Two Kinds of Quakers

my baby pic 001
Neva Bodin, age one

by Neva Bodin

While there are a lot of books out there about Amish, I do not find many on Quakers or Friends these days. I used to think they were of the same beliefs, but they are not.

I found some information on the Quakers while researching the name Thorne, sometimes spelled Thorn. This was my maternal grandfather’s name. I didn’t search very deep, and I’m not sure how his name brought up information on the Quakers, but their history is fascinating.

They started out in England, under the tutelage of a George Fox, who sought truth aside from organized religion. The name came from the Bible, John 15:15 where Jesus told His followers “but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”

Other started calling them “Quakers” because they “quaked with the spirit” during worship. Meant in a demeaning way, the Friends proudly took the name to themselves.

In 1656 a first boatload of Quakers arrived in America. The Puritans, formed to “purify the church” had arrived between 1620 and 1640. It is said the Puritans persecuted many Friends, even hanging a woman in 1660, Mary Dyer who was Puritan turned Quaker.

Rhode Island was founded as a get-away for people not tolerated in Massachusetts, a Puritan state.

William Penn was a Quaker from England. In 1681, William Penn accepted the grant of land which became Pennsylvania (later Delaware was added) as the payment of a debt which King Charles II owed his father. Penn first visited his colony on his ship “Welcome” in 1682. “The democratic principles that he set forth in the Pennsylvania Frame of Government served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution.”

Many Quakers made names for themselves in America and other countries. In 1746, John Woolman, a young Quaker, set out to convince fellow Quakers that slave holding was wrong. Quakers were among the first shopkeepers in the New World to set a price for a store item and stick to it, not allowing bargaining; the Quaker Rowntree and Cadbury families started a chocolate and cocoa business. In Philadelphia, a Quaker grocer named Joseph Hires developed a concoction he came to call Root Beer. Both beverages were meant to replace alcohol as a drink.

Quaker doctor Thomas Dimsdale, introduced smallpox vaccination to the Russians. Joseph Lister, regarded as the father of antiseptic surgery, was a Quaker physician.

Friends strived for better conditions for mentally ill and prisoners. They were the first Christian group in America to free their slaves.

I hadn’t made the connection before this, but in Wyoming we have “Quaking Aspen,” whose lighter green leaves I love to see contrast on our mountain with the dark green pine trees. In Autumn they turn a beautiful gold that contrasts with the dark green. They have a special sound when they quake in the wind. The heart-shaped leaves click together.

I do consider them “friends” and now I will think of the Quakers when I look at them.