Ann Docwra (1624-1710) was a member of the Suffolk gentry. She converted to Quakerism about 1664 and went on to become a leading Cambridge Friend. Known for her fiery temperament, she often angered both Quakers and non-Quakers. She was close to many early Friends leaders, however, like George Fox Thomas Ellwood and George Whitehead. She left her estate to Friends in a 1000 year lease and donated toward a Meetinghouse and cemetery. Jesus Lane Meetinghouse in Cambridge (BrYM) now rests on the site. It has an Ann Docwra room.
Docwra published a series of pamphlets in defense of Friends. Encouraged by her father to study his lawbooks, she responded to attacks against Quakers on a legal basis. (She called herself a “She-Lawyer”). She engaged in a vitriolic pamphlet war with Francis Bugg, the chief antagonist to Friends and her alleged nephew. As well, a special concern for her in her writing was women’s full participation in Meeting. She wrote about the Inner Light, separation of church and state, and religious tolerance, too. Her works included An Apostate Conscience….; An Epistle of Love….; A Looking-Glass….; Spiritual Community….; and A Brief Discovery….
Docwra also composed a poem, “The Mystery of Profession great”. Her verse explored the conflict between stating one is religious and actually living such a life. The opening stanza:
The Mystery of Profession great,/And Lifeless Forms I here repeat,/That all may see, that want of Light/Makes men like Bats and Birds of Night.