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 


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