Phillips, Catharine Payton, 1727-1794

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Catherine Phillips, born Payton (16 March 1727 – 16 August 1794) was a Quaker Minister, who travelled in England, Wales, Scotland, Holland and the American colonies. Her first name is sometimes spelt "Catharine".

Payton was born at Dudley, Worcestershire, the daughter of Henry Payton (1671–1746), and his second wife, Ann (c.1673–1774), daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Fowler of Evesham. She did not attend school until her late teens but studied and read widely, at home, but she decided that poetry, philosophy, and history were distracting her from religion. She spent much time reading to her paralysed father.

She was recognised as a Minister at Dudley Meeting around 1748. Her travels in Ireland included those with Mary Peisley in Ireland in 1751. She converted Samuel Neale who was to an important Quaker minister and (later) Peisley's husband.

A theme of Payton's approach was her advocacy of an even greater role for women within Quakerism and she wanted the church to change its structures to allow this. At an annual London meeting, she, Mary Peisley and four others proposed that a separate women's group should be formed with the Quakers. This was accepted, but not until 1784.

She travelled to America in 1753–1756 with Mary Peisley. They rode 8,000 miles (13,000 km) "often through thinly inhabited country, braving dangerous creeks, swamps, and wild animals", visiting North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New England, and Pennsylvania. During their tour Peisley noted a "low state of discipline" among Quakers in America, and saw a need for reformation. Her letters and records of this journey "were to be seen 70 years later as prophesying the separations that took place within the Religious Society of Friends in 1827 and 1828".

On 17 March 1757 Peisley married Samuel Neale. Peisley died three days later. Payton had met William Phillips, a copper agent and widower, in 1749 and she married him in 1772, when she moved to his home in Redruth, Cornwall.

She died on 16 August 1794 and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground, Come-to-Good, in the parish of Kea, near Truro. Her stepson, James Phillips, a Quaker printer, published her Memoirs and some other writing after her death. James's sons, Richard Phillips (1778–1851) and William Phillips (1775–1828) were Fellows of the Royal Society.

Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Boswell, James, 1740-1795 person
correspondedWith Churchman, John, 1705-1775 person
acquaintanceOf Emlen, Samuel, 1730-1799 person
acquaintanceOf Jones, Rebecca, 1739-1817 person
acquaintanceOf Neale, Mary, 1717-1757 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Women clergy
Society of Friends
Society of Friends--Clergy
Lay ministry--Society of Friends
Women clergy


Birth 1727-03-27

Death 1794




Ark ID: w61s7fx6

SNAC ID: 85494194