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Our Quaker Foremothers

Published: Sept. 3, 2021


It is always fun to poke around the stacks in a library, looking for something to read, pulling out a book or two and moving on or getting inspired by the topic and digging in.  Our stacks are small but powerful in the Quaker section.  I noticed that we have a couple of books by Margaret Hope Bacon.  She worked for AFSC for many years and was also an author of about 20 books.

Margaret Hope Bacon was primarily known for her biographies and works involving Quaker women’s history and the abolitionist movement.  Our library has three books by Bacon.  Her most famous is a biography of Lucretia Mott, Valiant Friend, published in 1980.  The other two books in the library are The Quiet Rebels: The Story of Quakers in America and Mothers of Feminism: The Story of Quaker Women in America.   

Mothers of Feminism is particularly interesting to me.  The idea of radical equality came from the reformation and the times of George Fox.  Public speaking was not something that women did in church or outside the home.  As Quakerism became more established, women began to work as traveling ministers throughout England and the New World bringing the message of the Quaker way to anyone who might listen.  Mary Dyer was one of these women and was hung for traveling to Puritan Boston to preach.  It was against the law to be Quaker in Massachusetts.

The women traveling ministers were also responsible for helping to establish a separate Women’s Meeting in the Religious Society of Friends.  At the time, women were not part of the meeting for business or doing any public speaking.  The separation enabled women to develop their own talent and leadership which led to abolition work, temperance work, prison reform, the women’s suffrage movement, entering professional positions (such as medicine, science, and other mostly male related jobs) to the women’s rights movement and the peace movement in the 20th century.

While none of the books is a quick read, they are an interesting look at one of the main testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends, equality.


from Pam Garcia in the Flagstaff Monthly Meeting Newsletter, September/October 2021