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.


18 thoughts on “Two Kinds of Quakers

  1. I got into comment hell. Made a comment about your earlier hospice story, then made one for this one. Poof, gone. So now I’ll again. Lol. I’d heard that Shakers or Friends were medical pioneers. Just heard. Not much detail. Glad for your information. I do vaguely recall that some Quakers felt serious enough about the immorality of the Vietnam War to protest and go to jail back in the ’60s.


    1. I know more about the Amish and Mennonites. There’s Mennonite blood on my mom’s side of the family. I’ve read a few books on the Anabaptists in Switzerland and the split when Jakob Ammann thought his fellow Mennonites were not strict enough. So he and those of his irk founded the Amish Order.


      1. I think we are fascinated with the Amish because of their refusal to enter into the technology of today and want to set themselves apart. That would be unfathomable to some. (Is that a word?) Thanks for reading and commenting.


    2. You know Mike, you were not hallucinating. I posted the story of the lady in the nursing home, then found out I’d posted it a year ago, so thought I better post a different one so stayed up until 1 am writing another and trashed the first one. So sorry about the confusion. I felt like I would be cheating if I posted somethig a second time. Thanks for reading.


  2. A great overview Neva. Quakers were also among the first to encourage women to become doctors in the early days. We have much to thank these people for. Of course Colorado Springs was founded by a Quaker. Doris


  3. So much history to the Christian faith, but not all of it is very good or “Christ-like.” However, humans are humans, frail and shallow at times, but the one thing remains true: Christ forgives when we are truly sorry for what we’ve done, and for that, this frail, shallow person is grateful! I, too, love the aspens and one reason I so enjoy the season of autumn. Thank you for an interesting and educational post, Neva!


  4. Posted earlier, but it hasn’t shown up yet.

    What a lot of people don’t know is Quakers were one of the first to encourage women doctors back in the 19th century. And of course Colorado Springs was founded by a Quaker. Thank you for a most interesting post Neva. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Neva this is fascinating. I did the 23 and me, DNA testing to check out my bloodline. It is fascinating too. I am mostly European, Viking, Irish/Scottish, and American Indian. Which is pretty much what I had already found out through Genealogy research, but the DNA confirmed it. Perhaps when I understand the results of the test better I will post about it.


  6. I didn’t know much about the Quaker’s except for William Penn and the peace he made with the natives. Their tolerance (in places) should be admired, versus the inflexible Puritans. On a side note, wasn’t Nixon raised a Quaker? I might be wrong about that.


  7. Interesting post, Neva. Several years ago I read a book about Quakerism by Robert Lawrence Smith and found his description of Quaker beliefs inspiring. At a time when when I felt surrounded by noise, the idea of worshiping in silence was very attractive. It still is. I saw Quaking Aspens for the first time on a visit to Denali–their name fits perfectly.


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