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

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  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.”:

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