The Oppression of Prophecy: Quaker Women in Late Seventeenth Century Yorkshire: Writings by Judith Boulbie and Mary Waite, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Amy Enright
Introduction to A Testimony for Truth against all Hireling-Priests and Deceivers . . . . 1655; A Warning to all Friends who Professeth the Everlasting Truth . . . .Enright, Amy
The English civil war began as a heated argument over the nature of monarchy among the male ruling elite. Once ignited, the fire of rebellion, fanned by the winds of social and religious reform, grew beyond all expectations. The subsequent popular movements which occurred during the Interregnum (1642-1660) were characterized by their challenge to traditional hierarchy, for the battlefields of seventeenth-century English revolt were not only material but ideological. Ironically, both conservatives and radicals looked to the Bible for inspiration and affirmation. On the one hand, Christian scripture associated rebellion with sin. The extremist vocabulary of the Reformation continued to inform perceptions about authority and society; any threat to ecclesiastical hierarchy must be the work of Satan's legions. On the other hand, The English Bible, authorized by King James I, had been officially distributed in 1611 and, in it, popular movements found the grounds to challenge ungodly monarchy and oppressive social structure. Thus, the middle decades of the seventeenth century were a time of unprecedented conflict and experimentation in English government and society.
Following the death of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, in 1658, the last remnants of political consensus deteriorated and the Commonwealth government failed. Fear of anarchy brought about a conservative backlash which contributed to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and continued throughout the reign of Charles II. The Quakers, a successful religious sect, sixty thousand strong in 1660, were particularly targeted for persecution because of their radicalism in both political and religious circles. In The Quakers and the English Revolution, Barry Reay concludes that the Quakers were understood to be "identifiable remnants of the excesses of the Interregnum." 1 The Quakers were politically radical in the sense that many of them had served in Cromwell's army. Through their religious platform, they continued to espouse the egalitarian cause associated with the military's Levellers, who had called for universal male suffrage. They were socially radical in the sense that they "cast aside the hegemony of the elite and threatened all social conventions."2 They refused to engage in the social activities that bolstered human authority: the swearing of civil oaths, the doffing of the hat and the use of the formal personal pronoun directed to citizens of higher social rank.
Worse yet, the Quakers drew their religious practices and theology from the most radical of the Interregnum sects. In "Women and the Civil War Sects," Keith Thomas offers a comprehensive list of sectarian characteristics.
Many Quaker beliefs and practices, including the in-dwelling of the spirit, along with their anti-clerical and anti-hierarchical behavior, flowed from past radical traditions.4 In the early 1650's, George Fox, an ex-army officer and religious sectarian, received a series of revelations from which he understood that salvation from sin was open to all people if they would be redeemed by God's "light of truth" within them. Scripture and even knowledge of Jesus were incidental to the power of God made manifest in the human heart. During the early years of the decade Fox traveled throughout the North and West of England, preaching and converting those sympathetic to radical religion.
Fox's adherents frequently met in silence, waiting upon the spontaneous prompting of the spirit within them before speaking. In contrast to their Puritan neighbors, they believed that the introspective inner light could search and burn out all hidden sins. The process of unrelenting introspection could be accompanied by shaking (hence the name Quaker), crying, groaning, collapsing, and other outward signs of the struggle within. Once this agonizing victory of spirit over human nature had been accomplished, Quakers held themselves to be fully redeemed. Fox understood human perfection to be attainable, for he experienced a vision in which "All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, so that I say I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell."5
The redemption of the world would necessarily follow the Quakers' own inner transformation. The Quakers conceived of themselves as the true people of God, sent to overturn the world and lead the righteous community towards salvation before the arrival of the end of the world on Judgment Day. They styled themselves as vital cogs in history's machinery; in the 'latter days' of the seventeenth-century, they were the second apostles. The concept that God's truth was universal, that every human heart could receive it, had two consequences. First, it spurred the Quakers on in an aggressive campaign of conversion. Every human being urgently needed to be saved by the inner light; therefore, the Quakers spread the gospel by means of charismatic preaching and symbolic action. One example of these living metaphors is the Quaker practice of "going naked for a sign." In order to convict a city of moral nakedness, individual Quakers, usually but not necessarily men, were occasionally lead by the spirit to strip publicly. The second consequence of universal Truth was the equality of all believers. Quakers emphasized the inner spirit of each believer rather than the outward trappings of gender or class. A tract on authority in the "Outward Creation," states that "...the power and image and spirit of God is of the same authority in the female as in the male..."6 Like other sects of the Interregnum, Quakers allowed women to preach and prophecy, a phenomenon which was itself a biblical sign that God's coming and the end of the world were at hand. Between1658-9, in reaction to the bleak political situation, the Quakers increased their proselytizing activities by waging a "Lamb's War," a conquest of England by the Holy Spirit. Prompted by their own victory over internal sin and attainment of Perfection, they followed the "leadings" of God and continued to preach repentance in the markets, churches, and city streets of England.7
However disturbing their interruption of church services and public preaching, Reay argues that, during the initial panic preceding the Restoration, the Quaker refusal to pay tithes, accompanied as it was by petitions full of thousands of names, was their most threatening characteristic. The petitions implied widespread political organization against the Anglican Church and this spurred the conservative reaction against radicalism to the point where many English began to "look to the monarchy as the only salvation from social and religious anarchy."8 In this ideologically-charged atmosphere, the king's return in May of 1660 was viewed by the conservative majority as divine deliverance. As William Brownsword, the Presbyterian vicar of Kendal, proclaimed in a sermon welcoming Charles, 'God is blasting our Phanatick enemies; and we are in a way to the Religious as well as Civil settlement.'9
The Restoration, from the Quaker point of view, "marked the nadir of their expectations for toleration, the abolition of tithes, and law reform."10 The government and authorities were actively hostile to Quakers during the 1660's as the specifically anti-sectarian legislature of the decade demonstrates. Clergy ejected from their churches during the Interregnum were restored to them in 1660. The Corporation Act of 1661required that all Englishmen swear oaths of allegiance and supremacy in order to hold civic office. The Act of Uniformity which followed the next year demanded the conformity of all schoolmasters and clergy to the liturgy of the Anglican Church. Also announced in 1662,the Quaker Act declared that anyone who refused to swear an oath or who met with five or more other Quakers was liable to a five or ten pound fine, three to six months in prison, or transportation to the colonies. The First Conventicles Act in 1664 made it illegal for any person aged sixteen or over to attend a meeting of five or more people without an Anglican Prayer Book present. A third offense against this Act could result in fines of one hundred pounds or transportation for seven years. A Second Conventicles Act, passed in 1670, rendered the prior Act perpetual and greatly increased the fines. Interestingly, constables guilty of failing to enforce the Act were now subject to fines. Finally, the Five Mile Act of1665, forbid ministers ejected under the Uniformity Act from coming within five miles of their former parishes.11 These laws, also known as the Clarendon Code, greatly affected the Quaker communities, for they outlawed the behaviors that defined Quakerism. It is estimated that between 1655 and 1670, 450 Quakers died in prison, 15,000 were jailed, and 243 were transported to penal colonies.12 A majority of radical Quakers died young in prison.13 Of the original male leaders, only George Fox, George Whitehead and William Dewsbury survived the 1660's.
Unlike other sects, the Quakers continued their activities in the face of persecution. Their refusal to swear oaths, pay tithes, or acknowledge social rank, as well as their persistence in meeting together publicly, brought them before the authorities repeatedly. When leaders were imprisoned, the meetings carried on without them. VisionaryWomen: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England, Phyllis Mack relays an incident during which officials interrupted a Reading meeting whose membership included only four women and three children. One of the women exemplified the Quaker attitude to persecution in her response to the arresting officer.
The Quakers survived under the heel of the government but the persecutions took their toll on the community. Mack reports that "Friends' private letters reveal moods of depression and exhaustion, moods that were largely absent from their earlier ecstatic prose."15 Even Elizabeth Hooten, Fox's first convert and fellow-preacher, wrote to him in 1677, "I do truly acknowledge that my mind hath been burdened, and oppressed oft times more than I can express..."16 The Quaker community continued to grow throughout their time of tribulation, for though the earlier period characterized by freedom of movement, fiery public preaching, and mass conversion was on the wane, they succeeded in forging new expressions of religious faith while struggling to maintain the old. In The Experience of Defeat, civil war historian Christopher Hill summarizes the events of these decades of transition: "Whether or not defeat is the right word, the Society of Friends was something very different after the Restoration from the loose body of Quakers which had existed before. Imposing the peace principle meant organizing, distinguishing, purging."17
One of the major aspects of Quaker experience altered by the Restoration was the role of Quaker women in both Quaker and English society. Radically religious Englishwomen were one of the primary targets of the conservative backlash. As Mack points out in her article "The Prophet and Her Audience: Gender and Knowledge in The World Turned Upside Down," female prophets were perceived as "both sign and symptom of social breakdown and political rebellion..."18 A key text for such a perception is Christian scripture; for example, the prophet Isaiah's sinful society is characterized by juvenile oppressors and ruling women. Female prophets were associated with the Interregnum's caesura of authority with good reason, for the sectarian environment in fact did facilitate their calling.
Women's prophesy was a defining characteristic of unauthorized religion. Mack argues effectively that, during the religious innovations of the civil war period, the nature of women as irrational, emotional, submissive, passive and ignorant was understood to lend itself to prophecy. By virtue of their weaknesses and passions, women were thought to be purer conduits than men for the words of God.19 Through female prophets are evident in the contemporary social consciousness, their status in society did not improve. The authority by which these women admonished neighbors, cities, and national leaders was perceived, by themselves as well as their audience, to flow not from themselves but from God. During the ideological and social chaos of the Interregnum, English society might have been willing to listen to a woman's voice, if they believed she foretold God's solution to their time of troubles. With the Restoration (which was itself a solution to England's troubles, as far as the majority was concerned) and the persecution of unauthorized religion, the idea that God spoke through women or through a member of the lower class was discredited. A contemporary limerick ran "Women preach and cobblers pray, the fiends in hell make holiday."20
Of the nearly three hundred women prophets identified during the civil war period, over two hundred and twenty were Quakers.21 The consensus of scholarship holds forth that, of all the radical sects, Quakerism offered women the most freedom of expression. While this may in fact be the case, it should be noted that the preponderance of Quaker documentation may have tipped the scales in its favor. Elaine Huber suggests that the opportunity for full participation, which included travel and preaching, the empowerment of the doctrine of Perfection, and the simplicity of inner spirituality (as opposed to Oxbridge theological training) may have attracted women to Quakerism.22 As prophets and preachers, women were an integral part of the mission that spread Fox's doctrine across England and beyond to Ireland, America, the Caribbean, and even as far as, by one woman's individual effort, the court of the Ottoman Sultan.
The persecution of the Restoration was especially harsh for Quaker women. Dorothy Ludlow argues that "Because of the widespread suspicion and fear of these "inner Light" advocates, women Friends were often condemned to humiliating public whippings and long, inhumane imprisonment. Never given to tergiversation and bold to the point of foolhardiness, these women brought down upon themselves the combined wrath of civiland religious leaders..."23 In The Weaker Vessel, Antonia Fraser echoes Ludlow's conclusions, suggesting that the public activity of the Quaker woman prophet played to society's worst prejudices concerning the uncontrolled female.24 Michael Galgano, a historian of Northern Englishwomen at the time of the Restoration, states that Quaker women received little sympathy from the surrounding community because their "strange behavior negated traditional feminine roles."25 Instead of passive conduits of God's word, Quaker women prophets were aggressive and self-righteous. Gender was, for them, a function of spiritual status. Quaker prophet Dorothy White wrote in 1662, "all, before they come into (preaching), must come unto silence, and so learn of Christ, the husband, the head of the woman, which is to keep silence: in the Church all flesh ought to be silenc'd, but he or she that is born of God, who are members of the same body...as this prophet speaketh, here the man speaketh, which is Christ in all."26 A decade earlier, Quaker Priscilla Cotton had explained, in her anti-clerical tract, that, in actuality, priests were women, by virtue of the fact that they should be forbidden to speak in church.27
Female prophets, in general, and Quaker women prophets, in particular, were under attack during the later seventeenth century in England. Under the barrage of legislative and physical hostility, unauthorized, female prophecy, with the important exceptions of Quaker women and female printers, was effectively silenced. During the Restoration, the mere presence of women prophets marked their communities for governmental repression. In order to survive, most radical sects suppressed their female members' abilities to preach and participate fully.28 Quaker women were among the few who sustained an active role, albeit altered, within their communities.
The changing role of Quaker women was accomplished against the backdrop of general transition, for, in reaction to the oppression of 1660's and 1670's, the Quaker community was adapting itself. While maintaining most of its own beliefs and practices, it changed to better fit within English society. The primary doctrinal tenets remained intact, though the Quakers, like their Puritan neighbors around them, lost their apocalyptic fervor as time progressed. With regard to social structure, the idea, which had been present from the inception of Quakerism, that the testimony of God's greatness might be given merely by exemplary living rather than through public preaching, became widely accepted. A certificate began to be required for preaching, which now occurred in a Quaker meeting-house rather than in the middle of the village green. Business meetings were instituted for men, and later, for women, to support and organize the community in the face of the hostile community.29 Quakers began to write down their visions and conversion stories, for persecution prevented their verbal delivery.30 A censorship board was created which edited many of the early documents and controlled the content of new tracts, omitting or censoring most political and apocalyptic discourse. Much has been written about this quietist trend in Quakerism, this transition from sect to denomination. Certainly the metamorphosis was total; for in the 1650's, Quakers were perceived of as fire-and-brimstone anarchists and by the eighteenth century they had begun to earn their modern reputation for model though pacifist citizenship. Quaker scholarship has generally condemned the post-Restoration transition. William Braithwaite summarized the changes, "Quakerism...began as a fellowship, thrilling with intense life, with the great purposes of God ringing in its ears and driving it forth to adventurous, if sometimes mistaken service, and later by...the accretions of habit, the stereotyping force of tradition, and the pressure of the outside world, it established a strong organization and lost something of its soul."31
The suppression of female spirituality was a contributing factor to Quakerisms' "loss of soul". Scholarly consensus understands Quakerism, like all Christian movements throughout history, to have ingratiated itself with temporal authority by restricting the role of its women members, that it might conform more closely to the external society's notion of womanhood. Like a sacrificial lamb, women's freedom of expression and movement was sacrificed for the freedom of the entire community. Certainly, this conclusion is accurate, for, Quaker women prophets were oppressed and suppressed by their own community in order to lessen the persecution of the Restoration period. For example, few women failed to obtain the new licenses necessary for preaching. Those who attempted to bypass the new bureaucratic system, by virtue of authority from God, were disciplined. When they were permitted to speak, women were advised to be brief, "no more words than the Lord requires." Women were restricted in their traveling missionary activities and young men and women were forbidden to travel together.32 After 1672, women's writings were frequently altered or rejected by the all-male censorship board. Those tracts by women that were published contained lengthy justifications and apologies for their writing, a conceit which did appear in the bold declarations of God's word in the earlier decades.33 By the 1670's, the familiar channels of religious expression were definitely closing to Quaker women. However, as Phyllis Mack points out in Visionary Women..., the oppression of women's prophecy is not the only story to be told concerning Restoration Quaker women.34
The bureaucratic structure introduced in the 1670's created a new arena for women, the women's meeting, even as it collapsed their former freedoms. While Quaker women was directed away from confrontation with the public, they were given the task of stabilizing the internal community in the face of persecution and, as Quakerism evolved, division. The women's meeting grew out of a need to care for the persecuted community. Before the meetings were formally instituted by Fox and his wife, Margaret Fell, in 1671,the women of the London community had been gathering at a Box-Meeting for more than ten years. Their meeting was so named because each participant contributed money to a box. The money was later spent to bring comfort to the many imprisoned Quakers or given to those left destitute by the fines of the Clarendon Code.35 Formal women's meetings throughout England and the colonies continued this nurturing work: caring for the sick, visiting the prisoners, and sustaining the persecuted.
Though Quaker women's new role as "mother of Israel" appeared to appease English conceptions of submissive womanhood, they were not without authority within their own community.36 Their meetings collected their own funds and administered them as they saw fit. Most importantly, women monitored and created Quaker culture. As the apocalypse failed to arrive, Quakers, like the early Christian church, were forced to establish procedures for marriage, child-rearing, and discipline. Respect for hierarchy and humility were the values to be stamped on all Quakers and, by virtue of their closer connection to family and children, women were to do the imprinting. Mature Quaker women also advised younger women in matters of spirituality and sociability. They cautioned those who associated with non-Quaker men, trying to prevent them from "marrying-out." Satisfactory marriage matches were actually approved by the Women's Meeting before they were allowed to move on to the general community for ratification. Fox described the new role accorded to Quaker women:
The transition from prophet to carer, as Maureen Bell and her coeditors of A Biographical Dictionary of English Women Writers term the social roles, did not entirely rob women of their authority and equality, but limited them to the internal community.38
The fact that women retained power can be demonstrated by the continuing discomfort concerning Women's Meeting on the part of some male Quaker leaders.39 The appropriate social role of women was a matter of continuing debate as part of a larger argument, for issues of authority and structure were to divide Quakers throughout the late seventeenth century. Women defended their project, claiming that they performed the services that knit the community together. Women purified, cleaned, and purged the community of all sin. In 1681, Katharine Whitton of Yorkshire drew a parallel between the management of a house and the cleaning and ordering of the inner self.40 In the same year, an Oxfordshire women's meeting cited the conversion of a drunkard as proof of their worth in God's eyes, "This...may...be sufficient to convince all questioners and opposers: that the Lord do own and justify our Godly care and Christian endeavors as well in our women's as in our men's meetings by the example aforesaid of this man who never was at such a meeting in all his life before."41 Women's meetings joined together, through correspondence, to produce a written testimony of God's favor and their good works.
An example of this genre of Quaker epistle is The Testimony for the Lord and his Truth prepared by the Women's Meeting of York during the summer of 1688.42 Women's concern for community and dispensation of practical advice are the pillars upon which the meeting stands. Addressed to their "friends and sisters, in their several monthly meetings, in this country and else where," the letter begins with a statement of purpose, "We, being met together in the fear of the Lord, to wait upon him for his ancient power, to order us, and...to guide us in our exercise relating to church affairs," and continues with an affirmation of God's presence at the meeting. "It hath pleased him to break among us in a glorious manner, to our great satisfaction, and he hath filled our meeting with his living presence, and crowned our assembly with his heavenly power.." The immediate effect of the outpouring of God's spirit was the opening of "the fountain of life" so that "streams of love" flowed between the women and the disclosure of testimonies to God's acceptance of their "sacrifices and free-will offerings." Following which, letters confirming the health of other women's meetings were shared and celebrated. They note that it is these letters which prompt their own writing for "there is as great need as ever to watch over one another for good" though active persecution is on the wane by 1688. The Yorkshire women advise their friends to make good use of the increased freedom and to remain vigilant against the sinful world. In one of the underlying themes of the letter, they warn against division within the Quaker community. The work of the devil is to "divide, rend, tear, destroy and separate" Quakers from one another and from God. In the effort to uphold unity in the face of corrosion and complacency, the women advise the other meetings to "be concerned for the preservation of one another in every of your respective monthly meetings, and be faithful in performing your service and duty to God, and to one another...." By this concern, "the very weakest, and the hindermost of the flock, may be gathered into the fold of rest and safety,..." At the close of the letter, the biblical models which are listed all reinforce the social role of the authoritative carer: be "as Lydia openhearted to God and one another, as Dorcas careful to do one another good, as Deborah concerned in the common wealth of Israel, and as Jael zealous for the truth..."
The last third of the epistle is concerned with advising young women, "whom our souls love,..." They are exhorted by their Yorkshire friends towards modest and chaste behavior, that they might be an example, not only to the larger community, but to other Quaker women as well. Secondly, young woman are recommended not to be concerned about marriage, for the moment, but to embrace God as all-important and wait for him to provide them with a husband. Only then, "will your marriage be honourable, being orderly accomplished with the assent of parents, and the unity of friends...." The letter ends with the another facet of their emphasis on community-building, "let the record be kept from month to month, and from year to year, of the Lord's dealing with us, and mercy to us, to future ages; that from age to age, and generation to another, his own works may praise him..." In fact, the community followed its own suggestion. Records of the York Yearly Meetings were preserved for 1688 and the surrounding years.
The community of women which produced this letter lived on the cusp of the transition from prophet to carer. Their lives and their writings illuminate the change in women's social role during the Restoration. Unfortunately, the candle of history has shed little light on these women and in most cases, only their names testify to their participation in the meeting.
|Anna Allenson,||Elizabeth Simpson,|
|Judith Boulbie,||Frances Taylor,|
|Margaret Breckson,||Mary Waite,|
|Elizabeth Leaper,||Dorothy Wells,|
|Mary Lindley,||Catharine Whitton,|
|Elizabeth Beckwith,||Frances Taylor,|
|Judith Boulby,||Deborah Wynn,|
|Mary Lindley,||Mary Waite,|
|Elizabeth Sedman,||Catharine Whitton,|
|Anne Allison,||Elizabeth Moore,|
|Elizabeth Beckwith,||Isabell Morris,|
|Judith Boulbie,||Katherin Ratlife,|
|Margaret Bracking,||Dorothy Wells,|
|Sarah English,||Deborah Wynn,|
|Grace Barwick Helmsley,||Katharine Whitton Wynn,|
A Biographical Dictionary of English Women Writers, 1580-1720 offers information, gleaned from primary sources, on a handful of the women who participated in the York Yearly Meeting from 1686-1692.45 In 1655, Grace Barwick Helmsley (c.1618-1701) wrote a personal letter to George Fox, asking him to chastise a male Quaker who was too noisy during meetings. In the fall of 1659, she traveled from Yorkshire to London in order to influence her soldier-husband's commanding officer to push for the national abolition of tithes. Her mission was not successful but her petition was published by the Quaker printer, Mary Westwood, under the title, To all Present Rulers, whether Parliament or Whom-so ever in England (Clearly the Restoration was anticipated.) Robert Barwick died in jail in 1661 and a son, age unknown, died the same year. She had given birth to twin girls four years before, one of whom had died soon after. In 1664, she married Joseph Helmsley, whom was either a Quaker himself or exceedingly sympathetic to the cause, for George Fox held a meeting at their house in 1666.
Elizabeth Threakston (-1720) married Marmaduke Beckwith in 1666 and bore at least two children, Hannah and Sarah. Hannah wrote A true relation of the life and death of Sarah Beckwith (1671-1691)...after her sister's death at age twenty. The next year, Hannah married Joseph Wynn to whom she bore eight children.
Elizabeth Leaper joined with Benjamin Padley's widow, Susanna, to give testimonies of his life and death which occurred in 1687. Both accounts were published inSome fruits of a tender branch sprung from the living vine in 1691. Leaper's tribute to Padley describes his encouragement of her journey, with her sister, Mary Frost, to Quakers in Cumberland.
Mary Thompson was born in 1652 and married Benjamin Lindley in 1677.
Frances Taylor (-1696) was the wife of John Taylor, a wealthy sugar refiner and a personal friend of George Fox. The Taylors had previously lived in Barbados where two of their three children were born. They moved to York from Bridgetown in 1676 and became active in the Quaker community there. Along with John Hall and Thomas Waite, Taylor "dominated business meetings." He eventually headed one side in an argument over re-marriage procedures that resulted in the withdrawal from the meeting of one-third of York's Quakers.46
Deborah Kitching married John Wynn, a clothier, in 1668. Two of their seven children survived to adulthood; one of which, Deborah, married John Bell in 1710 and moved to London. The elder woman wrote The testimony of Deborah Wynne concerning her husband in 1699 which was published with her daughter's testimony of John Wynn in1715. Bell kept a diary of the years 1707-1737 which was published in 1762 as A short journal of the labours and travels in the work of ministry of that faithful servant of Christ Deborah Bell.
Katharine Whitton was fined in 1670-1 for engaging in Quaker activities. She wroteAn epistle for Friends everywhere: to be distinctly read in their meetings when assembled together in the fear of the Lord by a friend of the truth, and a lover of righteousness;published in 1681 by the Quaker printer Benjamin Clark of London. In 1688, she married Stephen Wynn, an artisan; presumably after the death of her first husband Robert. She also wrote a testimony for Robert Lodge which appeared in Several living testimonies given forth by divers Friends which was published in 1691.
At the very least, the information available highlights age differences within the Yearly Meeting itself, for Mary Thompson was only seven years old when Grace Barwick delivered her prophetic vision to Lambert's army. Their husbands' occupations, the prevalence of published works and the number of children they bore invite tantalizing speculation about the conditions under which these women lived and wrote, but because of spotty nature of the data, any conclusions would be inaccurate.More extensive biographies are possible for Judith Boulbie and Mary Waite, who, like Grace Barwick, were the old guard of the York Women's Meeting.
Judith Boulbie (-1706) is reputed to have written at least five short tracts, includingA Testimony for the Truth against all Hireling-Priests and Deceivers (1655), To all Justices of the Peace or other Magistrates to whom this may come (1667) and A Few Words to the Rulers of this Nation (1673) and A Warning and Lamentation Over England. Boulbie's goods were confiscated by the authorities in 1671, as punishment for Quaker activity no doubt. The next year she ran into difficulty with the Censorship board in London. In 1686, a manuscript she had written concerning the "impending judgment" was set aside "till she be further enquired of." Apparently her responses to their questions or corrections were displeasing, for, when she submitted an alternative manuscript, AWarning and Lamentation Over England, it was dismissed as unsafe to print without alteration. Fourteen months later, Boulbie was still struggling to publish her prophecy. Eventually, she conceded to their suggested changes, but even then, her work was not published. The board continued to object to the content of her revelation and refused to print it. She was, however, permitted to circulate it in manuscript form. Three years later, the indomitable Boulbie tried again. The rejection slip explained that her opening statements were inaccurate and that they did not consider it wise to disrupt the present toleration of Quaker activities by printing tracts that attacked the secular authorities. She might circulate copies of a small section of the manuscript, entitled Following the Lamb, if she made the necessary changes.47
Despite her battles with the London censorship board, Boulbie continued to be active in Yorkshire. In 1688, she was imprisoned in York for non-payment of tithes. In1693, she encouraged the women of the monthly and quarterly meetings to continue their cooperative service, even in the face of ridicule:
It should be noted that, though she was an active participant in the women's meetings, Boulbie was one of the unfortunate poor whom the women's meeting existed to support. She received funds in 1679, 1689, 1695, and lastly in 1697, at which time she was given nearly ten pounds. The 1701 Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting reports that Boulbie, "an ancient friend," wanted to travel to Ireland on Quaker business. This formerly fiery prophet was referred to the monthly meeting, where she might apply for a certificate to travel.49
Mary Smith (-1689) married Thomas Waite in 1666. Both of them had been active members of the York meetings since the 1650's. The growth of the city's Quaker community was slow, only fifty members by 1660 in comparison to Bristol's one thousand and London's ten thousand member meetings. During the initial decade of Quakerism, only one major meeting was held in the city, occurring in 1659. The few evangelistic efforts staged were led by Quakers from outside the community. Only four York Quakers were imprisoned for public order offenses during the fifties; Mary Waite was one of them. With John Taylor and John Cox, she is purported to have been one of the prominent evangelists of the early community. Her future husband is recorded to have been one of the most politically active members of the rather conservative group. He used his profession as a "stationer" to produce and distribute Quaker literature and consistently attended business meetings. Witness by example rather than preaching was the norm in York, even before the1660's, as Thomas Waite's proposal "to quit himselfe of all such bookes as are Contrary to the Truth" demonstrates.50 During the 1670's and '80's, Mary Waite was heavily involved with the women's meetings. In 1678, she and Isabel Fell Yeamans framed a letter of support for a neighboring women's meeting.
Waite's own tract, A Warning to all Friends who professeth the Everlasting Truth, written in the next year, was read aloud at each of the yearly meetings. It was eventually bound and distributed with the epistle written at the 1688 women's meeting.. Mary Waite was imprisoned in York castle in 1684 and died from unknown causes five years later. The community's reaction to her loss may have prompted the inclusion of her writing within the Yearly Meeting's letter.
Boulbie and Waite seem to have initially shared an apocalyptic and evangelical prophetic tradition. Boulbie's continuation of this tradition brings her before the authorities, both secular and Quaker. Waite, on the other hand, appears to have left off her public career to become a grande dame of the women's meeting, focusing on the stability of the Quaker community rather than the conversion of the masses. The scanty historical data can only suggest Boulbie and Waite's positioning within the spectrum of women's changing social role. An examination of their writings will help to elucidate their motivations and concerns; their creations must lead where their biographies can not.
If the age of female prophecy ended with the increased persecution of the Restoration and the rise of the eighteenth-century heroine was beyond the horizon, what can be said of the late seventeenth-century Quaker women writers? Was the Quaker writing of the intervening period truly as uniform and derivative as Ludlow avers? History confirms that the remaining political and apocalyptic Quakers writers were censored but scholarship appears to be disinterested in and even slightly contemptuous of these prophets whose promised day had come and gone. Surely the twilight of female prophecy has as much, if not more, to say concerning women's role in society as the noontime of its fervor? As Bell and her co-biographers point out, an examination of unanthologised Quaker women writers is needed to flesh out the transition from prophet to carer.55
Judith Boulbie and Mary Waite lived through the persecution and transformation of Quakerism in the three decades following the Restoration. Their writings can be examined as representations of the changing role of Quaker women. An understanding of their intended audience and personal voice, as well as the scriptural imagery and authority they draw upon, demonstrates that they reflect and constitute differing traditions of prophecy. Boulbie exemplifies the historical oppression of women's prophecy. She is the "mouthpiece of God" silenced by the painstakingly polite letters of a remote censorship board; her feverishly-written manuscripts dropped in the circular file. Though Mary Waite is also conscious of persecution, her writing is motivated by a more internal sense of oppression. Where Boulbie, as a Quaker woman prophet, is the victim of external authority, Waite, as the Quaker woman carer, is "weighted down" by the spiritual and social responsibilities that result from her position of authority.
Judith Boulbie's A Testimony for Truth against all Hireling-Priests and Deceivers is similar to early Quaker preaching styles in terms of audience, content, and style. Prompted by the imminent apocalypse, she hopes to convert as many people as possible away from the proud ways of the world. In an urgent effort to redeem her audience, which includes "all the inhabitants of this Nation," Boulbie's platform is two-fold. She discredits non-Quaker sources of salvation and confirms the transformative and redemptive power of the inner light.
Boulbie's anti-clerical rhetoric is located within a long tradition of ecclesiastical criticism. Stemming from the Lollard movement in the fourteenth century and reinforced by the sixteenth century dissolution of the monasteries and the seventeenth century Puritan struggles, anti-clerical sentiment maintained a mid to low simmer throughout early modern England. Diarist Samuel Pepys records the attitude towards clergy during the Restoration. Entries for August 31, 1661 and November 9, 1663 read: "And the clergy was high, that all the people I meet with do protest against their practice. In short I see no content or satisfaction anywhere..." and "(Mr. Blackburne) told me how highly the present clergy carry themselves everywhere, so as that they are hated and laughed at by every body..."56 Quakerism was partially built upon society's frustration with priests and ministers. In fact, George Fox's first outburst in a church occurred in the defense of a woman berated for challenging the priest.57
Traditionally priests were a common target of the people's anger because of the comparative wealth of the church. When theological differences were added to the social injustice of the tithe system, attacks against priests became intense. For Quakers the call to ministry could only come from God made manifest within. The duties that the priest performed - the administration of the Lord's supper and baptism, the reading of sermons and liturgical prayers, the special holy days and services, the meeting within a "sanctified church" - were irrelevant to salvation as Quakers saw it. Salvation came from the internal spirit; the priests were mistakenly concerned with external forms of worship. Quakers accused priests of incompetence and sinfulness in reference to their advanced educational degrees and salaried positions. They claimed that in the course of study at Oxford or Cambridge, priests became acquainted with the meditations of the Church Fathers in orderto "steal" and regurgitate the words to their own parishes. Thus, the priests spoke "false" words, chosen by their own agency rather than by God's spirit. Quakers employed the metaphors of commerce and theater to describe the priests' training and activity.
The inner and individual call to ministry was at the heart of each Quaker's right to preach. Rather than becoming a priest upon receiving a parish, Quaker ministers were appointed by God and went out to search for their audience. As a whole, the early Quaker mentality echoed that of the old Testament prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, whom they read so fervently: God was using them as instruments through which to call an evil nation back to repentance before the arrival of the day of Judgment, doom to all sinners. Quaker prophets' were specifically called by God to confront, criticize and convert their neighbors. The first step of the conversion process was to demonstrate the inability of the local priest to offer salvation and the efficacy of Quaker inner transformation in achieving eternal life. Therefore, examples of Quaker anti-clerical attacks are plentiful during the earlyd ecades of the movement.
In Let Your Words Be Few, Richard Bauman notes that "Tell, reprove, andforewarn - these were among the major communicative tasks undertaken by the Quakers "during the 1650's and '60's. After 1655, published prophecies increasingly addressed large, but specific audiences, such as priests, lawyers, or the inhabitants of particular towns or cities.59 Quaker Richard Farnsworth defined his religious mission in 1655, "to tell magistrates, priests and people what they are, and reprove them of their transgressions; and for their sins and iniquities, and forewarn them of the judgments to come, except they repent and amend, and turn to the Lord."60 Female Quaker prophets and ministers participated fully in the conversion effort and in its anti-clerical agenda. In 1655, Quaker Ann Audland, when asked what was untrue in the doctrine of the Banbury vicar, claimed the priest was so far out of the spirit of Christ that even if he said "the Lord liveth," he would be lying.61 In the same year, Quaker Margret Braidley declared to minister John Shopp, "Thou art no minister of Christ, but a minister of Antichrist." Hester Biddle addressed the cities of Oxford and Cambridge: "thy wickedness surmounteth the wickedness of Sodom; therefore repent whilst thou has time..."62 The early decades of the movement mark the high point of warning literature by Quaker women, for twenty-five(out of the total 171 titles published by Quaker women before 1700) entreaties to repent were published during the fifties and sixties, with only six tracts on the same subject in later years.63
Quakers held that a true minister is "able to speak, from a living experience, of what he himself is a witness; and therefore knowing the terror of the Lord, he is fit to persuade men...and his words and ministry, proceeding from the inward power and virtue, reach to the heart of his hearers, and make them approve of him, and be subject unto him.64 Male language in the preceding quote aside, the authority of the "experience of God within, "meant that women, too, were free to follow God's leading and to criticize priests. Like Quaker men, they understood themselves to be working within the tradition of the Old Testament male prophets. This self-conception is especially evident in Boulbie's text, for the prophecies of Jeremiah provide her, not only with apocalyptic and redemptive imagery, but with a model for her own self-concept.
Quaker female prophecy flowed from the reverence for the God manifest within the human soul. That the soul transcended class and gender allowed for the equality of all believers. It also allowed Quaker women to utilize the traditions of male biblical figures to justify their own prophecies.65 Boulbie's gender disappears in the conventional diatribe against sinful society. Rather than apologies for the sound of her feminine voice, the text is filled with her declarations of speech: "Therefore I say..." (lines 24-25), "What shall I say to prevail with thee, O England?" (lines 80-81), "yet I say..." (line 87), "in the dread of God Almighty do I declare it..." (Lines 94-95), "I do tell thee..." (line 144). Throughout the text 'Boulbie the prophet,' is directly and unashamedly confronting, by means of imperative verbs and rhetorical sentences, the priests and people of England.
Boulbie justifies her project in the tradition of Jeremiah. Just as she "is constrained to cry out against...Ungodly Gaines," Jeremiah was reluctant to prophesy doom to Israel until the message of the Lord burned within him and he was forced to deliver it, "My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war" (Jer.4:18-19).66 Boulbie works extensively from the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah. In order to depict the horror of the day of judgment, she inverts his description of redemption found inverses eleven to thirteen. In verse fifteen, Jeremiah describes the incessant weeping of Rachel for her lost children. Boulbie moves from her picture of judgment to her own reaction to its arrival where, like Rachel, she weeps, "Because of these things I weep, Sorrow hath filled mine heart, and mine eyes run down with water..." (Lines 71-80)Jeremiah, himself, is known as the weeping prophet; for, in the ninth chapter, he laments, "O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!" Boulbie does not apologize for herself, for that would imply awareness of self. Her transcendent soul, which was, like Jeremiah, worthy to transmit the word of God, is the voice in her writing. Not surprisingly in the early era of apocalyptic prophesy by means of the transcendent soul, there is little difference between the language of male and female Quaker writers.67
As with her understanding of purpose, much of Boulbie's imagery originates from the Old Testament male prophets, especially Jeremiah. In Visionary Women..., Mackpoints out that Northern visionary language tended to rely more heavily on the aggressive, male language of the biblical prophets, whereas Southern Quaker women expressed themselves in a more mystical, meditative tone.68 Even in her own poem which marks the end of her first piece, Boulbie continues to use the natural, usually rural, imagery of the Old Testament. Her writing style is typical of the Quaker "incantory" preaching, which is characterized by "an incredible repetition, a combining and recombining of a cluster of words and phrases drawn from Scripture."69 This style of preaching and prophesying drew together key passages of the bible and key Quaker concepts, such as Light, power, life, gospel, order, seed, and government.70 For example, Boulbie utilizes Jeremiah's conception of a new covenant with God, beginning at the level of the human heart, to tie together Quaker understandings of the apocalypse, inner transformation, and perfection. The heart, in her writing, has come to symbolize that inner core of the human where transformation and redemption occur. She had loaded the word with Quaker significance which gives additional meaning to subsequent biblical references that include it (see lines170-173). Due to the reverence for spontaneous, spirit-led preaching, the expression of Quaker prophecy was not bound to logical rules; in fact, a certain amount of incoherence proved its unpremeditated and genuine nature.71 While Boulbie's style is not disordered, there is a fluid urgency to her tone that echoes the apocalyptic pitch of early Quaker preaching.
Boulbie's use of key Quaker concepts was shared by all Quakers, for, in effect, George Fox created a new language in order to describe his theology. One of the aspects of Quaker perfection was their plain language, spoken from the 'heart.' They imagined themselves as the people of pure speech, predicted in Zephaniah 3:8-9, which was yet another sign of their role in the apocalypse: "Therefore wait for me, says the Lord, for the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed. At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord."72 Waiting for the Lord in silence, speaking with pure speech prompted by the spirit, striking a cord in the listener's heart: these were all characteristics of God's chosen people. When describing their special importance to God, Quakers called themselves The Seed or Sion. Both are biblical images signifying the redeemed community. The Word of God, the Power of God, the Truth, the Light: all these words were understood to mean the divine power within humans that perfects and saves them. Light carries its own metaphorical apparatuses, for it is the transformative spotlight of God that "uncovers" and "cleans" every hidden and filthy sin on the human soul. Light is also associated with day, daylight, and dawn, representing the triumph of goodness, vs. night, night-time and dark, signifying all-conquering evil. Dawn generally had apocalyptic connotations as that time which brought the rising of the Light and the dispersal of darkness. As has been demonstrated in by their anti-clerical rhetoric, a strong division between the carnal and the spiritual ruled their theology. Though they depended on the Scriptures for language, they did not find the "Word of God" within the material pages. Quaker Robert Barclay explained, "The Word of God is unto himself, spiritual...and therefore cannot be heard or read with the natural external senses, as the Scriptures can..."73 Though they resisted carnal influence, Quakers frequently employed body language to depict their spiritual experiences.74 Hence, their feelings flow from their depths or "bowels," they are taken within God's "bosom," and their hearts, eyes, and bodies are effected by their emotions. Both Boulbie and Waite pull from this pool of images and concepts in order to share God's appointed message.
Boulbie's writing is characteristic of early Quakerism's "movement of anti-structure, energized...by charismatic preaching and a theology of universal love.75 "The Quaker agenda of the 1650's was anti-structural in both form and content. Speaking by the authority of the spirit rather than the pulpit, Quaker preachers sought to change, invert, and convert the structures of the non-Quaker community. Waite's writing, evolving out of the same environment fourteen years later, is wholly concerned with building internal structures that will enable the Quaker community to withstand the hostility and temptations of the world. Waite's title immediately demonstrates the change in audience for she addresses herself to "friends everywhere...whether on this side or beyond the seas. "The non-Quaker world does not enter into her message, except as a locus of evil, a pit into which careless Quakers might fall.
Mary Waite's 1679 epistle participates in the introduction of a new genre of Quaker literature which began slowly in the late seventeenth century and blossomed in the eighteenth in conjunction with the Quaker interest in education.76 Elaine Hobby terms these later writings, appearing in the 1680's, "defensive tracts."77 Quaker women prophets are no longer on the offensive; instead, they are defending (and establishing) the truths and structures of Quaker society. Boulbie's writing has demonstrated that early Quaker prophecy had little to say on the subject of family.78 Many of the first Quakers were the only members of their family to join the movement. The looming apocalypse tended to minimize blood ties and emphasize obligation to the spiritual family or to the erring unconverted.79 By 1679, the apocalypse had retreated to some extent. Though Waite is expectant, she employs the day of Judgment as a scare tactic for erring Quakers as much an imminent historical reality. Until such time as the end of the world arrives, the family, which included apprentices and servants, became the basic unit of Quaker society.80 Waite's writing is primarily concerned with renewing the faith of former Quaker prophets and solidifying the hierarchical authority and theological purity of the Quaker family.
Later Quaker women were aware of the fact that they were responsible for raising the next generation. Having lived through brutal persecution themselves they knew the temptation towards compromise with the world's standards and so brought their children up strictly, emphasizing the chasm of difference between worldly and Quaker practices. In theory, there could be no middle road, no blending of the two ideologies. Parents, who were to rule with one voice, were considered to be responsible for their children's' souls, as is shown by a 1692 epistle from Ambrose Rigge, "this is your Duty, the Lord requires it of you, even to watch over your Children, as those that must give an Account to God, while they are under your Wings."81 In Visionary Women..., Mack cites examples of these mothers "concerned for the purity of the next generation". A 1697 epistle sent by female minister from Coventry advises London mothers to "Keep (your children) under your eye as much as may be, and always at your command, begin betimes to bow them to the yoke, keep them employed in some employment that may suit with the truth...my soul is grieved...for the backslidings...of the daughters of Sion."82 The York Yearly Women's Meeting remained vigilant on the issues that drove Waite to write in 1679, for Yearly Meeting in 1698 underscores the same theme: "You that are mother of children and rulers of families, be good examples to your children and servants in all things...for if children rule over parents, it is not comely."83
The new role of carer effected Quaker women's writing, for some of the spontaneous and feverish aspects common to early preaching were diminished. Women could craft and refine the messages given by God before passing them on to the Quaker community, provided they included a brief apology for doing so.84 The presence of authorial voice, especially the female voice, was uncharted territory, for the early voices ofthe early prophets, of sexless divinity, had not paved the way. Thus, Mary Waite does not share Judith Boulbie's bold, direct identification with Jeremiah. In fact, a second characteristic of later seventeenth century Quaker women's writing is the new identification with feminine biblical figures.85 (Note examples in the 1688 Epistle from the York Yearly Women's Meeting.) Unlike Boulbie, Waite's writing must be prompted by an extraordinary crisis, a message given by God as he heals her from a potentially fatal illness. She posits her writing as a once-only experience, which she performs out ofobedience to God. It is with profound relief that she "returns to her tent" of safety after writing, an activity that apparently involves exposure and potential harm. Clearly, Waite is in the midst of enduring the years of English persecution. But her unease with prophetic expression is also due to the fact that she and her audience are aware that, though the message is God's, the words are her own.
In a perfect example of Hobby's crafted writing, Waite constructs a world of opposing metaphors: high/low, clean/dirty, light/heavy, light/dark. In the incantory style, she weaves these key Quaker metaphors with threads of scripture in order to depict the social situation of the Quaker community. In one example of this admixture, she weaves Isaiah's description of the sorrowing servant, who was sacrificed by God for the community and, therefore, understood by Christians to represent Jesus Christ, with her own community's suffering under persecution. (Lines 92-100) Most of the characteristics she attributes to the Christ-figure are taken directly from the Old Testament. Those that do not - he has been pressed under the iniquities "as a cart with sheaves" and "his voice has not been heard in the streets" - are Waite's own imagery. Isaiah mentions that the servant is silent before his enemies, Waite has updated the image to her own time frame, where Quaker preachers have been driven from the city streets.
The binary metaphors emphasize the all-important division within and without the Quaker community: righteous and unrighteous. Thus, cleanliness is associated with holiness, filth with sinfulness. However, Waite's imagery of oppression complicates the simple opposing metaphor. In the first place, the spirit has "bowed down and groaned under" the unrighteous spirit (Line 26); the weights, burdens, heaviness, pressures, and hiding places that describe the position of the righteous Quaker community are numerous. The persecuted Messiah, the man of sorrow, is meek and lowly. At the same time, this diminished position is the appropriate one for life in the wicked world; friends should "keep in the low valleys of safety" (Line 11); they must stay low in the fear of the Lord and "stoop to Christ's appearance" in themselves (Lines 217-222). Only with the arrival of the apocalypse will the tables be turned. At that time, the unrighteous will shoulder their burdens as the righteous are eased (Lines 80-87), the ineffective will be trodden under foot(Line 51), and the wicked be without refuge from the pursuing justice of God (Lines57-62). Images of height illustrate God's domain, for his path to eternal life is depicted as ahigh way to which the redeemed are raised up; the Lord will arise at the time of the apocalypse (Lines 86-87); good desires are raised to God (Line 143); and everlasting high praises will usher in the coming of God (Line 251). Waite presents the apocalypse as a spiritual revolution, where the righteous will emerge from under the oppressive heel of the unrighteous to join God on the heights of glory. Until such time, however, the righteous must maintain their "low" position and wait in faith and in service.
Discovering Women's Writing
Locating Boulbie and Waite within a seventeenth century Quaker context is challenging, for the lives and writings of all but a few Quaker women have been neglected by literary and historical scholars.
The majority of Quaker scholarship has not been informed by Quaker women's writings. For example, a search for family-oriented literature in any but the most recent research yields a discussion of male tracts on child-rearing and education. One must additionally consult recent feminist scholarship which focuses exclusively on writings by women and weave the two separate traditions together. Barbour and Robert's 566-pagetome, Early Quaker Writings 1650-1700, contains only the writings of a handful of women. Though the authors include a chart of types and dates of early Quaker writing which was cross-referenced with Wing's 'Short Title Catalog,' it is not at all clear that little known texts by women are included within it.
Recent anthologies of British women writers either ignore Quaker tracts, presumably because their religious rhetoric is thought to obscure any social significance they might have, or stereotype them as pietist and family-oriented. Thankfully the work of Elaine Hobby, Margaret Bell et al. and Phyllis Mack have vigorously dispelled this myth. Mary Waite's work has been treated within a recent anthology, though Boulbie apparently has not been previously edited.
Likewise, the majority of Quaker historiography is not informed by Quaker women's experience. Published three years ago, David Scott's Quakerism in York,1650-1720 is a prime example of the importance of gender as a tool of historical analysis. Scott's thesis is that Quakers in York were a conservative, quietist community from their inception. By virtue of their bourgeois values and commercial ties to the larger community, they remained in good contact with their Puritan neighbors throughout the Restoration period. However, commercial interaction at this social level is essentially the exclusive territory of male Quakers. Scott's charts of Quaker social composition and meeting attendance bear this out - he is focusing, for the most part, on men's experience. His own text suggests there is a second story to tell. "Of the four York Quakers known to have participated in the 'Lamb's War' three were either widows or unmarried women, and thus occupied a relatively marginal place in civic society with fewer worldly ties and obligations to weigh in the balance against unflinching obedience to the Light Within." Apparently there were more radical Quakers in York who had not compromised their faith for the sake of the larger community, but Scott gives them neither name nor footnote. Scott, himself, points out that gender created a different experience; an experience that challenges his thesis, in fact. Yet he does not follow it up. Throughout his text, women are truly marginalized - into footnotes. Of the two mentions of Mary Waite, one appears in the footnotes and the other simply names her as one of the three most prominent early Quaker evangelists. Even when Quaker history does concentrate wholly on women's experience, as in Mabel Braithwaite's 1915 Quaker Women 1650-1690, the exceptional figures are exclusively spotlighted.
Biographies of any but the most prominent Quaker women are difficult to relate with any confidence. Though Judith Boulbie, when she is cited, is usually identified correctly, Mary Waite seems to have suffered unnecessarily at the hands of scholars. The Feminist Companion to Literature lists her as a Quaker "who probably m. Richard W. of Suffolk, and bore a son at Carlisle in 1680." They do not list their source for this information but it is most likely inaccurate in the face of Mary and Thomas Waite's activities in York, as reported by Scott. In Necessity of Virtue, Elaine Hobby imprecisely categorizes Waite's writing, grouping it with 1670's tracts that "are concerned either with ending strife within the Society and calling Friends to stand firm in the faith, or with describing the deathbed testimonies of dying Friends." In my opinion, Waite's epistle is more accurately grouped with the "defensive tracts" which lament the desertion of former Friends and advise young friends to obey their parents. Even the Biographical Dictionary of English Women by Bell and Co., which is the most useful reference guide for much of the information on early Quaker women writers, incorrectly attributes a second tract to Waite. The unprinted The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance is supposed to her work though Smith's Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books, the definitive guide, attributes it to a second Mary Waite. The fact that it is associated with the date 1719, well after Mary Waite of York's death, would seem to bear this out. Bell et al. are also confused about the date of Waite's death in that they list it as 1689 and yet claim that she signed the participant list of the 1692 Yearly Women's Meeting. As they claim in Frances Taylor's biographical blurb that she, too, signed attended the 1692 meeting and yet neglect to include her in the 1692 list, perhaps Waite's inclusion is a simply a second error.
Complete biographies of seventeenth century women writers are difficult to construct because marriage and re-marriage changed these authors' names. The beginning researcher has no way to know that Catharine Whitton, who attended the 1686 meeting at York became Katharine Wynn (or Winn), who signed in 1692. To add to the confusion, seventeenth century orthography was hardly stable. For example, Boulbie is alternatively Bowlbie or Bulby. Thomas Waite is referred to in a printing anecdote as Thomas Wayte of York. When not lost by name change or "misspelling," Quaker women's writing is buried within larger texts attributed to men. This is the case with Judith Boulbie's 1679 warning tract directed to Londonderry, for it was published within Rutty's History of Friends in Ireland. Elaine Hobby acknowledges and regrets this phenomenon in the closing pages of Necessity of Virtue.
With regard to Ludlow's rather daunting accusation of "incoherent syntax," it should be noted that, just as they are drawing from a communal well of imagery, Boulbie and Waite's writings exhibit punctuation and orthographic structures common to many seventeenth century texts. While not particularly opaque, the structure of their writing does merit some minor explication and, in a few cases, alteration, in order that it may be easily read in its original state.
Commas, semi-colons, or colons are frequently employed to signify a fully completed thought. The longer sentence structure, with its many clauses, is very different from standard modern forms. It is advisable to pay attention to conjunctions, which introduce new topics and connect separate "sentences," rather than expect periodization and capitalization to enclose each idea, as in modern sentence structure.
The use of the possessive contraction is infrequent and inconsistent throughout the text, but should be obvious in context, i.e. "God's Truth" is often printed as "Gods Truth." Italics and parenthesis are often used for emphasis, though it is not clear whether they originate in the author's manuscript or the printing shop.
Biblical quotes are generally italicized in Boulbie's work, less so in Waite's, though neither work cites or italicizes scripture fully or consistently. Therefore, critical footnotes will alert the reader to religious citations.
Perhaps the largest pitfall for the modern reader will be the use of the lone demonstrative pronoun to represent an aforesaid noun, i.e. "the truth hath not grown in them, for such have long journeyed...". (Waite, lines 140) A modern translation might translate "such" as "such as these" or "such people."
In conclusion, a certain amount of effort on the part of the reader is required in order to navigate these seventeenth century texts. But having made that clear, the following minor changes, which stem from textual structures that would impede the reader's comprehension above and beyond the challenges listed above, have already been effected .
Boulbie: A Testimony for Truth...
Line 72: pretious...precious
Line 108: faln...fallen
Line 157: pretious...precious
Line 171: fare...fair
Line 176: Moneths...Months
Line 185 Honour, Everlasting Praise...Glory, Honour; Everlasting Praise: semi-colon is added to demonstrate that a new clause is beginning.
Waite: A Warning to All Friends...
Line 25: months yea...months, yea: comma added to demonstrate new clause
Line 40: aud...and
Line 48, 68, 69: Covetousness is spelled without an ending "e" in the first case and with an "e" elsewhere.
Line 69: evil, and advised....evil. And advised: period is added to aid comprehension.
Line 97: acpuainted...acquainted
Line 105: hear...here
Line 176: their...there
Line 210: wander neither...wander, neither: comma added to demonstrate beginning of new clause
Line 213: world for...world. For: period added to demonstrate beginning of new phrase and concept.
Line 226: eys...eyes
Line 228, 229: grouth...growth
Line 242: Lyer..Liar
Line 242: not he...not, he: comma added to demonstrate beginning of new phrase
Line 245: is shall...is, shall: comma added to demonstrate beginning of new phrase
Line 256: oyle...oil
Location of Texts:
Those texts consulted for this edition are capitalized.
A Warning to all Friends Who Professeth the Everlasting Truth (London, 1679) Publisher unknown.
Text locations in England and the United States: British Museum, Cambridge University, The Friend's Library, Bevan-Naish Library at Birmingham, Durham University, John Rylands University Library at Manchester, York Minster; HENRY E. HUNTINGTON LIBRARY at San Marino, CA, Newberry Library, Earlham College, Harvard University, Union Theological Seminary, Library Company of Philadelphia, Folger Shakespeare Library, Yale University.
A Testimony of Truth against all Hire-ling Priests and Deceivers (London, 1665) Publisher unknown.
Text locations in England and the United States: THE BRITISH MUSEUM, The Friend's Library,Bevan-Naish Library at Birmingham; Haverford College, Swathmore College, Yale University.
1. Barry Reay. Quakers and the English. (New York, 1985). p. 64.
2. Richard Bailey. The Making and Unmaking of a God: New Light on George Fox and Early Quakerism Ph.D Dissertation presented to University of Waterloo, Canada, 1991. p. 16.
3. Keith Thomas. "Women and the Civil War Sects" in Past and Present 13 (1958). p. 44. Thomas is using "men" to signify "humanity" at the close of the quote.
4. Bailiey, pp. 14-15.
5. Richard Bauman. Let Your Words Be Few. (Cambridge, 1983). p. 3.
6. Phyllis Mack. Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England. (Berkeley, 1992). p. 242.
7. Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost. The Quakers. (New York, 1988). pp. 31-35.
8. Bailey, p. 17.
9. Reay, p. 100.
10. Michael J. Galgano. "Catholic and Quaker Women in the Restoration Northwest." in The World of William Penn. (ed) Richard S. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn. (Philadelpia, 1986). p. 117.
11. Geoffrey Holmes. The Making of a Great Power, Late Stuart and Early Georgian Britain. (London, 1993). pp. 454-5.
12. Hugh Barbour. The Quakers in Puritan England. (New Haven, Conn, 1964). p. 53.
13. See Christopher Hill's extensive list in Christopher Hill, The Experience of Defeat. (London, 1984). p. 166.
14. Mack. Visionary Women..., p. 267.
15. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 268.
16. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 269.
17. Hill. The Experience of Defeat. p. 165.
18. Phyllis Mack. "The Prophet and Her Audience: Gender and Knowledge in The World Turned Upside Down" in Reviving the English Revolution.(ed) Geoff Eley and William Hunt. (London, 1988). p. 142.
19. Phyllis Mack. "Women as Prophets During the English Civil War" in Feminist Studies. 8, Number 1. (Spring 1982). p. 23-24.
20. E.M. Williams. "Women Preachers in the Civil War" in the Journal of Modern History. Volume 1. (1929). p. 562.
21. Mack, "Women as Prophets...", p. 24.
22. Elaine C. Huber. ""A Woman Must Not Speak": Quaker Women in the English Left Wing" in Women of Spirit. (ed) Rosemary Reuther and Eleanor McLaughlin. (New York, 1979). pp.155-179.
23. Dorothy P. Ludlow. "Sectarian Women in England, 1641-1700" in Triumph Over Silence (ed.) Richard L. Greaves. (Westport, Conn, 1985). p. 98.
24. Antonia Fraser. The Weaker Vessel. (New York. 1984). p. 263.
25. Galgano, p. 125.
26. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 175.
27. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 176.
28. Ludlow, p. 116.
29. Hugh Barbour and Arthur O. Roberts. Early Quaker Writings, 1650-1700.(Grand Rapid, Michigan, 1973). pp. 66-67.
30. Baubour and Frost, pp. 27-28.
31. William Braithwaite. The Second Period of Quakerism. (York, 1979). p. 324.
32. Ludlow, p. 113.
33. Elaine Hobby. The Necessity of Virtue. (London, 1988). p. 46-47.
34. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 275.
35. Baubour and Frost, pp. 42.
36. Ludlow, pp. 112-113.
37. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 289.
38. Bell, Maureen et al. A Biographical Dictionary of English Women Writers, 1580-1720. (Boston, 1990). p. 263.
39. Mack, Visionary Women..., pp. 319-326.
40. Katharine Whitton, An Epistle to Friends Everywhere... [London, 1681)
41. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 322.
42. Epistle from the Womens-Yearly Meeting at York. (1688) Text obtained from the Brown University Women Writers Project; "transcribed from the copy located at an unknown library."
43. Bailey, p. 12.
44. David Scott. Quakerism in York, 1650-1720. (University of York, Borthwick Paper No. 80, 1991). p. 7 and chart on p. 8.
45. Bell, Maureen et al. Unless otherwise noted, the following information is supplied by these biographical entries.
46. Scott, pp. 12, 16-18.
47. Luella M. Wright. The Literary Life of the Early Friends 1650-1725. (New York, 1932). pp. 104-106.
48. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 333.
49. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 390.
50. Scott, pp. 3-14.
51. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 333.
52. Ludlow, p. 111 Strangely, Ludlow1/4s text reads "post-Reformation" at this point. As the her own section heading is 'The Restoration Era' and she is discussing specific post-1660 events, I have to conclude it is a typographical error. I have taken the liberty of substituting the correct periodization in my quotation.
53. Ludlow, p. 112.
54. Mary Anne Schofield. ""Womens Speaking Justified":The Feminine Quaker Voice, 1662-1797" in Tulsa Studies in Women1/4s Literature. Volume 6, Number 1. (Spring 1987). pp. 61-76.
55. Bell, p. 263.
56. Huber, p. 158.
57. Huber, p. 161.
58. Bauman, p. 39.
59. Hobby, p. 39.
60. Bauman, p. 84.
61. Bauman, p. 40.
62. Hobby, p. 41.
63. Hilda Smith and Susan Cardinale, Women and the Literature of the Seventeenth Century: An Annotated Bibliography based on Wing1/4s 'Short Title Catalogue'. (New York, 1990). p. ii.
64. Bauman, p. 40.
65. Mack, Visionary Women..., p.139.
66. New Revised Standard Version Harper Study Bible. (Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991).
67. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 10.
68. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 187.
69. Bauman, p. 76.
70. Bauman, p. 77.
71. Bauman, p. 79.
72. New Revised Standard Version Harper Study Bible. (Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991).
73. Bauman, p. 26.
74. Mack, p. 151.
75. Hobby, p. 3.
76. Arnold Lloyd. Quaker Social History. (London, 1950). pp. 166-173.
77. Hobby, p. 47.
78. Galgano, p. 129.
79. Richard Vann, The Social Development of English Quakerism. (Cambridge, Mass, 1969). p. 168.
80. Vann, p. 179.
81. Vann, p. 177.
82. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 359.
83. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 346.
84. Hobby, p. 49.
85. Mack, Visionary Women..., p. 311.