Quaker Women

While enroled on Woodbrooke's Equipping for Ministry course,I was surprised when I began research during Our Quaker Foremothers the number of Quaker women who had published tracts and pamphlets in the 17th century. I was also surprised to discover how few of these women are ever mentioned in the Quaker history books.

Although Quakers have a reputation for equality of the sexes in spiritual concerns, I found several references to statements that if a male minister were present than the women should defer to them and stay silent. Similarly when we have recorded our history it would seem that if a man was travelling or publishing a similar ministry then the women's ministry and publications have been forgotten or considered redundant.

Later in the course I began to research the involvement of the Quaker women in the early British feminist movement of the 19th century. In the United States Quaker women were at the forefront of the Abolition and Suffrage movements, so I was puzzled to see so little mentioned of Quakers in the British movements. In the section on the 19th century I have focussed on trying to discover the Quaker women involved in the early establishment of the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act (LNA) which later became the Josephine Butler Association.

I have elected to use my personal webspace to remind us all that women were instrumental in forming the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) not just as helpmeets but also as prophetic voices with original messages and inspired ministry.

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