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

Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble (b. 1939) is a British novelist, short story writer, playwright, biographer drabbleimage3and critic. Her novels depict English women who struggle with the choices they make in their lives. The political, social and economic times during which the characters live also figure prominently. The novels include A Summer Bird-Cage; the Needle’s Eye; The Ice Age; The Witch of Exmoor; and The Peppered Moth.   A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is a collection of short stories. Her biographies include Arnold Bennett: A Biography and Angus Wilson:  A Biography. Her critical works include Wordsworth; The Genius of Thomas Hardy; Writer’s Britain: Landscape and Literature and, as editor, two editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws is a memoir. Drabble has been awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize; the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the St. Louis Literary Award; and the Golden PEN Award. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire and later promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The University of Cambridge has awarded her an honorary Doctorate in Letters.

Drabble is not a Friend. She says, however, “I remain very impressed by Quaker faith and behavior”. Her father was a Quaker, and she was raised with an emphasis on integrity and service. She attended Mount in York, a Friends school for girls, where her classmates included her sister, the novelist A.S. Byatt, and the actor Judi Dench. (She noted that she appeared in A Midsummer’s Night Dream where “Judi played Titania and I played a fairy”). Her mother also taught at the school. Drabble remembers the evening Meeting for Worship there as “a meditation – a “medi” – a silence to reflect on your day”.  Friendly testimonies, like the Inner Light, are an influence in her books. She has been active in feminist and peace causes.

I had been unfamiliar with Margaret Drabble’s work. I am reading The Peppered Moth now, a novel about Bessie Bawtry, a Yorkshire woman, and Faro, her granddaughter, both in their times trying to escape their upbringing. It is light, allusive writing with great power. A very good read.

September 2017

Rufus Jones

Rufus Jones (1863-1948) was the most influential Friend in 20th century rufuspicQuakerism. Due to his many accomplishments, at a World Conference on Religion, he was referred to as” the Quaker Pope”. 
Jones was born into an old Quaker family in Maine and attended Providence Friends School and Haverford College. For 41 years he was a Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Haverford College. With Henry Cadbury, he co-founded the American Friends Service Committee. As the editor and co-author of the Rowntree Series, several books detailing the story of Quakerism, he provided a ground-breaking summary of Friends history. Jones also helped establish Five Years Meeting, the precursor to Friends United Meeting. A main concern for him was the reunification of the various branches of Quakerism, for which he laid the groundwork. As well, he encouraged Friends to drop the plain language and dress. His main legacy for Friends was his revival of the testimony of the Inner Light, a belief among early Quakers. With that in mind, he popularized the George Fox quote that there is “that of God” in everyone. (It should be noted, however, that his emphasis on the Inner Light, to the exclusion of the Bible, is criticized by some Friends).
 
Jones wrote extensively on theology, mysticism and history. His books included The Abundant Life; The Luminous Trail; The Inner Life; The Eternal Gospel; The Faith and Practice of Quakerism; and Some Exponents of Mystical Religion. His Rowntree Series contributions included Studies in Mystical Religion; The Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries; The Quakers in the American Colonies; and The Later Periods of Quakerism. He was also the editor of the magazine Friends’ Review.
 
Rufus Jones touched my life in several ways. I first encountered Friends through a photo of an American Friends Service Committee peace vigil held in front of the White House. His writings, especially the histories of the Rowntree Series, greatly influenced my view of Quakers. And the testimony of the Inner Light remains a central guide in my life.
 
A quote:
 
“If we are to prove that Fox really struck a jet of living water, we ourselves must tap that same fountain”.
August 2017

Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn (b. 1968) is a British musician, producer and actor.  He is the co-albarnpicture3founder of the group Gorillaz, with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett.  Gorillaz is a virtual band of animated characters (2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs).  Albarn composes the music; Hewlett produces the videos.  The music draws on many genres: reggae, pop, trip hop, dub, gospel, electronica, etc.  On tour Gorillaz is staged by musicians performing in front of a screen playing a video of the animated characters or with the screen covering the entire stage and the musicians performing behind it.  The animated characters have also played on stage as holograms through Musion Eyeliner technology.  Albarn is the only regular member, a revolving cast of musicians filling the other roles.  Gorillaz’s albums include Demon Days; Plastic Beach; and Humanz.  They have been enormously popular, selling millions of albums.

Albarn has always been a prolific artist.  He was the lead singer of the Britpop group Blur.  With them he released several albums in the 1990’s, including Modern Life is Rubbish; Parklife; The Great Escape; and The Magic Whip.  Their “Song No. 2” was a world-wide hit.  After Blur disbanded in 2003, Albarn focused on his own career.  His only solo album has been Everyday Robots.  But he also played as part of an unnamed supergroup, releasing The Good, the Bad and the Queen.  In collaboration with others, he recorded the operas Monkey: Journey to the West and Doctor DeeHe has been involved with world music, releasing Mali Music, and he wrote the scores for the movie The Boy in the Oak and the musical Wonder.land.  As well, a few Blur reunions have occurred, resulting in more albums and tours.  Albarn also acted in the films Face and Anna and the Moods as well as in the radioplay Up Against It.  In 2006 he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of East London, and in 2016 he was appointed an Officer of the British Empire.

Albarn comes from a long line of Lincolnshire Quakers.  His grandfather, a Friend, was a conscientious objector during World War Two and was imprisoned and later suffered ostracism because of his stand.  His father was also a conscientious objector.  Albarn was one of the leaders of the antiwar resistance when Britain became involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.  In 2003 he was supposed to speak at a Hyde Park peace rally before hundreds of thousands of people but was too overcome when the moment came.  He said later that he had “this image of my grandad in his slippers reading the paper, knowing that his grandson had been involved in something which he’d put so much of his life into” and he “got over-emotional”.  He has been active in various charities, recording and playing music for Oxfam and the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Albarn didn’t grow up a Quaker.  Raised in a bohemian family in the 1960’s, however, he was brought up in a very open and inquiring household.  He was exposed to Sufism and Hinduism.  And a Quaker influence persisted, through his grandfather.

I had been unfamiliar with Damon Albarn’s music, with the exception of “Song No. 2”.  So it was a joy to begin to explore his rich music.  I loved Gorillaz, his virtual band, especially the song “Feel Good Inc.”  Great innovation and great fun!

Here is a link to “Feel Good Inc.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyHNuVaZJ-k

July 2017

Laurie Baker

Laurie Baker (1917-2007) was a British/Indian architect renowned for his work lb1bwith sustainable housing.  In 1943, in Bombay, he had a chance meeting with Mohandas Gandhi.  Gandhi told him that he should be building houses for ordinary people, those living in villages and slums, using materials found within a five-mile radius of the site. In 1945, he returned to India and spent the rest of his life building sustainable housing there.  As well as the use of local materials, Baker emphasized cost-effectiveness, energy-efficiency, and an uncluttered space with maximum ventilation and light.  He learned to use indigenous architecture and methods, combining lb2bit with modern design principles and technology wherever it seemed appropriate.  He also improvised, starting with a blueprint but then changing the design on-site as needed.  Though Baker focused on buildings for people, per Gandhi’s comment, some of his better-known buildings include the Centre for Development Studies, the Literacy Village, the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, the Chitralekha Film Studio, the Indian Coffee House and the Pallikoodam School.  He was honored with the International Union of Architects  Award, a University of Kerala honorary doctorate, the Padma Shri, and a Member of the British Empire medal as well as being placed on the United Nations Roll of Honour.  In 1988 he was granted Indian citizenship, the only honor he actively pursued in his life.  Costford (the Center Of Science and Technology for Rural Development) carries on his work.

Baker’s designs were striking.  His buildings were usually constructed of brick with jali walls, perforated screens to allow light and air to flow through.  Curved walls were used to enclose more space at less cost than straight walls.  (He said “building (became) more fun with the circle”).  They featured sloping roofs with vents to allow rising hot air to escape as well as irregular, pyramid-like structures atop, one side left open and tilting into the wind to promote ventilation. A cooling system was created by placing a high, latticed, brick wall near a pond that used air pressure differences to draw cool air through the building. As a rule, trees remained in place and the topography was left undisturbed.  Dug-up soil was shifted into the built area rather than out of it. Compartments for milk bottles were set near the doorstep, and windowsills doubled as bench surfaces.  Junk heaps were often rummaged through for building materials. 

Baker became a Quaker while a teen after a period of questioning about what religion meant to him.  During World War Two he served as a conscientious objector in a Friends Ambulance Unit in China.  Trained as a nurse, midwife, and anesthetist, he worked there with civilian casualties and lepers.  On his way back to England, he met and became friends with Gandhi and had his epiphany about sustainable housing.  (They met because Gandhi noticed his handmade shoes and approached him to ask about them).  Baker lived simply, owning only the house he lived in Kerala in southern India and, at any one time, no more than four sets of shirts and trousers, made of handwoven khadi fabric.  While he was known as the “Gandhi of Architecture”, well-loved, his workers and students called him “Daddy”.  “On What Being a Quaker Means” was a short piece that he wrote about his Quakerism. 

The first Friend came to India in 1657.  Formal Quakerism began in India in 1866 through the efforts of the Friends Foreign Mission Association of London Yearly Meeting.  In 1907 Mid-India Yearly Meeting was established.  Located in Madhya Pradesh, it includes six Meetings: Hoshangabad, Itarsi, Kheda, Sohagpur, Seoni Malwa and Makoriya.  Four schools were founded and are still run by Friends, though they now belong to the Indian government. In 2002 Mid-India Yearly Meeting published a Hindi language version of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Advices and Queries.  It is affiliated with Friends World Committee for Consultation.

I have long felt that there should be a Testimony for Sustainability.  So I was moved by Baker’s simple, elegant buildings.  What graceful pieces of art!

(Above are Laurie Baker and a house of his in the Deccan Plateau).

June 2017

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross (1752-1836) is, of course, famous for making the first American flag.  br flagBorn in Philadelphia, she came from a family with 17 siblings and was married three times.  A seamstress, she was one of the many artisans active in colonial times.  Ross was also a fervent Patriot during the American Revolution.  Her first two husbands died during the war, one reportedly from the explosion of a munitions depot, the other of disease in a prisoner-of-war camp in Britain.  Her third husband survived the war while serving as a privateer.  She was known as a bustling, humorous, intelligent woman.

Ross learned needlework from her mother and sisters and at Rebecca Jones’s school.  Though there was no formal apprenticeship for girls, as a teenager, she was taken on at John Webster’s shop.  With her husbands, she opened her own shops.  Her work came to be much sought after in Philadelphia.  Upholstery, as the items she created were called in those times, encompassed many things: curtains, blanket, clothes, pillows, blinds, mattress covers, etc., etc.

It is said that George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris, on behalf of the Continental Congress, visited Ross in her Arch Street shop, in June 1776.  They brought along a rough sketch of a flag with 13 stripes, alternating red and white, and 13 white stars against a blue background.  After she explained that the six-pointed stars they wanted would be difficult to reproduce, she took out scissors and cut a five-pointed star quickly.  She also proposed that the stars be in lines, a circle or a star, instead of scattered about, and that the flag be rectangular, not square.  They agreed to her version.  When her sample flag was hoisted on a ship at a Philadelphia wharf, it was applauded by passersby and then taken to the Continental Congress, who approved it.  Unfortunately, however, no proof exists that this story is true.  War Department records were burnt in 1800, and no other documentation survives.  Ross told the story to her many relatives, who then passed the tale down in her family.  William Canby, her grandson, recounted the story to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870.  He then recruited Ross’s relatives to swear affidavits that they had heard the story, too.  Promoted after the Civil War to encourage nationalism, the legend spread.

Ross came from an old New Jersey and Pennsylvania Quaker family.  She attended Friends Public School as well as Friend Rebecca Jones’s school and was a member of Arch Street Meeting.  She was also known to have worked with Quaker cabinetmakers Thomas Affleck, Benjamin Randolph and James Claypoole. In 1773, after she married John Ross, an Anglican, she was disowned.  In 1781 she began attending the Free Quaker Meeting in Philadelphia.  The Free Quakers followed Quaker faith and practice but rejected disownment and supported war in defense of the government.  Their Meetings also existed in Massachusetts, Ohio and Maryland.  By the 1830’s the Free Quakers had mostly died, joined others churches or rejoined mainstream Friends.  A small group does survive in Indiana.  Ross was one of the last two members of the Philadelphia Meeting.

I tend to believe that Betsy Ross created the first American flag.  She probably knew George Washington, having worshipped at Philadelphia’s Christ Church with him.  Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis, George Washington’s step-granddaughter, visited her in 1820, indicating that the Washington family was acquainted with her.  Robert Morris was a business partner of John Ross, an uncle.  George Ross was another uncle.  Evidence does exist that Ross made numerous flags, beginning in the Revolution, throughout the early 19th century and especially during the War of 1812.  The story has the ring of truth.

May 2017

Christopher Fry

Christopher Fry (1907-2005) was a British playwright. From about 1945 to 1955 fryhe was considered the foremost dramatist of theater in Britain.  He created religious dramas in verse, á la the Elizabethan plays.  (T.  S. Eliot was his mentor).  His works were optimistic and featured happy endings.  A quiet wittiness, a sense of wonder and a struggle with moral choices were core elements.  The plays included The Lady’s Not for Burning; Venus Observed; A Sleep with Prisoners; The Dark is Light Enough; and A Ringing of Bells. In addition, he wrote the screenplays for Ben-Hur (with others); Barabbas; and The Bible. For television, among others, he wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; The Brontës of Haworth; and The Best of Enemies.  He was also known for his translations of the plays of Anouilh, Giradoux, Rostand and Ibsen.  Actors who appeared in his works included Olivier, Gielgud, Burton, Evans, Scofield and Plummer.  He won New York Drama Critics Circle Awards in 1952 and 1956; was nominated for a Tony Award in 1956; and was given the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1962.

Fry became a Quaker as a teenager. He actually changed his name to Fry because that was his mother’s maiden name, and he thought she was related to Elizabeth Fry.  In World War Two, due to his pacifism, he became a conscientious objector and spent the conflict cleaning up sewers in London’s East End that had been damaged from the bombings.  (He had approached Eliot, asking him, “….what I could do in wartime that didn’t mean shooting people. He suggested the fire service, but I told him that I had no head for heights. Eliot said, ‘You must specialize in basements’.”) For Ben-Hur Fry inserted the dialogue, (Sextus to Messala:) “He teaches that God is near, in every man”. He said that he wanted to evoke in his plays, “a world in which we are poised on the edge of eternity, a world which has deeps and shadows of mystery, and God is anything but a sleeping partner.”

I had not been familiar with Christopher Fry’s work so I listened to the John Gielgud radioplay of The Lady’s Not for Burning. It was a delight: funny, nimble language. As Harold Hobson noted, “He (could) make words dance”.

April 2017

 

Costa Rican Friends

A beautiful sound: Costa Rican Young Friends playing classical music on a monteverdeplatform up in the canopy of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.

Costa Rican Friends were founded in 1951 by eleven Alabaman and Iowan Quaker families. They were fleeing the coming military-industrial complex in the United States.  Specifically, some of the Friends had refused to register for the first peacetime draft and had been imprisoned.  They were also drawn by the Costa Rican government’s invitation to immigrants and by the abolishment of its army.  Travelling overland in trucks and oxcarts, led by Hubert Mendenhall, they settled in Monteverde in the northwest of the country.  Friends established farms and built a cheese factory.  Out of a concern to protect their watershed, they set aside large areas of the land.  Those areas grew into the massive Cloud Forest Reserve.  Nowadays the reserve is the focus of ecotourism, the main local business.

Monteverde Monthly Meeting numbers about 100 Friends. A small worship group in San Jose also gathers.  In 1951 a Friends School was created to serve both Quaker and non-Quaker students.  In 1983 the Centro de Amigos para la Paz, a peace center in San Jose, was founded. The CAP engages in a number of projects: conflict resolution programs with Alternatives to Violence; human rights investigations and observers for elections in Honduras; efforts to increase awareness about the struggle of the Palestinian people; the Casa Hostel Ridgeway for international travelers; the Finca la Bella, a community farming project, with Quaker Earthcare Witness; and the Monteverde Institute, an education and research center, with local people. Over the years Friends have intermarried with Spanish and Indian Costa Ricans, and there is a close relationship with the Catholic Church.

Costa Rican Friends practice various arts. Living in a remote place without theaters or cultural centers, they first provided their own entertainment.  Family nights, moved around to various houses, took place, and later coffehouses were organized.  Community plays and musicals were put on.  Square-dancing on Saturday nights at the Meetinghouse, with the Guindon family as callers, has long been a tradition.  Some Friends are painters or storytellers.  Quaker artists and craftspeople offer their works in art galleries in downtown Monteverde.  The Friends School teaches the arts.  In the 1990’s Quakers helped create the Monteverde Music Festival, first featuring classical music and later expanding to many genres.  And during the fundraising efforts for the 60th anniversary of the Friends School, Young Friends played in the canopy.  Here is a link to Morning Melodies at the Children’s Eternal Rainforest:

http://www.monteverde60th.org/

Elizabeth Hooton

Elizabeth Hooton (1600-72) was an early Friends minister. The leader of a group of General Baptists, she met George Fox in 1647 and became a mentor to him. She was the first person to join Fox in the Quaker movement as well as the first Quaker woman minister. Her gift for performing healing miracles was hootonletterwell-known. As a member of the Valiant Sixty, she travelled widely in central England and the Americas. Hooton was jailed in Derby, York and Lincoln for preaching Quakerism, suffering deeply from her imprisonments. In Massachusetts, by then elderly, she was stripped to the waist, tied to the back of a cart and whipped through the villages. She was also put in stocks, beaten, jailed and left in the forest to die. On her last visit to America, with George Fox, she died in Jamaica.

Hooton published the pamphlets False Prophets and False Teachers Described; To the King and Both Houses of Parliament; and A Short Relation Concerning William Simpson. She wrote what was perhaps the first Quaker document, a letter in 1651 to the Mayor of Derby telling him about her imprisonment in Derby jail and asking for justice.  Seventy-nine of her letters survive, a few addressed to King Charles II. Some of the letters contain eloquent passages.

A vibrant spirit, Hooton was greatly influential in the opening among Friends about the equality of women.

(Above is a letter from Hooton to Fox).

February 2017

Tony Biggin

Tony Biggin, a British Friend, is a composer of classical music.  A long-time tonybigginteacher, he has maintained a commitment to music education and has created several works for youth music theater.  A concern for peace and justice has also sparked several of his pieces.  The Gates of Greenham, considered to be his major work, was created with Alec Davison, his long-time collaborator, as the librettist.  He has composed several other pieces, including The Cry of the Earth; Child of Light; Requiem; The Peace Pudding Songbook; and Quest of the Golden Eye.  The Living Spirit is an exploration in song of Meeting for Worship.  The Fire and the Hammer describes the early life of women'speacecampGeorge Fox.  Biggin has worked with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; and the Manchester Camerata.  For several years he was musical director of Cantor Ltd., a recording studio and music lab.  He has been Head of Music at Edge Hill University and was Director of the East Sussex Music Service.

The Gates of Greenham is an oratorio for orchestra, chorus, soloists and narrators.  The work is dedicated to the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common, the American cruise missile base in Berkshire, England, a camp in which many Quaker women participated.  The music is rendered in seventeen movements, from “Mystery” to “We Have Won Through”.  Its text includes conversations, article extracts, Quaker writings and Biblical quotes.  A brief period of silence follows the conclusion of the piece.  Premiered in 1985 at the Royal Festival Hall, it featured the London Philharmonic Orchestra; the Quaker Festival Chorus; soloists Eiddwen Harrhy, Margaret Cable, Wynford Evans and Henry Herford; and narrators Barry Wilsher and Sheila Hancock.  (Wilsher and Hancock are Friends).  The largest gathering of British Quakers in history attended the concert.  It was subsequently performed in Sheffield, Manchester, Leiden and Utrecht, the latter performance broadcast on Dutch television.  In 1986 a recording was made by Sain Records.  The record included instructions about how to make Sadako’s paper crane for peace.

The Gates of Greenham, with which I am most familiar, is a rousing and moving work.  A fitting piece of art for the magnificient Women’s Peace Camp.  Highly recommended.

Below are links to a Gates of Greenham excerpt; a Women’s Peace Camp article; and a Women’s Peace Camp video.

The Gates of Greenham: http://www.tonybiggin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Cam-copyright-copy-1.mp3

Women’s Peace Camp article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenham_Common_Women’s_Peace_Camp

The Women’s Peace Camp video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMdrXW72jaw

January 2017