Society of Friends

Alternative names
Active 1688
Active 1937

History notes:

The Society of Friends (or 'Quakers') was formed by George Fox (1624-1691), a shoemaker from Nottingham. In the 1640s Fox travelled throughout England delivering sermons in which he argued that individuals could have direct access to God without the need for churches, priests or other aspects of the established Church. Fox's followers became known as the 'Friends of Truth' and later the 'Society of Friends'. Fox developed rules for the management of meetings, which were printed as 'Friends Fellowship' in 1668, and yearly meetings were instituted in 1669. Members refused to attend Anglian services, leading to Fox's arrest, and the persecution of the Society under Charles II. However, the movement continued to grow, spreading to other parts of the British Isles and to the American colonies. In 1681 the American Quaker Colony of Pennsylvania was established by William Penn. During the eighteenth century the Society argued for the abolition of slavery and formed the Peace Society to campaign for the end of war.

From the guide to the Society of Friends: Letters and Papers, 1668-1814, (Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives)

The Society of Friends (Quakers) is a religious sect founded in England in 1647. The first Quaker meetings in Indiana took place in 1809. In 1827-28 the Friends split into the Orthodox and Hicksite branches. After 1828 most Indiana Quakers attended Orthodox meetings. Quakers were among the leading opponents to slavery in the United States and after the Civil War were prominent in efforts to educate and care for free slaves. Other Quaker concerns include Native American rights, women's rights, prison reform, and world peace.

From the description of Records, 1803-1962. (Indiana Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 49668023

The Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) was a Protestant denomination that arose in England in the mid-17th century. The Society was founded by George Fox, a Nottingham shoemaker turned preacher, who emphasized inward apprehension of God, without creeds, clergy, or other ecclesiastical forms. The movement grew rapidly after 1650 but its members were often persecuted or imprisoned for rejecting the state church and refusing to pay tithes or swear oaths. Nevertheless, by 1660, there were 20,000 converts. Persecution continued, and many quakers emigrated to America, where they found toleration in Rhode Island and in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, which was chartered by Charles II under the sponsorship of William Penn in 1681. Marks that became characteristic of Quakerism were plain speech and dress, pacifism, and opposition to slavery.

From the guide to the Society of Friends (family records), 1769-1850, (Senate House Library, University of London)

Quakerism in Yorkshire took hold at the beginning of the Quaker movement, partly because John Fox travelled and preached through the North and East Ridings between 1651 and 1652 before being welcomed at Swarthmoor Hall, the house of Judge Fell in Cumbria. Quakers organised into local groups of worshippers called Particular or Preparative Meetings with area or Monthly Meetings as the main local administrative unit which was responsible for matters of membership. Regional Meetings called Quarterly Meetings were also held with a Yearly Meeting in London bringing all together. In East Yorkshire, there was the Holderness Monthly Meeting (later Owstwick Monthly Meeting) which comprised in 1669 of the Particular Meetings of Owstwick, East End (Welwick), Paull, Sutton, Hull and Hornsea. There was also the Elloughton Monthly Meeting (later changed to Cave Monthly Meeting) and North Wolds Monthly Meeting (later Bridlington Monthly Meeting). Along with eleven others they made up the total Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting (Rigby, `Quakers and their records', pp.8-9; Fletcher, `Quakerism in East Yorkshire', chpt.1).

From early in the history of Quakerism, records of membership, marriages, births, deaths and burials were kept and some of the earliest records held by the Brynmor Jones Library are from the 1660s for Scarborough. However, the bulk of Quakers records held for East Yorkshire date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Minutes tend to take the form of democratically-agreed decisions taken by local worship groups. The records also reflect the rise and decline of local groups as well as mergers and Quaker involvement in local issues, most particularly education and the setting up of Quaker-run schools (Rigby, `Quakers and their records', pp.8-9; Fletcher, `Quakerism in East Yorkshire', chpt.1).

From the guide to the Records of the Society of Friends (Quakers), East Yorkshire, 1669-1993, (Hull University, Brynmor Jones Library)


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  • Society of Friends England Yorkshire History
  • Marriage--Society of Friends--19th century
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