Influence of Quaker Women


A little Quaker history lesson for this International Woman’s Day:

On July 13, 1848, five women sat around a mahogany table and planned a revolution. Six days later the revolution began; in the small town of Seneca Falls in upstate New York the world’s first woman’s rights convention was held, and a Declaration of Women’s Rights was proclaimed and signed by one hundred participants. Any question about the historical significance of this event was soon dispelled by the vehemence of the reaction, as both the press and the clergy denounced these desexed females for stepping out of their sphere.

Of the five women who planned the convention, four were members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, as they are more familiarly known. The fifth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, had come to the tea party to see her old friend and long time role model, Lucretia Mott from Philadelphia, a Quaker minister who had been advocating women’s rights for the past forty years.

Although Quakers had been numerous in the colonial period and had predominated for a time in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, they represented only a tiny percentage of the American population by 1848. Yet their influence in such fields as the abolition of slavery, the reform of prisons, the fair treatment of Native Americans, and especially the rights of women was far in excess of their numerical strength. It has been estimated that Quaker women comprised thirty percent of the women abolitionists, and fifteen percent of the suffragists born before 1830. (From “Mother’s of Feminism” by Margaret Hope Bacon)


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