The Widdershins

Activist/Historical Wednesday: The Importance of Being Quaker

Posted on: April 3, 2013

Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott

[ACTIVIST WEDNESDAY NOTE: Bad news, Widdershins – two good candidates have first entered, then exited, the race against rabid woman-hater Bob Marshall in Virginia. I am really upset that no one has the ovaries or cojones to take this Turd Blossom WannaBe on. I have no idea what ActBlue will do with my $50, but I sure hope it’s not too late for someone to step up!!]

Good Wednesday, Widdershins. It’s time for another installment of Activist/Historical Wednesday! Today, our topic is religion – in particular, Quakerism.

Before beginning my recent studies, I had no idea how important American Quakers were to the civil rights movements in our country. Although Quakers are not prominent or numerous today, in the early-to-mid-19th century, the religion was a hotbed of liberal activism, due to its emphasis on equal rights for all. Unfortunately, women belong to other Christian religions were not so fortunate.

Religion was a major factor in American life that also served to reinforce women’s inferior status. It played a dominant role in early new England, where religious dissenters like the Puritans wielded enormous influence in colonial communities…Religion was at the core of life in America, whether organized or not, for a strong belief in God and the afterlife helped to offset the uncertainties of colonial life and the ever-present fear of death. It provided a sense of order and community…Communities held ministers in high esteem and considered them arbiters of moral authority…Women were especially pious, and they soon began to outnumber men as churchgoers, making up as much as three-fourths of all congregants in some churches by the mid-eighteenth century. The messages articulated by clergymen in their sermons and religious tracts articulated the ideal: that women were to be virtuous, pious, obedient, and submisive but, at the same time, strong and hard-working — “good wives,” as the historian Laura Ulrich has described New England women.

–from Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement,
Chapter 1

Quaker women, however, had many advantages over women from other religions, which prepared them first for the anti-slavery movement, and then for the blossoming of the women’s movement. Quaker women could be ministers; were not required to use the word “obey” in their marriage vows; and suffered no prohibitions against speaking in public. One of the most powerful and influential women’s activists of the First Wave was, in fact, the Quaker minister Lucretia Coffin Mott. Renowned for her powers of persuasion, Lucretia was an abolitionist before she became passionate about women’s rights.  Being a female reformer was not an easy path, even though she enjoyed the support of family and friends, unlike many of her sisters.

Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Mott and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home and Black institutions and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. As a friend redirected the mob, Mott waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.[3]

It was through her anti-slavery activities that Lucretia met Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The two attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in England (Elizabeth was on her honeymoon) and were roused into anger by their unfair treatment by many of the male participants, who voted to segregate the scandalous wimminz into their own curtained-off section of the hall. After this inspiring yet infuriating episode, Elizabeth and Lucretia began germinating the idea for the Seneca Falls Convention.

Another famous Quaker women’s rights activist was Susan B. Anthony. She, too, was raised in an atmosphere of equality, and her parents emphasized the importance of education for women. (In fact, she was a teacher for many years.) Like others, Susan cut her activist teeth on the anti-slavery and temperance movements. However, she soon began to realize that those with scary ladyparts, no matter how brilliant and eager, were not universally welcomed.

She devoted her first reform efforts to anti-slavery and to temperance, the campaign to curb alcohol. But when she rose to speak in a temperance convention, she was told, “The sisters were not invited here to speak!” Anthony promptly enlisted in the cause of women’s rights.

Susan ended up becoming an agnostic, but her early exposure to egalitarian Quaker beliefs was a key factor in her development as an activist.

At Seneca Falls, a quarter of the signatories of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments were Quaker. However, it is fascinating to note that the part about female suffrage was nearly left out due to this otherwise enlightened group’s objections. Some felt that Quakers should not participate in politics in general; others, that men adequately represented women at the ballot box, and thus, women did not need the franchise. Even stalwart Lucretia Mott was not fully supportive of the demand for the women’s vote, stating worriedly to her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Why, Lizzie, thee will make us ridiculous.” (Challenging Years: The Memoirs of Harriot Stanton Blatch, New York: Putnam, 1940, p. 106)

Yes, even Quakerism had its limits when it came to fully and completely supporting women’s rights. But at the time, Quakers were, by far, the best of a very bad Christian bunch. Do you want to guess how many Catholics signed the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments?


This is an open thread.


16 Responses to "Activist/Historical Wednesday: The Importance of Being Quaker"

ActBlue update – I got a $25 check back from the 2nd candidate who dropped out in the race against Bob Marshall. So now ActBlue only has $25 of my money.

Mother Jones was also scornful if woman;s sufferage

@2 – HAHAHAHA, I would like to see that get by even this Supreme Court.

@3 – There were many, many others as well.

I wish that women’s history and civics were taught in elementary schools everywhere – fat chance in today’s climate. I don’t know how to conteract the influence of male controlled culture on a broad scale any other way. Sure I like all of you educate our children – both biological or any that came within our purview, but without public education we could lose the battle. Even with public education, the assholes have figured out that they only have to get elected to the board to influence the direction of education through curriculum and most importantly teaching textbooks. hence dinosaurs and jesus. My sister as a school trusteed for 30 years. Every single year she had to fight against assholes who wanted to forget history and forge ahead with religious propaganda. Every – single – year. I know there are fewer as time goes by, but why couldn’t it have happened in my lifetime? After all it’s been over 100 years.

MB — me lovin’ a big lot of these posts — thanks, this is great education.

@2 and 4 — I’m so freaking tired of all these “feather dusters for brains” conservo-droids who proclaim the 10th Amendment is the cure for everything they don’t like. The 10th Amendment is nothing more than the vestigial tail of the Constitution — added on to assuage the laggardly states. Speaking of vestigial tails — it is the crazies like Rick Perry who promote this type of hooha — isn’t there some uninhabited U.S. territory where we can send these people? I’m sure there are some uninhabited Aleutian outcroppings where we can send them — they could protect us from Kim Jong Un’s swimming invasion.

MB@1: Hey at least you got half back. They’ll consider the other half a donation for a future candidate.

I’m sure there are some uninhabited Aleutian outcroppings where we can send them — they could protect us from Kim Jong Un’s swimming invasion.

Sounds good to me. Hey wingnuts: Prove your patriotism by being on guard for the evil Kim and his minions!

Bob Mann has some advice for lil Bobby:

Since 1996, “Governor” is the only title you’ve held for more than three years (Louisiana DHH secretary, 1996-98; ULL System president, 1999-2001; assistant U.S. HHS secretary, 2001-03; and U.S. House, 2005-08).

Time to get some fresh air, Bobby. Tell us all how you want to spend more time with your family. Go off and write another book (Leadership and Crisis, Vol. II: How I Ignored the Bayou Corne Sinkhole). Get a weekend show on Fox.

Then, you can start running for president 24/7 without having to suffer through those distasteful Advocate editorials about how often you’re out of town.

No more budget crises. No more helicopter trips on Sunday morning to Jonesboro where you must pretend you’re a Baptist.

Oh yes Bobby, follow that sage advice! Also a commenter wrote: Yes Piyush, do the Palin. Just do it!

Prolix, HT, Fredster – I have long been a fan of sending the religiously insane and toxically ignorant to an island, where they can all “Lord of the Flies” themselves to death. I really think there is no other way to get rid of them.

Well, actually, there is one weapon – ridicule – but the only Democrats who seem to be willing to use it are Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Everyone else seems to be cowering in terror of teh Jeebus freaks and their wide-eyed, zombie-like insistence on doing things exactly the wrong way, every time, in every possible instance..

MB@10: Yeah, it’s sad no one wants to stand up to them to just ask “Are you nuts”? (but in a kind and loving manner) 😉

@11 – Bless their hearts!

But seriously…kind and loving didn’t stop the Nazis. It won’t stop the religiously insane either. They are cut from the same cloth, trying to impose a hateful “morality” on the world and severly punish or kill those who don’t want to obey.

Mb@12: That’s why I’m hoping (and I know I keep going on and on) that the poll that was taken in La. shows that finally people are starting to wake up. What Jindal has done there, cutting health care to the bone, cutting higher ed by almost half a billion dollars, giving practically carte blanche to the charter crowd and now that sales tax swap, I think people there are finally saying “no this isn’t what we wanted”. Since his reelection as guv he has followed the ALEC/Koch Bros line of how to kill government.

A repub congressman has announced he’s going to run against Mary Landrieu for her Senate seat and there are a couple of others who may do the same. On in the comments after the news article there were sooo many comments such as “no way..not another Republican.”, “he hasn’t accomplished anything; all he can do is say no like all the other republcians”, etc. So maybe…just maybe people are finally starting to wake up.

Dude you are obsessed! LOL

Madamab – an island is a great idea as long as there was no way they could get out. Lord of the Zealots would be good name. I have to admit – I know that its a very small proportion of the population, however it has learned to mobilize and is gaining power regardless of their population ratio because the majority of the populace do not vote! If the majority got off their ass and voted, these people would have been well past their best before date. As it stands today, it scares me to death. We’ve had homophobia and slurs gaining traction (I suspect because we allowed Fox to pollute our airwaves). One couple in Morris Manitoba decided to close their restaurant because of homophobic slurs from a group of people – they didn’t want it publicized because they felt that most of the people in Morris were supporters, but once one of their customers approached CBC about the story they wanted to ensure outsiders that not all Morris residents were bigots and it was a good place. they just couldn’t continue to live there. How bloody sad is that?
Then we have a member of parliament introducing a bill to outlaw abortion.
Abortion – Supreme Court decision here 1988
Same Sex Marriage – Supreme Court decision 2004.

These religious fanaticists never give up. They just keep gnawing away, and honestly unless the people who need to get out and vote are not energized to do so, both our countries will be ruled by those who do.

BTW – our last election (2011) was a majority for the Conservative party. The majority consisted of 38% of votes cast, which sounds not so bad considering we have 6 parties, however the percentage of votes cast to the number of eligible voters was 49%. That means that today we have a government that was elected by 36% or so of the populace. I’m more than sure that is exactly what is happening there. That’s what scares the hell out of me.

Dude you are obsessed! LOL

I know, but he’s taken the state that I love, with all its faults, and just ruined it. 👿
It’s going to take a decade at least to try to undo what he has done and all for his own selfish reasons. Little bastard,.

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