members from owning slaves in 1776.

At the same time that Friends were succeeding in manufacturing and commerce and migrating to new territories, they were also becoming more concerned about social issues and becoming more active in society at large.

In North America, Quakers, like other religious groups, were involved in the migration to the frontier. Initially this involved moves south from Pennsylvania and New Jersey along the Northwest Territory and further west.

Some useful and popular products made by Quaker businesses at that time included iron and steel by Abraham Darby II and Abraham Darby III and pharmaceuticals by William Allen. An early meeting house was set up in Broseley, Shropshire by the Darbys.

During this time, other people began to recognize Quakers for their integrity in social and economic matters. Many Quakers went into manufacturing or commerce, because they were not allowed to earn academic degrees at that time. These Quaker businessmen were successful, in part, because people trusted them. The customers knew that Quakers felt a strong conviction to set a fair price for goods and not to haggle over prices. They also knew that Quakers were committed to quality work, and that what they produced would be worth the price.

In 1691 George Fox died. Thus, the Quaker movement went into the 18th century without one of its most influential early leaders. Thanks to the Toleration Act of 1689, people in Great Britain were no longer criminals simply by being Friends.

Eighteenth century

In 1657 a group of Quakers from England landed in New Amsterdam. One of them, Robert Hodgson, preached to large crowds of people. He was arrested, imprisoned, and flogged. Governor Peter Stuyvesant issued a harsh ordinance, punishable by fine and imprisonment, against anyone found guilty of harboring Quakers. Some sympathetic Dutch colonists were able to get him released. Almost immediately after the edict was released, Edward Hart, the town clerk in what is now Flushing,(Queens) gathered his fellow citizens on Dec. 27, 1657 and wrote a petition to Stuyvesant, called the Flushing Remonstrance, citing the Flushing town charter of 1645, which promised liberty of conscience. Stuyvesant arrested Hart and the other official who presented the document to him, and he jailed two other magistrates who had signed the petition, and also forced the other signatories to recant. But Quakers continued to meet in Flushing. Stuyvesant arrested a farmer, John Bowne, in 1662 for holding illegal meetings in his home and banished him from the colony; Bowne immediately went to Amsterdam to plead for the Quakers. Though the Dutch West India Company called Quakerism an “abominable religion,” it nevertheless overruled Stuyvesant in 1663 and ordered him to “allow everyone to have his own belief.” [21]

Some Quakers in New England were only imprisoned or banished. A few were also whipped or branded. Christopher Holder, for example, had his ear cut off. A few were executed by the Puritan leaders, usually for ignoring and defying orders of banishment. Mary Dyer was thus executed in 1660. Three other martyrs to the Quaker faith in Massachusetts were William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and William Leddra. These events are described by Edward Burrough in A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New-England, for the Worshipping of God (1661)

In 1647 some Quakers were able to find refuge to practice in Providence Plantations established by Roger Williams. Other Quakers faced persecution in Puritan Massachusetts. In 1656 Mary Fisher and Ann Austin began preaching in Boston. They were considered heretics because of their insistence on individual obedience to the Inner Light. They were imprisoned and banished by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their books were burned, and most of their property was confiscated. They were imprisoned in terrible conditions, then deported.[20]

Title page of book on Quaker persecution in New England

Persecution in the New World

The Friends had no ordained ministers and thus needed no seminaries for theological training. As a result, they did not open any colleges in the colonial period, and did not join in founding the University of Pennsylvania. The major Quaker colleges were Haverford College (1833), Earlham College (1844), Swarthmore College (1864), and Bryn Mawr College (1885), all founded much later.[19]

William Penn, a favorite of King Charles II, received ownership of Pennsylvania in 1681, which he tried to make a "holy experiment" by a union of temporal and spiritual matters. Pennsylvania made guarantees of religious freedom, and kept them, attracting many Quakers and others. Quakers took political control but were bitterly split on the funding of military operations or defenses; finally they relinquished political power. They created a second "holy experiment" by extensive involvement in voluntary benevolent associations while remaining apart from government. Programs of civic activism included building schools, hospitals and asylums for the entire city. Their new tone was an admonishing moralism born from a feeling of crisis. Even more extensive philanthropy was possible because of the wealth of the Quaker merchants based in Philadelphia.[18]

William Penn and settlement in colonial Pennsylvania

The attraction of a life free from persecution in the New World led to a gradual Dutch Quaker migration. English Quakers in Rotterdam were permitted to transport people and cargo by ship to English colonies without restriction and throughout the 18th century many Dutch Quakers immigrated to Pennsylvania.[14] There were an estimated 500 Quaker families in Amsterdam in 1710[15] but by 1797 there were only seven Quakers left in the city. Isabella Maria Gouda (1745-1832), a granddaughter of Jan Claus, took care of the meeting house on Keizersgracht but when she stopped paying the rent the Yearly Meeting in London had her evicted.[16] The Quaker presence disappeared from Dutch life by the early 1800s until reemerging in the 1920s, with Netherlands Yearly Meeting being established in 1931.[17]

Robert Barclay and at Walta Castle, their religious community at Wieuwerd in Friesland, he unsuccessfully tried to convert the similarly-minded Labadists to Quakerism. They also journeyed on the Rhine to Frankfurt, accompanied by the Amsterdam Quaker Jan Claus who translated for them. His brother, Jacob Claus, had Quaker books translated and published in Dutch and he also produced a map of Philadelphia, the capital of Penn's Holy Experiment.

Quakers first arrived in the Netherlands in 1655 when William Ames and Margaret Fell's nephew, William Caton, took up residence in Amsterdam.[13] The Netherlands were seen by Quakers as a refuge from persecution in England and they perceived themselves to have affinities with the Dutch Collegiants and also with the Mennonites who had sought sanctuary there. However, English Quakers encountered persecution no different from that they had hoped to leave behind. Eventually, however, Dutch converts to Quakerism were made and, from Amsterdam as a base, preaching tours began within the Netherlands and to neighboring states. In 1661, Ames and Caton visited the County Palatine of the Rhine and met with Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine at Heidelberg.


In 1689 the Toleration Act was passed. It allowed for freedom of conscience and prevented persecution by making it illegal to disturb anybody else from worship. Thus Quakers became tolerated though still not widely understood or accepted.

Under James II of England persecution practically ceased.[11] James issued a Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 and 1688, and it was widely held that William Penn had been its author.[12]

The ending of official persecution in England

Two acts of Parliament made it particularly difficult for Friends. The first was the Quaker Act of 1662[9] which made it illegal to refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown. Those refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown were not allowed to hold any secret meetings and as Friends believed it was wrong to take any 'superstitious' oath their freedom of religious expression was certainly compromised by this law. The second was the Conventicle Act of 1664 which reaffirmed that the holding of any secret meeting by those who did not pledge allegiance to the Crown was a crime. Despite these laws, Friends continued to meet openly.[10] They believed that by doing so, they were testifying to the strength of their convictions and were willing to risk punishment for doing what they believed to be right.

In 1650 blasphemy.[8]

Persecution in England


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