Quaker Women

Born in England 27th of 8th month 1682 to Quakers who migrated to Pennsylvania in 1701. Four of five daughters became ministers of the gospel.

When she was 21 she married Morris Morris. They had a child every two years or so for the next 21 years, a total of 13 children. David, the 13th was born after Susanna's return from her first major trip in the ministry. Nine of their children survived to maturity. She was 43 years old when David was born.

In 1727 she traveled to Long Island, and in 1728 to New England. It was on the heels of this trip that she began to feel that she was called to visit Old England. She resolved to sail back to England with Joseph Taylor, a British Friend, who was completing a religious visit to meeting in American colonies. She gained the approval of her monthly and quarterly meetings but unlike most traveling ministers, she was not given a female companion, but was expected to find one in Ireland. She was 46 and left behind children ranging in age from 22 to 3.

Following her first trip to Europe, which lasted three years, Susanna Morris traveled in the ministry to Long Island, and with her sister Hannah Hurford, also a minister, returned to Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

In 1744 she received a certificate for a second trip to England, at age 61, accompanied by Elizabeth Morgan. The set sail on the 20th of 7th month, 1744, and returned on 11th of 8th month, 1746. England was at war with both France and Spain, making travel hazardous, and in the North of England and Scotland, the return of the Scottish pretender had the people in an uproar. The two women, however, had no particular troubles until they were on their way home at which time they were twice chased by French privateers.

Although glad to get home again, Susanna felt she was still called to visit more meetings in England, and in 1752, at the age of 70, she embarked once more, accompanied by Phebe Willets Mott Dodge, the minister from Long Island, and Mary Weston, a British minister, who had been traveling among Friends in America. With the authority of her years and experience, Susanna Morris felt free on this trip to chide Friends for their mistaken ways and notions.Thus we find her warning Quakers in Exeter against a wrong spirit and a "disbelief that the Lord required females to labor in the gospel and also a pleading for making provision for a defensive war." And in Bristol she preached against the "too frequent taking of tobacco in all shapes and the too frequent use of strong liquors...likewise against that unsound speech: you to one person."

Seventy was a great age to be traveling about in 1753. She attributed her ability to withstand it and not to become ill to the same divine intervention that had saved her from shipwreck on her first trip to England. She wrote of having to climb "hills as steep as staircases," but being preserved from harm by the fact that whe her horse threw her on the hills "he laid her down gently in soft mud.

In 1752, and again in 1753, she attended the London Yearly Meeting and became a spokeswoman for gender equality. The men assembled for regular sessions, but the women came together informally. This state of affairs was upsetting to the American women Quakers, many of whom had had their own yearly meetings since the seventeenth century. The American women, who regularly addressed their British sisters, realized that their epistles were not reaching all women, but only those who had happened to come up to London with their husbands, brothers, fathers or sons.

When she returned to Pennsylvania for the next two years she continued to travel in the ministry in Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counnties as well as in New Jersey, and Delaware. Her beloved husband Morris accompanied her on many of these journies.

Susanna Morris wrote an account of her travel in the ministry during her later years, evidently working from earlier fragments of a journal. The journal, addressed to her children and others, is full of expressions of profound faith and gratitude. She died on the 28th of 3rd month, 1755.

from Wilt Thou Go on My Errand?, edited by Margaret Hope Bacon,
published by Pendle Hill

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