Monday, April 03, 2017

Quaker Women Series: Amanda Way

Amanda Way, prohibitionist, abolitionist, and suffragist and was born in 1828, to a Quaker family.  For as many organizations as she helped found, and for as many lectures she gave across the nation, it is surprising and confusing why we do not know about Amanda Way.  Early in life she became the sole breadwinner for her family when her fiancĂ© died three weeks before their marriage, her father died that same year, and her older brother married.  In order to support her family, she became a teacher.

Amanda wore many different hats when it came to her professions and ministries.  She was a teacher, an activist for women’s rights and temperance, a nurse in the Civil Way, milliner (she made hats!), seamstress, and a preacher.  In fact, she was active in all of the great reform movements that happened in her lifetime:  women’s rights, temperance, and abolition of slavery!  She was also a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Amanda Way was a founding member of Indiana Woman’s Rights Association, 1851.  She revived said association in 1869 (it was inactive from 1859-1869).  Indiana’s First Woman’s Rights Convention in 1851 “focused on what women thought of as the largest injustices they faced:  discriminatory property laws, wage inequality, and lack of educational opportunities.”  In her keynote address she declared that “unless women demand their rights politically, socially, and financially, they will continue in the future as [they have] in the past.”  The following resolutions she presented were accepted:

“That all customs, laws and institutions that deprive women with an equal right with men to intellectual, social and moral improvement; to the attainment of wealth and personal comfort and independence, or to an equal share in creating, and administering the social, civil, and religious institutions under which they are to live, and to which they are to be held responsible, are unjust, cruel and oppressive and ruinous to the peace, order and progress of individuals and to the whole human family; and of all men and women who respect themselves and their fellow beings, will plead and labor for their change, or their overthrow.”

Whereas, we believe the present style of female dress is highly inconvenient, unnatural and destructive of health and a mark of the degradation of women, therefore: Resolved, That the women of this convention pledge themselves, before our families, to throw off the bondage imposed upon us by Parisian Milliners and adopt a style of dress more in accordance with reason.” 
Installed 2013 Indiana Historical Bureau, Indiana Women’s History Association, Inc., Winchester Friends Church, Randolph County Historical Society, and Friends of Amanda Way

Amanda participated in the “Whiskey Riot” in 1854.  This is a fascinating story of approximately 50 women going business to business destroying all of their alcohol!  You can read about it here, including quotes from an original news article!  A different take on the event is found here, including the lawsuit that resulted from their temperance actions and their verdict.  Some say Amanda did more than participate and named her as the leader of the pack.  The “Page Liquor Case” is what came of the “Whiskey Riot.”  Mr. Page owned a store and sold large quantities of liquor to the men in the town, causing numerous problems in the community and home, including abuse.  The women wanted the shop owners to sign a pledge that they would stop selling liquor.  Jill Hinty Keener records that,  Page refused, and locked the door to prevent them from entering.  Undeterred, they used hatchets and hammers to chop down his door and break out a window.  They then rolled seven or eight barrels into the street, chopping off the “faucets,” and breaking out the heads.  They also did considerable damage to the inside of his shop.  The list of stock destroyed tells exactly how much damage they did: 

a barrel of brandy,
a barrel of bourbon,
a barrel of rye,
nine gallons of rum,
ten gallons of gin,
ten gallons of rye whiskey,
ten gallons of sweet wine,
six gallons of wine,
sixteen gallons of gin,
twenty barrels and kegs,
twenty spigots and faucets,
one hundred dollars worth of damage to doors and windows,
as well as coffee and candy spilled on the floor.

Surprisingly, many of the town’s attorneys, all men, came together and defended the women in the criminal trial which ended with a not guilty verdict

Amanda was also a leader in Independent Order of Good Templars, a fraternal organization promoting total abstinence from alcohol that “always admitted women on the same basis as men,” according to their literature.  Offices she held included:  Grand Worthy Chief, Grand Deputy, Right Worthy Grand Vice-Templar, Right Worthy Grand Templar, and Past Grand Worthy Chief Templar.  She also served as Grand Worthy Chief Templar, their highest office.  Articles from the Centralia News-Examiner in 1905 document her attendance at their annual session in Washington, stating that

“among the more prominent people present are Miss Amanda Way, Right Grand Templar and Past Grand templar of Kansas and Idaho.”

Amanda was a member of Women’s Christian Temperance Union, where their purpose remains the same today as it was then: “protection of the home, the abolition of the liquor traffic, and the triumph of Christ’s Golden Rule in custom and in law.”

In 1869, she helped found American Woman’s Suffrage Association, working alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but you won’t find her name listed with theirs.  For as involved as she was, hardly anybody knows who she was!  She is included in both Anthony and Cady’s biographies, though.  

At approximately 43 years of age, she became a Methodist Episcopal minister in 1872 but returned to her Quaker roots and became a recorded minister with them in 1884.  Five years later we learn she was in Boise Idaho!  In 1899, Charles R.Scott writes about resigning his pastorate at Salem, Oregon, and going to Boise, Idaho, stating “I found a few Friends organized into a monthly meeting under the efficient labors of Amanda M. Way, forming a nucleus for what promises to be in the near future, under God’s blessing, a work of no small magnitude;” Amanda was doing more than preaching while in Boise.  She was nominated by the Idaho Prohibition Party to run for US Congress in 1900 (but did not win) – she was 72 years old. 

When asked why she never married, her response was, “I never had time.”  After learning of everything she was involved with and in, I believe her! 

#QuakerWomen #WomenHistoryMonth #WomenPreachers 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quaker Women Series: Mary Fell Lower

Mary Fell Lower (1647-1720)

We already learned about Elizabeth Hooton, the oldest (and first) person to preach in public (she was around 70 years old).  Now, let’s learn about the youngest!  Mary Fell, daughter of Margaret Fell, was the youngest to preach in public in the 1650s.  She was 8 years old. 

Young Mary was privy to George Fox’s preaching and she is included in the list of names of the Fell household who were “convinced.”  She was approximately 5 years old at that time.  She traveled with her mother, along with her sister, Sarah, when Margaret met with the king regarding the law requiring Quakers to take an oath to the king.  When Margaret herself refused to take the oath and was imprisoned, her daughters tried to get the king to intercede on their mother’s behalf but his hands were tied when it came to matters of parliament. 

While she may not have had a choice of what her mother did or where her mother went and she needed to accompany her because she was a child, nobody forced her to tell an Anglican priest, “Lampitt, the plagues of God shall fall upon thee and the seven viols shall be poured upon thee and the millstone shall fall upon thee and crush thee as dust under the Lord’s feet how can thou escape the damnation of hell.”

After nearly five years of imprisonment, Margaret was released just prior to Mary’s marriage to Thomas Lower, a Quaker who was also convinced by Fox.  The year was 1668. She was 21 years old.

I have not been able to find much information on Mary’s personal ministry.  She had ten children but only five children lived beyond infancy.  In 1676 she and Thomas moved their family to Marsh Grange, the birthplace of her mother. 

#QuakerWomenSeries #QuakerWomen #WomenPreachers #Quakers #Friends 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quaker Women Series: Margaret Fell Fox

 "Those that speak against the power of the Lord, and the Spirit of the Lord speaking in a woman, simply by reason of her sex, or because she is a woman, not regarding the Seed and Spirit and Power that speaks in her, such speak against Christ and his Church."
Margaret Fell, 1666

Margaret Fell is said by many to be the center of the whole Religious Society of Friends enterprise!  While included in the Valiant Sixty, she did not travel until later.  She was, however, “with” the early missionaries in spirit and wrote them often.  She wrote this to Francis Howgill, “You are all dear unto me and you are all present with me and are all met together in my heart.” 

Much has been written about Margaret Fell Fox and there are full texts on her life and ministry.  These writings are excellent and are worthy of your attention and I have no desire to duplicate their writings.  However, I cannot imagine doing a blog series on “Quaker Women” and not have one post that features one of the most significant people in the history of Friends. 

When George Fox preached to the Fell household, he became friends with a family who would impact his life forever.  The Fells were affluent and carried great influence with the government since Mr. Fell was a judge and was referred to as Judge Fell in numerous writings.  While he himself never became a Quaker, he was supportive of their ministry and backed that support with financial support and his influence with the officials who made life difficult (to say the least) for Friends. 

Margaret had a mind for business and saw the need for ongoing financial support of the traveling Friends.  She started the Kendal Fund, on which the first Yearly Meeting Fund was based.  She not only helped provide for traveling Friends on the road but her home, Swathmoor Hall, became the headquarters for Friends. She was a spiritual guide, administrator, political activist, theologian and apologist. She wrote the first widely publicized biblical defense of women’s right to preach and lead in 1666, “Women Speaking Justified, Proved, and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All Such as Speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord JESUS.  And how Women were the first that preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of JESUS, and were sent by CHRIST’S Own Command, before He ascended to the Father, John 20:17;” commonly referred to as "Women's Speaking Justified.”  Sally Bruyneel Padgett (2013), a Quaker Studies scholar, with an emphasis on Margaret Fell says Fell’s work as a theologian “remains a hallmark in the defense of women’s right to teach and preach.” 

There are several things I admire and respect about Margaret:
  • She was obedient to God’s call on her life no matter where it landed her (Lancaster Castle – a deplorable prison).
  • She balanced motherhood and ministry (often by including her children in her travels).
  • Her beliefs were based on Biblical truths and she defended her beliefs (and the teachings of Friends) using Scripture as the foundation.
  • She wore color and mentions receiving scarlet cloth as a gift from her late husband George Fox (1700).  Now, this may seem out of place, so I will explain.  Many of you associate Quakers and the color grey.  This association came in 1698, after Fox’s death.  Quakers were creating rules and not wearing coloring was one of these rules.  Margaret wrote different epistles (letters) to Friends warning them of this.  In 1698 she wrote them and her last letter was written to address this same issue in 1700.  She said, “these silly outside imaginary practices are coming up, and practiced with great zeal, which has often grieved my heart.”  There was a change in Friends thinking from simplicity and wearing items made by free people (versus slave labor) to drab, generations old, clothing being godly dress and Margaret called them out on it.  Her words were unfortunately not heeded and “Quaker dress” continued for decades. 
  • She was an influential minister and is remembered for the work God did through her and not because of her social standing or association because of whom she married.

Margaret is considered the Mother of Quakerism, not because she married George Fox, the founder of Friends, but because of who she was.  So yes, the Father of Quakerism, George Fox, and the Mother of Quakerism, Margaret Fell married, but they were both established in their roles as leaders years before they married. 

In the history of Friends, there are many women who obeyed God’s calling and preached His word, regardless of society and cultural acceptance.  In this Quaker Women Series, my goal is to introduce many lesser known women to you; however, the well known women are well known for a reason and some of them will be featured here, as well.  I would love to hear how Margaret Fell’s ministry is/has influenced your own ministry in the comments!

Friends, deal plainly with yourselves, and let the eternal light search you, and try you, for the good of your souls; for this will deal plainly with you; it will rip you up, lay you open, and make all manifest that lodgeth in you; the secret subtilty of the enemy of your souls, this searcher and tryer will make manifest. . .consider one another, and provoke one another to love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of yourselves, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the day approaching. And dwell in love and unity, in the pure eteral light; there is your fellowship, there is your cleansing and washing. . .And the everlasting God, of light, life and power, keep you all faithful to your own measure; that so the resurrection and the life ye may witness, and the living bread ye may feed on, which, whosoever eateth of, shall never die.  Margaret Fell, epistle to Friends, 1656

#QuakerWomenSeries #QuakerWomen #WomenPreachers #Quakers #Friends #MargaretFell


You can read many of Margaret’s own writings here: . 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quaker Women Series: Joan Mary Fry

“Quakerism is nothing unless it be... a practical showing that the spiritual and material spheres are not divided”.
Joan Mary Fry

Joan Mary Fry (27 July, 1862 – 25 November, 1955) was born into a wealthy Quaker family in London; where she was a member of London Yearly Meeting and where she later died. 

Morgan (2010) describes her as “a social activist, Joan is also a pioneer vegetarian, biblical scholar, prison chaplain to conscientious objectors and organizer of food aid to Germany in 1919.”  The Royal Mail honored Joan for her life of selflessness with a stamp in 2012 (pictured right). She served as clerk of the Friends Allotment Committee for twenty years (1931-1951).

She is also the first woman to give the Swarthmore lecture in 1910, on the eve of Yearly Meeting.  The title of Joan’s lecture was, “Communion of Life.”  While I do not have access to the entire lecture, I was able to read snippets of it:
This lecture, she said, attempts to ‘show clearly the intimate connection of religion and ordinary affairs.’ She continued: ‘Quakerism is nothing unless it is a communion of life, a practical showing that the spiritual and material spheres are not divided, but are as the concave and the convex sides of one whole, and that the one is found in and through the other.’ (Morgan 2010)
Her words in 1915, regarding peace, also struck me hard; with so much unrest today, “At
a time when the Unthinking are saying that the ideal of peace is impossible, it is, for some, the paramount duty so to think as to make that ideal more real than it ever has been.”

Joan’s writing is used on October 11, in the devotional, “A Time to Reflect: 365 Classic Meditations:”
…Gradually, as mind, soul, and even body grow still, sinking deeper and deeper into the life of God, the pettiness, the tangles, the failures of the outer life begin to be seen in their true proportions, and the sense of the divine infilling, uplifting, redeeming Love becomes real and illuminating.  Things are seen and known that are hidden to the ordinary faculties.  This state is not merely one of quiescence; the soul is alive, active, vigorous, yet so still that it hardly knows how intense its own vital action. 

I was thrilled to find a BBC interview with Sybil Oldfield, who wrote a biography on Joan Mary Fry: Joan Mary was the only woman allowed into military camps to see the treatment of conscientious objectors.  She came from a very sheltered background; chaperoned until her thirties, living at home until she was in her forties, and  not going to a theater until she was in her sixties.  These things did not bother Joan, though.  What mattered was that she was a “practicing Quaker; serving people.” You can watch it here:

Those words sum up her life well, “a practicing Quaker, serving people.”  


BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour, Fascinating Mummies at the National Museum of
Scotland , Joan Mary Fry Stamp. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2014 from
 Feb 23 - News release - Quaker features on new postage stamps | Quakers in Britain. (2012, February 23). Retrieved from
 Fry, J. M. (1915). Christ and peace: A discussion of some fundamental issues raised by the war. (online version) London: Headley Bros. (
 Morgan, H. (1998). October: Reflections from Christian women. In A time to reflect:365
classic meditations to help you through the year (pp. 191-192). Retrieved September 18,
 WorldCat Identities. (2010). Fry, Joan Mary 1862. Retrieved September 18, 2014,

#QuakerWomen #WomenPreachers #WomensHistoryMonth #Quakers #Friends #ConscientiousObjectors 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

International Women's Day 2017

I am running a series on this blog featuring Quaker women this month and you can find them easily with #QuakerWomen and the label "Quakers" in the right column.  Each post starts with this banner to make it easy to spot, too:

Today, I honor three very important women in my life.  Strong women.  Quaker women.  My mother:
She lives strength in love.  It is such a compliment when people tell me I remind them of her.  Because of her, I know I am never too old to learn new things nor to stop learning.  She is a shining light in my dreary days and her ministry is a reflection of her gifts, of which I am a recipient! 

My oldest daughter who has become stronger than she probably wanted to be.  She is courageous and started a blog to share her vulnerability with the world in hopes of helping others who need to know they are not alone: Ponderings of a Wandering Mind.

My youngest daughter who is one of the strongest people I know.  She is tenacious and encourages others to be as strong as they can be while always pointing them to the Source of her strength, Jesus. 

Of all the people in the world, I am humbled and honored to have these three strong women in my corner.  Between the three of them, they encourage me every single day.  When my depressed mind and body does not want to function, they offer their strength until I am strong enough to stand again.  I cannot imagine my life without them in it; and dread the day, should it ever come.  

On this day of honoring women, who is in your corner?  Who holds you up when you do not have the strength to stand?  I know some people are fortunate to have one such person, and here I have these three women, not to mention the number of men who are in my corner, too. These are the blessings I am thankful for today... and tomorrow. 

#InternationalWomensDay #QuakerWomen #strongwomen

Quaker Women Series: Elizabeth Ashbridge

Elizabeth Ashbridge wrote her autobiography in a time when Quaker literature was censored.  She chose not to publish her work, circulating it among Friends, and in doing so, kept the language that richly describes her spiritual journey. 

Born in Middlewich in Cheshire, England in 1713, to “honest parents: Thomas and Mary Sampson,” Elizabeth Ashbridge had an “awful regard for religion and religious people.”  She considered herself a normal child; well behaved, for the most part, and when she did wrong, she knew it and was sorry for it. 
She eloped when she was fourteen and was widowed that same year.  She lived with relatives inIreland, before securing passage to America by becoming an indentured servant.  She married an abusive drunk, and suffered the consequences of becoming Quaker, like many Friends in the 18th Century (being ostracized by family, abused by husbands, public ridicule and abuse, anything to try and deter them from remaining Friend).    

Elizabeth saw a lot of hypocrisy among Christians, which gave her a very jaded view and opinion of them:
The observations I made on their conduct confirmed me in my atheistical opinions. They diverted themselves in the evening with cards and songs, and a few moments after, introduced prayers and singing psalms to Almighty God. Often did I say to myself, "If there be a God, he is a pure Being and will not hear the prayers of polluted lips." 

When she was twenty-two years old, she attended a Quaker meeting, “I heard a woman Friend speak, at which I was a little surprised. I had been told of women's preaching, but I had never heard it before, and I looked upon her with pity for her ignorance and contempt for her practice, saying to myself, "I'm sure you're a fool, and if ever I turn Quaker, which will never be, I will not be a preacher."
Elizabeth longed for something more than the church was offering, so she sought Truth.  While visiting family in Philadelphia, she read a Quaker book and went from darkness to light!

O, thou God of my salvation, and of my life; who hath abundantly manifested thy long suffering and tender mercy, in redeeming me as from the lowest hell, I beseech thee to direct use in the right way, and keep me from error; so will I perform my covenant, and think nothing too near to part with for thy name’s sake. O, happy peoples thus beloved of God!”

This decision only made her life more miserable.  “Sullivan became enraged when a church warden suggested that his wife would become a Quaker minister.  Ashbridge tells us that her husband, ‘in a great rage, struck her and told her that she had better be hanged on that day.’”  

Widowed (again) in 1740, the next years were spent paying off her husband’s debts and traveling as a minister.  In September 1746,Elizabeth married Aaron Ashbridge, a prominent Quaker at Goshen.  From homeless in Ireland, to indentured servant, to abused wife, to Quaker minister and Elder, Elizabeth’s life shows the transforming power of God. 

Elizabeth was obedient to God and answered his call to travel abroad where she ended up dying on a mission.  Her life, so dramatically written, is an example for us not to allow bitterness to take root.  I am reminded that most of early Friends lives were not “easy.”  Perhaps, that is a lesson as well – living a life committed to Jesus comes at a price.  

Included below are sources used in the writing of this post.  

Ashbridge, E. (edited 1846). Some account of the life of Elizabeth Ashbridge. Friends Library. Retrieved from:
Ashbridge, E. “Who must I join”: Elizabeth Ashbridge, an 18th-century Englishwoman becomes a Quaker. Retrieved from:
Levenduski, C. (1991). Remarkable experiences in the life of Elizabeth Ashbridge: Portraying the public woman in spiritual autobiography [E-reader version]. Great Britain: Gordan and Breach Science Publishers, S.A.
Madden, E. (1999). Quaker Elizabeth Ashbridge as `The spectacle & discourse of the company'.  Early American Literature, 34(2), 186-186.
Tarter, M. (2005). Reading a Quakers’ book: Elizabeth Ashbridge’s testimony of Quaker literary theory. QUAKER STUDIES, 1363-013X.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Quaker Women Series: Mary Morris Knowles

"There are good people of all denominations; it is not the name, or the outward profession of any religion that can make us good, but a steady adherence to that which is right in our own consciences. Thou mayst be a very good girl professing the religion of thy education, as long as thou canst be satisfied with it, But if thou cans't not, I would advise thee to have recourse to that inward light which will guide thee into all truth." (Mary Morris Knowles)

Mary Morris Knowles went head to head with a “big-wig” of the time: Samuel Johnson, English author and critic, and rubbed shoulders with royalty.  Third-generation Quaker, Mary was born in Staffordshire in 1733.  Mary was single until she was thirty-four years old.  Young Mary was fiercely independent and not afraid to voice her opinions and act on her beliefs.  There was no way she was going to allow someone else to choose her spouse; and she advocated for women’s right to choose their spouse.  You can imagine that this did not go over well during a time in Quaker history when overseers in Friends meetings were holding people to the notion that they must marry a Quaker. 

By the time Mary married Thomas Knowles in 1767, she was set in her ways and “she resolved not to become ‘a poor passive machine ...a mere smiling Wife.’”  She nearly died giving birth to their son in July, 1768.  They named the baby Morris, and he lived one day.  Shortly after this, her mother and sister died.  From my calculations, they had another son, George, in 1773.  Thomas died in 1786 when he was 52, Mary was 53, and George was 13.  Thomas’ death left Mary a wealthy widow.  She used her position and money to promote abolition. 

Mary was skilled in needle painting and did some prestigious portraits for the King and Queen.  Her position and affluence allowed her to rub shoulders with royalty and prominent political and religious men; namely Samuel Johnson and John Wilkes.

Mary refused to allow current Quaker civilities to dictate what she believed, similar to the early Friends!  Focusing on the inner Light “allowed her to advance contentious positions, such as her criticism of slavery and sympathy for the American and French revolutionaries, while simultaneously affirming her religious belief and dedication to the national interest (73). In doing so, Knowles became one of the foremost defenders of Quakers in a culture that increasingly questioned their patriotism and religious conviction.”

She was not afraid to “stir the pot” and in June of 1788, when asked to write a poem for the top of a tobacco box, she took the opportunity to write about abolition:

          Tho various tints the human face adorn
          To glorious Liberty Mankind are born;         
          O, May the hands which rais'd this fav'rite weed          
          Be loos'd in mercy and the slave be freed! 

“Knowles had defended women’s liberty in her debate with Johnson in 1778, and she now extended this principle to all humans. The arguments she expressed were rational, nonsectarian, and based on universal rights. For Knowles, religious liberty led to political and social freedom, and her brief poem reminded the owner of the tobacco box about the important political issue of freedom for African slaves and abolition of the slave trade.” 

Mary Knowles went against the grain, much like the radical Quakers before her.  I appreciated reading of her advocating for abolition, education for women, equality, and peace.  Her writings are not easily available but are in The Religious Society of Friends library in London

Most widely held works by Mary Knowles:

Resources used in the writing of this post:

Breuninger, S. (2009). Gender, religion, and radicalism in the long eighteenth century: the “ingenious quaker” and her connections - by Judith Jennings.  Historian, 71(1). Retrieved from
Jennings, J. (2007). Mary Morris Knowles: (1733-1807). Retrieved from
Mary Knowles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2014, August 1). Retrieved September 8, 2014, from
WorldCat Identities. (2010). Knowles, Mary 1733-1807. Retrieved September 8, 2014,

#QuakerWomen #WomensHistoryMonth #Quakers #Friends