Thursday, March 02, 2017

Quaker Women Series: Elizabeth Hooton

“Travelling through some parts of Leicestershire, and into Nottinghamshire, I met with a tender people, and a very tender woman, whose name was Elizabeth Hooton.”
George Fox

The first Quaker woman I am featuring in my "Quaker Women" series for Women's History Month is Elizabeth Hooton, George Fox's first convert and preacher! Who was this woman?

Elizabeth Hooton (Hooten), was born in the early 1600s in England. She met George Fox in 1647 and the two began a life-long friendship that was filled with imprisonment, beatings, shunning, and more. In her book, “The Valiant Sixty,” (which included Elizabeth Hooton) Elfrida Vipont describes her as “motherly, devout, and open-minded.” Her husband, Oliver, was not as quick to join the movement but eventually was convinced and “meetings were held in their home at Skegby, near Mansfield.” Oliver and Elizabeth had five children: Thomas (1636), John (1639), Josiah (1641), Samuel (1633) and Elizabeth (1636). Samuel and Elizabeth both suffered for religious freedom, like their mother.

Elizabeth, considered middle-aged when she began ministry, as previously mentioned, was the first Quaker preacher. Gerald Croese states, “After her example, many of her Sex had the confidence to undertake the same office.” According to Walter Williams, she was part of the first small groups called, “Children of Light” and “Friends of Truth.

Reading Emily Manner’s book, “Elizabeth Hooton, the first Quaker woman preacher (1600-1672),” was an eye opening experience of what transpired in her life after becoming a Quaker. Elizabeth suffered imprisonment numerous times. The first time was in 1650 at Derby for speaking to a priest. It was during this time that she wrote her first of many letters, many of them to public officials.

Her time in the prison at Derby is the first of many. By 1652, she served sixteen months at York Castle (prison) for preaching. During her imprisonments, she wrote letter after letter informing public officials of the harsh treatment of the prisoners and of their wrongful imprisonment. She signed her letter, “Elizabeth Hooton, A prisoner of the Lord in Yorke Castle.” A common theme in her letters was, “She denounces in no measured terms the corruptness of Judges, Magistrates, teachers and clergymen, and all officers are gaolers and compares them to Herod and Pontius Pilate…!" Each time she was released from prison, she went right back to what she had been doing; which landed her in prison repeatedly. In fact, “she was the first sufferer for the Truth in Lincolnshire.”

While beatings were common in prison, Elizabeth suffered abuse outside the prison walls, too. There is record that “April 2, 1660: Elizabeth Hooton, passing quietly on the road, was met by one Jackson, Priest of Selston, who abused her, beat her with many blows, knocked her down, and afterward put her into the water.” This is the last record of her early service in England.

“She was stepping from pan to fire.”

Persecution followed Elizabeth to America where she was imprisoned in Boston for visiting other Friends who were prisoners. In 1661, she and her companion, Joan Broksopp, traveled to Boston. She said, “… for God and his people to those people in the heate of persecution, and if God required us to lay down our lives for the testimony of Jesus and in love to their soules, not knowing but what they might heare and so be saved so they might be left without excuse and God might have his glory and we cleare of their bloud if they would not heare…” It was a crime to be a Quaker in the new world. It was in Boston that she and her daughter were whipped together.

Each time I read of her abuse and imprisonment, followed by her release, followed by her repeat of what landed her in prison before, I realize she had the Light, that is the Holy Spirit, inside her that empowered her to continue whatever task He set before her. She did not allow abuse, which I have come to believe was rape, beatings, whippings, flogging, starving, nor disease to alter the coarse set before her. Her experiences as the first Quaker woman preacher, one of the valiant sixty, and a sufferer for Jesus are extensive and detailed. From the time she became a Quaker until her final breath in Jamaica in January of 1672, she never stopped loving man; “Yea, the Love that I bear to the Souls of all Men, makes me willing to undergo whatsoever can be inflicted.”

Emily Manners summarizes Elizabeth’s life beautifully and with a challenge for us today: “She played her part in the heroic age of the Society of Friends: always valiant for the truth, quick to seize any opportunity that offered to plead the cause of her fellow sufferers, even though her own sufferings made the occasion – fearless in denouncing the evils of the time – far in advance of the age in which she lived in her advocacy of prison and other reforms, and though her methods may appear strangely uncouth in our politer days, yet her history is eloquent in its lessons for us, conscious, it may be, that, in the words of Whittier, ‘The spirit’s temper grows too soft in this still air.’”

Has the Spirit's temper grown too soft in this still air?

“… She was a Godly Woman and had a great care lay upon her for people to walk in Truth that did profess it, and from her receiving Truth, she never turned her back on it but was fervent and faithful for it till death.” George Fox

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

Clayton, J. (2013, January, 08). Tough as nails. [web blog post] Retrieved from
Jones, R. (Ed.). (1976). The journal of George Fox. Friends United Press: Richmond, Indiana.
Manners, E., & Penny, N. (1914). Elizabeth Hooton, the first Quaker woman preacher (1600-1672). (e-book) London: Headley brothers.
Vipont, E. (1975). George Fox and the valiant sixty. London: Hamish Hamilton.
Williams, W. (1987). The rich heritage of Quakerism. Barclay Press: Newberg, Oregon.

#QuakerWomen #womenpreachers #Friends #Quakers #ElizabethHooton #GeorgeFox #WomensHistoryMonth

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