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


References

You can read many of Margaret’s own writings here: .http://hallvworthington.com/Margaret_Fox_Selections/MargaretMemoir.html. 

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