Famous Quakers.


The Ironbridge.

My Quaker pages:

My Quaker pages (see list below) are a tribute to Quakers who have made an impact upon history or are still living and are well known in society. They are not comprehensive and I plan to add further information as time allows...

Quakers believe that each person in the world is of equal worth. I don't intend to suggest that anyone listed on these pages is better than those of us who are not famous, but I think that through their examples it may be possible to see the contribution made by Quakers in many different fields.

Some of the people listed were not or are not practising Friends, although they were born into Quaker families. I have included these people because it is difficult to be clear about the extent of someone's faith, especially if we have limited information about their life. They all represent a wide spectrum of humanity with different gifts.

My pages are listed as an external link on Wikipedia, which has a List of Quakers index page here.

Other resources about Quakers (otherwise known as The Society of Friends):

The Quaker History Blog:

This is an occasional blog to express some of my thoughts about issues that relate to some of the people whom I have listed.

Quakers have been at the forefront of social change and peacemaking for centuries and have been involved in many initiatives promoting social justice. Ideas which many people now take for granted as common sense were once radical, and campaigning for the abolition of slavery or humane treatment of prison inmates, or the right to conscientious objection to military service, had to start somewhere. Without the support of Quakers, the Kindertransport which saved many children from Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1940s would not have succeeded. I feel proud that I was brought up in an organisation which for over 350 years had led the way in these issues. In our own times, the campaign for equality for same-sex couples was initiated by several faith groups, including Quakers. If we are behind an idea, it usually comes to pass in the end. The promotion of peaceful solutions to international conflict, education in non-violent strategies for conflict resolution in prisons and in youth work, even the political will for the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland, have had input and leadership from Quaker organisations.

Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King and the March on Washington (December 2013).

I was stimulated to write this blog by the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963, organised by the Civil Rights movement headed by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Watching a documentary on the BBC, I was reminded that the driving force behind this march was Bayard Rustin, a Quaker who advised Dr King and inspired the organisers. Bayard Rustin also worked with Gandhi's movement in India (whose ideas were also inspired by Quakers). He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by Barack Obama in August 2013.

The March on Washington was widely supported by political radicals, including well-known musicians such as Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez, who sang 'We Shall Overcome', and Peter, Paul and Mary who sang 'If I had a Hammer', and Bob Dylan. Hollywood stars such as Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis, Shelley Winters, Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, were also present on the march.

The link with Abraham Lincoln is fascinating. The Civil Rights movement was the legacy of Lincoln's legislation on emancipation of black people, and his efforts towards the abolition of slavery in the USA. The March on Washington rally was held in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC., and this location is crucial to the inspiring images that we remember when we think about Martin Luther King's speech 'I have a dream'. Lincoln was from a Quaker family, and his inspiration for justice may have come from his background.

As Quakers, we know the difference between the existing law or the customs and norms of society and what we believe to be right. Some would say it's the difference between God's law and human laws, and Quakers have a tradition of challenging and even deliberately breaking unjust laws. In terms of what Martin Luther King as his movement were trying to achieve, most people in the 21st century would agree that their cause was obviously right. The oppression of black Americans in the decades prior to the early 1960s was unjust and horrific, and although social justice is still not what we would like it to be, the Civil Rights movement then made some great strides forward.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

John Bright's Bicentenary (2011).

John Bright (1811-1889) was a British statesman and member of Parliament in Britain from 1843-1882. He worked within the government to repeal the Corn Laws and opposed what he saw as unjust laws and government policies. A man of principle, he also campaigned for universal suffrage and was a prime mover in bringing about fairer voting laws in Britain. He opposed slavery and was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln's policies for the abolition of slavery, even though the boycott of cotton imports from the USA affected his own family's cotton business and his workers. A statue of John Bright stands in Albert Square in Manchester, in front of the Town Hall, there are also statues in Birmingham where he was member of parliament and in Rochdale, where he was born.

John Bright shared two things with my great-great grandfather Samuel Hunter, Quakerism and the cotton trade. Both men were born in Rochdale in Lancashire and they both attended the same Quaker Meeting. John was buried in the Quaker Burial Ground at Rochdale, and his grave is marked with a plain headstone in the manner of Friends.

See the page on Quakers and Politics for links on John Bright.

Celebrating the 350th Anniversary (2002).

The year 2002 was the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Friends in 1652 by George Fox, and the new British banknote with Elizabeth Fry's image was issued. Read about the five pound note here.

The 1959 edition of 'Christian Faith and Practice', the book of discipline of the Society of Friends, contained an introduction to its opening chapter which has become much loved amongst Friends, as much for the charm of its language as for its content. We would not now write such a passage, with its heavy emphasis on men, and with women being remembered for 'the beauty of their person as well as character'. This passage illustrates the reasons why such a catalogue of well-known Quakers might be useful...

'The Society of Friends might be thought of as a prism through which the Divine Light passes, to become visible in a spectrum of many colours; many more, in their richness, than words alone can express.

'George Bradshaw made railway time-tables to the glory of God, John Bellows made dictionaries, Daniel Quare made clocks; but these we cannot quote. The labourer in the fields, the housewife sweeping her room, the faithful tradesman, have left few memorials. Scholars like Thomas Hodgkin, Frederic Seebohm and Rendel Harris have their memorials elsewhere. No voice speaks here for the long line of scientists that began before John Dalton, and stretches on after Arthur S Eddington. Let no one think, because we have omitted them, that we could forget the Quaker seamen: Robert Fowler, Thomas Chalkley, Paul Cuffee, and all their gallant band. There is no word from the masters of industry the Darbys of Coalbrookdale, Richard Reynolds, Joseph Rowntree or George Cadbury; or from those pioneers of social protest - John Lilburne the Leveller, John Bellers, Peter Bedford or Alfred Salter of Bermondsey. Here are no pictures of the women whom we remember for the beauty of their person as well as character -Gulielma Penn and Esther Tuke; or such glorious old men as William Tuke (who in his sixties founded York Retreat) or Theophilus Waldmeier (who in his sixties founded the Lebanon Hospital); or our children James Parnell, little Mary Saturn, and those who kept the meeting while their elders lay in gaol.

'Even of the ministers there are few enough: George Fox, but not Richard Farnsworth, that 'man of parts and Champion for the Truth'; John Woolman, but not Anthony Benezet; Stephen Grellet, but not his friend and travelling companion, William Allen; Elizabeth Fry, but not Deborah Darby who foretold her career of mercy. We have shown persecution endured and overcome in seventeenth century England and New England, but not in nineteenth-century Norway or twentieth-century Germany. Though the field of Quaker concern has stretched across the world, we have had for the most part to stay at home, naming but one or two of a great company beyond seas. If we could have shown Rachel Metcalfe mothering her orphans from her invalid chair; or George Swan, the boy from the fairground, playing his concertina through the villages of India - if only we could have shown them all!

'But then in honesty we should have had to reveal also the extent of our failure; the light dimmed in narrow hearts and creeds, the baptism of grace lost in timidity and torpor, the corrosion of arrogance and self-satisfaction - for we have known these, too. May the light prevail over the darkness; may those who are here speak for all the children of the Light, to the needs of other times as well as to their own.'

Home.

free hit counter