John Crook

John Crook (1617-91) was an early Quaker minister, Justice of the Peace and johncrookpicwriter. He was born into the gentry, probably in Lancashire, England. In 1654 he heard William Dewsbury, a Friends preacher, and was converted to Quakerism. He went on to become a noted Quaker minister, mostly active in Bedfordshire, and published a brief account of his life and numerous pamphlets. In 1658 one of the first sessions of Britain Yearly Meeting was held at Beckerings Park, his estate. Crook was also gagged, beaten, stoned and arrested several times for preaching Quakerism. In 1660, after one trial, he forfeited all of his property and money, though this was later rescinded by King Charles II. Based on his extensive legal knowledge and asserting his rights as an Englishman, he disputed all of his arrests. He was greatly loved by Friends.
 
“A Short History of the Life of John Crook” was his autobiography. His pamphlets included “Unrighteousness no Plea for Truth, nor Ignorance a Lover of it”; “The Case of Swearing (at all) Discussed”; “An Epistle for Unity, to prevent the Wiles of the Enemy”; “An Apology for the Quakers….”; “The Cry of the Innocent for Justice….”; and “Truth’s Principles….among the People of God called Quakers”. They offer explanations of Friends beliefs. His writings were widely popular with Friends in the 18th century.
 
“A Short History of the Life of John Crook” recounts the story of his experience with silent prayer. As an adolescent, he began a spiritual struggle to lead what he saw as a Godly life. He found nothing –not the Bible, sacraments, ministers, etc. -spoke to him spiritually, however. In despair, searching for a direct connection with the Spirit, he ended up finding a quiet place and praying silently. This then became his practice. On one occasion he heard an inner voice that said, “(I) will never leave thee nor forsake thee, saith I, the Lord, the mighty God”, and that gave him great peace. Years later, after his conversion to Quakerism, he noted that his early experiences with silent prayer suddenly made sense: “I came to see what it was that so long cried in me, upon every occasion, of serious inward retiring of my own spirit”.
 
The origins of Friends worship are unknown. One probable source was individuals like Crook with their experience of silent prayer. (George Fox was another example of this). Another possible source was people inspired by the ministry of the brothers Walter, Thomas and Bartholemew Legate, who preached about silent prayer. Those people gathered together in loose associations and called themselves the Seekers. Groups of them existed throughout England but especially in the cities of Bristol and London and the counties of Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmoreland and Yorkshire. They created a religious service of silent worship with spoken prayer. In 1652 the Sedburgh Seekers became the first group to join with George Fox.
 
John Crook was a remarkable individual. He was one of the early Quakers overshadowed by better known Friends, like George Fox and James Nayler.  His “A Short History of the Life of John Crook” is a lively, well-written piece. It also offers a rare glimpse into what may have been one source of the Quaker Meeting for Worship.
 
July 2018

“The Quaker Meeting” and “The Quakers’ Meeting”

“The Quaker Meeting” is a caricature of an anonymous Friends Meeting, c. 1810. rowlandson-quaker11It was drawn by Thomas Rowlandson. Friends sprawl or squat on the benches, some with heads bowed, some with hands to their foreheads. A few of them stand in the foreground. Curiously, despite contemporary Quaker custom, men and women are intermixed. An elderly woman stands, preaching.
 
“The Quakers’ Meeting” is a drawing of another anonymous Friends Meeting, 1809. It was rowlandson-quaker9etched by Thomas Rowlandson, based on a design by Augustus Charles Pugin and inspired by earlier pictures from John Bluck, Joseph Constantine Stadler, Thomas Sutherland, J. Hill, and Richard Bankes Harraden. Friends sit in orderly rows, women to the left, men to the right. Some Friends are visible in the balcony. Elders and ministers are stationed on the facing benches.
 
Several other Quaker drawings were created by Rowlandson. Among them were “Spiritual Love”; “The Quaker”; and “The Quaker and Commissioners of Excise”, the latter of which was a collaboration with George Moutard Woodward. Some of the pictures were bawdy or outright obscene: “Quaker in Love”; “The Unwelcome Visitor or the Quaker in a Quake”; and “Crimping a Quaker”. Two “Scene from a Farce Called ‘The Quaker’” drawings exist, both suggestive.
 
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) was an English caricaturist, noted for his political and social satire. His main subject was London street life. His most popular works were the “Tours of Dr. Syntax” series. He also illustrated many contemporary novels, including books by Goldsmith, Smollett and Sterne. As well, he produced numerous erotic drawings. Along with other English artists, he created the “John Bull” character, the personification of the United Kingdom.
 
Rowlandson occasionally worked with other artists. Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832) was an Anglo-French artist, who worked mostly as an illustrator. George Moutard Woodward (1765-1809) was an English artist, sometimes credited with inventing the comic strip.
 
“The Quaker Meeting” is a plain, funny portrait of Friends. “The Quakers’ Meeting” is a gorgeous, reverent depiction of Friends. Two sides of the same coin.
 
Above is “The Quaker Meeting”; below it is “The Quakers’ Meeting”.
June 2018

Sarah Mapps Douglass

Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806-1882) was a writer, painter, teacher and activist. sarahdouglasspic2 Her prose and poetry were written under the pseudonym “Zillah” (and possibly “Sophonisba”) and published in the The Liberator, The Colored American, and the Anglo-African Magazine.  Her paintings, generally of flowers, were included in her letters.  She taught school in Philadelphia and New York City, among them the Institute for Colored Youth.  As an abolitionist, in 1833, Douglass helped found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and she was active at national anti-slavery conventions.  She lectured women on female hygiene and anatomy, based on her studies at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and the Ladies’ Institute of Pennsylvania Medical University.  She also founded the Female Literary Society to encourage women to learn to read and write.

Douglass was a third-generation Quaker.  She attended various Philadelphia Meetings, including North, Arch Street and Orange Street Meetings.  The Institute for Colored Youth, at which she taught, was a Quaker school.  She was a friend of Lucretia Mott and Sarah and Elizabeth Grimké.   Though she worshiped, spoke and dressed as a Friend, however, she never applied for membership.  (As neither had her grandparents and mother).  This was because Douglass was African-American, and racism was wide-spread among Friends.  Black Quakers were made to sit apart from white Friends on “black benches” and were denied membership.  (Though in advance of other parts of American society –Friends forbade slave ownership and supported African-American education –they retained other racist practices).  Douglass published a letter in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, refuting the belief that African-Americans preferred music and excitement in their religious services.  (She wrote, “I myself know some, whose hearts yearn for the quiet of your worshipping places, and who love the ‘still small voice’, better than harp or viol.”)  She also contributed stories about her painful experiences with Quakers to Sarah Grimké’s “Letter on the Subject of Prejudice against Colour amongst the Society of Friends in the United States”.

It was a shameful time among Quakers when they treated this Friend in that manner.

Above is a beautiful watercolor she included in one of her letters.

May 2018

Howard Brinton

Howard Brinton (1884-1973) was an author, theologian, professor and howardbrintonpicadministrator.  His books included Creative Worship; Guide to Quaker Practice; The Society of Friends; Friends for 300 Years; Prophetic Ministry; and Quaker Journals: Varieties of Religious Experiences Among Friends.  Brinton came from a long line of West Chester, Pennsylvania Quakers.  He graduated from Haverford College with a degree in mathematics and physics.  At Haverford he met Rufus Jones, who became his mentor.  He went on to teach at Olney, Pickering, Mills and Earlham.  In 1916 Brinton was appointed acting President of Guilford College, during which time he visited the conscientious objectors at Camp Jackson.   He performed relief work in Germany with the American Friends Service Committee after World War One.  In the 1930’s he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy, spent a year at Woodbrooke, and he and Anna, his wife, became Co-Directors at Pendle Hill.  In his later years he was involved in AFSC relief work in Japan, the formation of the World Council of Churches and the reunification of pastoral and unprogrammed Friends.  He is buried with his wife in the Oakland Friends Cemetery.

Brinton greatly influenced unprogrammed Friends through his writings.  His recommendations on Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, First Day School, service and vocal ministry were adopted by these Quakers.  His popularization of the term “testimonies” was broadly accepted.  Furthermore, his selection of certain testimonies –simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality, known by the acronym SPICE –was commonly used.  (Previously to Brinton, the word “testimonies” was almost never employed by Quakers.  Such topics were referred to as “advices” and dealt with numerous concerns).  Brinton’s belief that Friends is an experimental religion, grounded in experience, also appealed to these Quakers.  Above all, his conviction that the basis of Quakerism is mysticism as reflected in Meeting for Worship was generally shared.  (Friends from other branches of Quakerism, however, disputed this emphasis on mysticism).

I read most of Howard Brinton’s books when I first encountered Friends.  They are a clear, solid explanation of Friends principles as practiced by unprogrammed Friends.

April 2018

Nelson and Edith Dawson

Nelson Dawson (1859-1941) was a multi-talented artist: architect, painter, etcher jeweler,dawsonpainting metalworker, potter and writer. He began as a painter and etcher, especially of marine scenes. Later he became a key figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, creating beautiful, handmade objects. Working closely with his wife Edith, he designed a wide variety of items: ornaments, dishes, boxes, plaques, lamps and jewelry. Toward the end of his life he returned to painting and etching. He was an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers.

Edith Dawson (1862-1928) was also a multi-talented artist: painter, jeweler, metalworker dawsonsbuckleand writer. As a painter, her main subject was flowers. A key figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, too, she made the items that her husband designed. Her specialty was enameling. Among their pieces were the bronze organ grille in Holy Trinity Church; a trowel and mallet used by Queen Victoria; and an ornamental box presented to President Wilson. Their studio became very successful over time and employed other craftspeople to carry out their ideas. With Nelson, she published Goldsmiths’ & Silversmiths’ Work and by herself Enamels. Their work is represented in private collections, the Victoria &Albert Museum, the British Museum and the National Maritime Museum. Rhoda and Mary, their daughters, were also artists.

Edith Dawson was born a Friend. Despite Quaker opposition to art in those days, she pursued painting and as a young woman earned considerable sums. She was also noted to wear a Quaker bonnet but trimmed with real flowers. Her daughter described her mother’s workroom as having “….the portrait of George Fox on the mantelpiece”. Nelson and she were married at Whitby Meeting in 1893. Nelson, however, supported World War One, working in a munitions factory and then seeking a position as a war artist at the Admiralty. Only after Edith’s death did he become a member of the Religious Society of Friends. His memorial service was held at Hammersmith Meetinghouse.

Nelson and Edith Dawson created gorgeous things. Above is “The Chelsea Meeting”, painted by Nelson, an exquisite watercolor depicting a Meeting for Worship gathered at the home of Caroline Stephen, author of Quaker Strongholds. Below that is a striking enameled buckle created by both of them.

March 2018

Tatiana Pavlova

Tatiana Pavlova (1937-2002) was a Russian historian and translator.  A member tatianapavlovapic3of the Institute  of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, she was a historian of 17th and 18th century pacifism and utopianism in England.  Her books included John Bellers and One Hundred Years of Russian Pacisfism. Her translations included Plea for the Poor; George Fox Speaks for Himself; The Orthodox Pastoral Service; John Woolman’s Journal; and Portrait in Grey.    Raised in the harsh life of the Soviet Union –her father died in a Stalinist labor camp – and living through the difficult post-Soviet Union period, she survived much in her life.

Pavlova was a member of the Religious Society of Friends through the Friends World Committee for Consultation’s International Membership Group. She grew up during a time when religion was discouraged in Russia.  Because Karl Marx approved of John Bellers, the Quaker economist, however, she wrote her graduate thesis on Bellers.  During her research, especially since Russia had a history of prisons, she was struck by the story of 164 Friends who volunteered to take the place of imprisoned Quakers who had been jailed for several years. The thesis was published as a book in 1979.  In the early 1980’s, after reading her book, British Friends William Barton and Peter Jarman made contact, and in the mid-1980’s American Quakers visited with her.  In 1990 she joined the Society and began inviting people to gather for Meeting for Worship in her Moscow apartment.  In 1992 she went to Pendle Hill as a Friend-in-Residence. The Moscow Meeting outgrew her home and now rents a large space.  They have helped elderly people with financial support; offered classes on the Bible and Quaker literature; published a bi-monthly newsletter; and spoken to the Russian military about peacemaking.  Small Quaker groups also exist in St. Petersburg, Veri, Electrostal, Kazan and Barnaul as well as in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Belorussia, Georgia, Krygyzstan and Ukraine.

Friends House in Moscow was established in 1996 and has been very active throughout Russia.  They have participated in a peace march into Grozny during the Chechen War; run an Alternatives to Violence Project; offered information on conscientious objection and alternatives to military service; shared information on Quaker faith and action to interested people; operated a hospice; and provided support to children in need.  In 2016 they gave a grant to preserve in electronic form the deteriorating Tolstoy Papers in the Chertkov Archives.

Tatiana Pavlova was an internationally-known and highly-respected historian.  She was also the seed for Friends in Russia in modern times.

February 2018

Pierre Ceresole

Pierre Ceresole (1879-1945) was a Swiss writer, engineer and work camp leader. pierreceresolepicHis writings were collected posthumously in For Peace and Truth: from the Notebooks of Pierre Ceresole. As an engineer, he worked especially in poor countries like India.  He was best-known as the founder of Service Civil International, a world-wide work camp organization.

Ceresole was a Swiss Friend. He first encountered Quakers when he worked with them in reconstruction projects after World War One.  In India, in 1935, he joined the Religious Society of Friends.  A life-long pacifist, he refused to pay war taxes or serve in the military and as a consequence served several imprisonments.  He also declined to participate in air raid drills, instead placing candles in his windows when the power was cut for blackouts.  Ceresole created the work camp movement as a moral alternative to war.  He was also active with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and was a friend of Gandhi.  During World War Two, he entered Germany illegally in an attempt to persuade Nazi leaders to end the war.  He was captured, jailed and shortly after his release died.

Switzerland Yearly Meeting began through contacts made by Swiss people with American and English Friends for peace work, SCI and Woodbrooke after World War One. Geneva Meeting was established in 1920.  Three years later, a Quaker Centre for work with the League of Nations was created there.  (It is now one of two Quaker United Nations Offices).  In 1947 the Yearly Meeting was founded.

I have a place in my heart for Pierre Ceresole. The Quaker Contribution, the book that introduced me to Friends, contained a wonderful quote from him, one of the things in the book that sparked my interest in attending my first Meeting for Worship.  He described Quaker worship as:

“And yet we may someday experience there the flowers on the mountaintop, even as Francis de Sales described it”.

January 2018

Alice Paul Stamp

Alice Paul was honored with a postage stamp issued by the United States Post office alicepaulstamp2in 1995. Part of the Great American Series, it commemorated her work toward securing the vote for women. It was released on the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution. The stamp was bright violet, and its cost was 78 cents. Chris Calle designed it; the Banknote Corporation of America engraved it. The portrait is somewhat unflattering. (It is pictured to the right).

Great Britain also released a stamp for Paul in 1981. The 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels featured her. A United States $10 half-ounce gold coin with her image, part of the Presidential Coin Program, appeared in 2012.

Alice Paul (1885-1977) was an American organizer for women’s rights. In 1908, in England, she heard Christabel Pankhurst speak and was drawn into the Women’s Social and Political Union’s efforts to get the vote for British women. She was jailed three times and force-fed during the campaign. In 1910, returning to the United States, she became affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1913 she organized the Woman Suffrage Procession, a march of several thousand women in Washington DC the day before President Wilson’s inauguration. She led a delegation to lobby Wilson about women’s suffrage the next day. After the President stated that his position was undecided, she launched a campaign to educate him.

In 1916 Paul and her friend Lucy Burns broke away from NAWSA and formed the National Woman’s Party. They focused on getting President Wilson to back suffrage and included public protest and civil disobedience in their tactics. In 1917, after the President refused to meet with any more of their delegations, Paul organized the Silent Sentinels, a group of women standing in front of the White House protesting the denial of the vote for women. Initially tolerated, if ignored, with the American entrance to the First World War, arrests began. Paul and several other women were sentenced to seven months in the Occoquan Workhouse jail in October 1917. Held in solitary confinement and denied legal counsel, on November 17, during the “Night of Terror”, the women were savagely beaten. Paul began a hunger strike and was placed in a mental ward, sleep-deprived and force-fed. (A doctor at the jail commented, “She has a spirit like Joan of Arc, and it is useless to try to change it. She will die but she will never give up.”) Newspapers publicized the women’s ordeal. They were released at the end of November, and Wilson announced his support of women’s suffrage the following January. Paul organized for women’s rights during the rest of her life. In 1923 she wrote and began to lobby for the Equal Rights Amendment. She was also instrumental in including equal rights for women in the U.N Human Rights Charter and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Alice Paul was a member of Moorestown (NJ) Meeting. She came from a long line of English and New Jersey Quakers, William Penn and John Bowne being among her ancestors. Growing up, all the people she knew were Friends, and her home was traditionally Quaker. (Music and dancing were prohibited, for example). Gender equality was also part of Quaker belief and culture. When she was a child, Paul’s mother took her to suffragette meetings in Quaker homes. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, of which her Meeting was part, had had a committee to work for women’s votes since the 19th century. (“When the Quakers were founded, one of their principles was and is equality of the sexes. So I never had any other idea, the principle was always there”, she observed). Paul attended Moorestown Friends School, graduated from Swarthmore College and studied at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. She died at the Greenleaf Extension Home, a Quaker facility, and is buried at Westfield Friends Burial Ground.

Alice Paul was well within the tradition of strong Quaker women: Elizabeth Hooton, Margaret Fell, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Watson, Elise Boulding, et. al. And I still see them in Friends Meeting today.

December 2017

Quaker Dolls

q doll imageSeveral Quaker dolls or images of dolls reside in the National Gallery of Art, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and other collections. They are made of china or painted wood, with a few  made of corn husks.  Material for their costumes is silk, organdy, muslin and linen.  The predominant colors are gray or drab, the latter a sort of yellowish-brown.  Though some are male Friends, they usually depict female Friends in bonnets, shawls and long dresses.  Most of the dolls were children’s toys. Some were models, called “babies”, used by seamstresses to show their customers, as Amelia Mott Gummere noted, “the latest in drab”. The dolls date from the nineteenth century, and the craftspeople are anonymous. The illustrations of them were created in the 1930’s and 1940’s by several artists, including Charlotte Angus, Mina Lowry, Jacob Gielens and Bertha Semple. The mediums used were watercolor, gouache and pencil.

The Quaker dolls are exquisite. Representative of them is the drawing above by Charlotte Angus. 

November 2017

Mary Mollineux

Mary Mollineux (1651-96) was perhaps the best-known Quaker poet, prior to Whittier. Her book forbookFruits of Retirement was widely-known among Friends.

Born into the Lancashire, English gentry, Mollineux was well-educated for her time and gender, having been taught languages, science, mathematics and philosophy. Reportedly she was raised a Catholic but became a Quaker. In 1684 she was arrested for worshiping at Warrington Meeting and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. Mollineux was known as a gentle, caring person. Dying young, upon her deathbed, she told her husband, “don’t worry about me too much”. She also said she hated to leave her sons, “her little lads”. She could also be strong, however. In 1690 she publicly debated the Bishop of Chester when her husband was jailed for refusing to pay tithes to the established church.

Mollineux wrote poetry that offered moral instruction. Her subjects ranged widely, though the Bible, contemplation and compassion for others were touchstones. Her style was reminiscent of other Restoration poetry. She began writing verse in 1663, at the age of 12, and composed poetry for the rest of her life. (She recited a couplet in Latin to her husband while on her deathbed). While she was alive, her writings circulated in manuscript, but she declined to have them published, feeling it was vanity to do so. After her death, her husband asked Frances Owen, her cousin, to collect her work. In 1702 Fruits of Retirement was published. It contained 87 poems, six prose epistles, 12 poetic epistles and three letters. Her cousin also included a defense of poetry since Quakers rarely wrote verse. The book went through six editions in the 18th century. Along with the Bible, Fox’s Journal and Barclay’s Apology, Fruits of Retirement was to be found in most Quaker homes.

Mollineux’s poetry was moving, if a bit earnest at times. Occasionally it was very good. An excerpt about her search for the Presence from “Meditations in Trouble”:

O whither is He gone? Or where/Shall I go mourn, till He appear,/Who is my Life, my Love?/Alas, how shall I move/Him to return, that’s secretly retir’d;/Like unto one displeas’d,/Who, till He be appeas’d,/My Heart cannot be eas’d;/He is one lovely, and to be admir’d!

October 2017