The Religious Society of Friends, also known as The Quakers, is a movement that began in England in the 17th century. The word "Quaker" means to tremble in the way of the Lord. In its early days it faced opposition and persecution; however, it continued to expand, extending into many parts of the world, especially the Americas and Africa.
The Society of Friends has been influential in the history of the world. The state of Pennsylvania, in the United States, was founded by William Penn, as a safe place for Quakers to live and practice their faith. Quakers have been a significant part of the movements to abolish slavery, promote equal rights for women, and end warfare. They have also promoted education and the humane treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill, through the founding or reforming of various institutions.
During the 19th century Friends in the United States suffered a number of separations. These separations have resulted in the formation of different branches of the Society of Friends. Despite the separations, Friends remain united in their commitment to discover truth and promote it. There are perhaps 400,000 Quakers in the world today, the overwhelming majority of them Evangelicals in Africa and Latin America.
The Quakers began in England in the early 1650s as a Nonconformist movement separate from other such movements, from Anglicanism and from Roman Catholicism. Some would say that it was not precisely a "break" from any of these, but was organized outside of them. Traditionally George Fox has been taken to be the founder or at least the most important early figure, but modern scholarship suggests a more complicated picture. Most likely, a number of radical Puritans, among them Fox, James Nayler and Edward Burrough, independently came to similar positions, eventually came into contact with one another, and then began to coordinate their preaching. However, since Fox outlived most of what some Quakers have called the Valiant Sixty---a group of early Quaker evangelists---his account of the early days as recorded in his Journal, while it may exaggerate his role, is the most detailed one available.
The Valiant Sixty emphasized an element of early Christian faith which was eventually marginalized: that direct experience with God was available to all people, without any mediation (e.g. through a pastor, or through sacraments). Friends have often expressed this belief by referring to "that of God in Everyone", "inner light", "inward Christ", "the spirit of Christ within", and many other terms.
Fox left home at age 19 in 1644 on a religious search that lasted about three years, until he reported hearing the voice of Christ, and undergoing a process of personal transformation by the workings of the "inward light". He began preaching publicly in 1648. At that time, Puritanism was predominant in England under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, but religious dissent and political dissent were increasing. Fox was a highly vocal dissenter, as he considered many of the religious practices of the time to be inconsistent with Christian faith. In particular, he rejected the notion of a paid priesthood and of governmentally sanctioned church buildings (which he derided as "steeple-houses"), believing instead that everyone can be a minister and that any worshipful gathering of true Christians is equally legitimate. Thus, traditional Quaker worship had no individual in charge of conducting a planned service; instead, worshippers gathered in silence, which was only interrupted when someone in attendance felt moved by the Spirit to speak. Fox also believed the Puritans were wrong to regard literal reading of Scripture as a higher authority than personal experience of the divine, quoting Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians that "the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."
He began his career by speaking in outdoor public places and in congregations—something he continued to do throughout his life. In many cases this resulted in his abuse and imprisonment—especially when he came into "steeple-houses" to denounce the sermons after the minister had finished, which was the custom and legal during the Commonwealth. From 1652 onward Fox was closely associated with an earlier, very loosely organized movement of religious dissenters, the Seekers. Seekers typically believed that there was no true church in existence, and resigned themselves to waiting for God to reestablish his kingdom, either spiritually or temporally. They had many practices that were similar to the emerging Quaker movement; they had discarded all ceremony in worship and begun the practice of silent meetings which, as Fox rapidly gained followers among the Seekers, became the practice of Friends.
Fox was equally critical of many aspects of English culture besides religious dogma, particularly those that he saw as symptoms of pride and misuse of authority. In 1661, he and other leading Quakers made their first public profession of the peace testimony; it is unclear how universal pacifism was before then, many Quaker converts being sympathetic with the Puritan revolution or even members of the New Model Army, as James Nayler was. After that point, the Quakers maintained that the proper response to injustice was neither violence nor acquiescence, but peaceful non-cooperation. Fox's criticisms of his society were similar to those of the Seekers, Ranters, and Levellers, and he drew followers from all of these groups (as well as from dissatisfied members of Cromwell's movement), but differed from them in his urgent call for a revival of what he saw as original Christian faith and practice, based on obedience to the inwardly revealed word of God and public resistance to injustice. Early Friends saw themselves as "primitive Christianity revived", in William Penn's words, and saw their Puritan and Anglican persecutors as analogous to the Pharisees.
Soon after its birth, the Religious Society of Friends was introduced to Ireland by William Edmundson. He was born in Westmoreland, England in 1627 but moved to Ireland in 1652. On a return trip to England, Edmundson was convinced of the truth of Quakerism under the teaching of James Nayler He went back to Ireland and set up a business in Lurgan, County Armagh. The first Friends meeting in Ireland took place in Edmundson's home there in 1654.
In 1656, a popular Quaker minister, James Nayler, went beyond the standard beliefs of Quakers when he rode into Bristol on a horse in the pouring rain, accompanied by a handful of men and women saying "Holy, holy, holy" and strewing their garments on the ground — clearly imitating Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. While this was apparently an attempt to emphasize that the "Light of Christ" was in every person, most observers believed that Nayler and his followers believed him to be Jesus Christ. The group was arrested by the local authorities and handed over to Parliament, where they were tried. Parliament was sufficiently incensed by Nayler's heterodox views that they punished him savagely and sent him back to Bristol to jail indefinitely.. This was especially bad for the movement's respectability in the eyes of the Puritan rulers because some considered Nayler (and not Fox, who was in jail at the time) to be the actual leader of the movement. Many historians see this event as a turning point in early Quaker history because many other leaders, especially Fox, made efforts to increase the authority of the group over the leadings of the individual, to prevent similar behavior. This effort culminated in 1666 with the "Testimony from the Brethren," aimed at those, in its own words, who despised a rule "without which we . . . cannot be kept holy and inviolable"; it continued the centralizing process that began with the Nayler affair and was aimed at isolating any separatists who still lurked in the Society. Fox also established women's meetings for discipline and gave them an important role in overseeing marriages, which served both to isolate the opposition and fuel discontent with the new departures. In the 1660s and 1670s Fox himself traveled the country setting up a more formal structure of monthly (local) and quarterly (regional) meetings, which still is done today.
Other early controversies
The Society was rent by controversy in the 1660s and 1670s because of these tendencies. First, John Perrot, previously a respected minister and missionary, raised questions about whether men should uncover their heads when another Friend prayed in meeting. Soon this minor question broadened into an attack on the power of those at the center. Later, during the 1670s, William Rogers of Bristol and a group from Lancashire, their spokesmen being John Story and John Wilkinson, all respected leaders, led a schism that disagreed with the heightening influence of women and centralizing authority among Friends closer to London. By the end of the century, their leaders dead, the influence of these groups had been mostly overcome.
Persecution in England
In 1650 George Fox was imprisoned for the first time. Over and over he was thrown in prison during the 1650s through the 1670s. Other Quakers followed him to prison as well. The charge was causing a disturbance; at other times it was blasphemy or refusing to swear oaths.
Two acts of Parliament made it particularly difficult for Friends. The first was the Quaker Act of 1662, which made it illegal not to take the Oath of Allegiance and to hold any religious meetings other than those of the established church. Because Friends believed it was wrong to take an oath, they were sure to run afoul of this law, as its authors well knew. The second act was the Conventicle Act of 1664, which reaffirmed that holding unauthorized religious meetings was a crime.
Despite these laws, the Friends continued to meet openly. They believed that by doing so, they were testifying to the strength of their convictions and were willing to be punished for doing what they believed was right.
In 1689 the Toleration Act was passed. It allowed for freedom of conscience and prevented persecution by making it illegal to disturb anybody else from worship. Thus Quakers became tolerated though still not widely understood and accepted.
Business in the Netherlands
In 1655 four young English ladies arrived in Amsterdam. They met with ridicule: "O London, London, what English will you send us" was whispered throughout anonymously. A year later they were followed by William Ames and Margaret Fell's nephew William Caton. Caton soon learned and married Dutch, but argued with Calvinist preachers in Latin. From Amsterdam preaching tours went to other parts of the European continent. In 1661 Ames and Caton visited Heidelberg and dined with the Prince-Elector of the Palatine.
Rotterdam Quakers with British nationality were allowed to ship people to English colonies. With William Penn visiting in 1671 they tried without success to convert followers of Jean de Labadie. Amsterdam Quaker Jan Claus accompanied and translated for Penn and George Fox on later travels in Europe. His brother Jacob Claus had Quaker books translated and published as well as a map of Philadelphia. By 1797 there were only seven Quakers left in Amsterdam with a granddaughter of Jan Claus taking care of the meeting house on Keizersgracht. When she stopped paying the rent the yearly meeting in London took legal action and had her evicted.
Persecution in the New World
Friends faced persecution again as they migrated to America. The first Friends in the New World came in order to spread their beliefs. In 1656 Mary Fisher and Ann Austin did so, and were imprisoned and banished by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their books were burned, and most of their property was confiscated. They were imprisoned in terrible conditions, deprived of food and even light. Were it not for somebody smuggling food to them, they might have starved in their cell. They were eventually deported.
In 1657 a group of Friends from England landed at Long Island in what was then called New Amsterdam. One of these Friends, Robert Hodgson, preached to large crowds of people. He was arrested, imprisoned, and flogged. Some sympathetic Dutch colonists were able to get him released. The preaching continued with some positive response as well as some continued persecution. Finally, on December 27, 1657 some of the citizens of Flushing wrote to the governor in protest. They reminded Governor Peter Stuyvesant that the colony's charter allowed for freedom of conscience. The document is called the Flushing Remonstrance. It is the first instance in the American colonies of settlers petitioning for religious freedom.
Some Friends in New England were only imprisoned or banished. A few were also whipped, branded, or otherwise corporally punished. Christopher Holder, for example, had his ear cut off. A few were executed by the Puritan leaders, usually for ignoring and defying orders of banishment. Mary Dyer was thus executed in 1660. Three other martyrs to the Quaker faith in Massachusetts were William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and William Leddra. These events are described by Edward Burrough in A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New-England, for the Worshipping of God (1661).
In contrast to the intolerant Puritans, several colonies offered safe haven for the Friends in the New World. Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and many Friends migrated there. Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania were also tolerant of the Friends. In fact, Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn specifically as a place for Quakers to live in peace. Maryland, which was established as a haven for Roman Catholics, extended a welcome to Friends as well.
In 1691 George Fox died. Thus, the Quaker movement went into the 18th Century without one of its most influential early leaders. Thanks to the Toleration Act of 1689, people in Great Britain were no longer criminals simply by being Friends.
During this time, other people began to recognize Quakers for their integrity in social and economic matters. Many Quakers went into manufacturing or commerce, because they were not allowed to earn academic degrees at that time. These Quaker businessmen were successful, in part, because people trusted them. The customers knew that Quakers felt a strong conviction to set a fair price for goods and not to haggle over prices. They also knew that Quakers were committed to quality work, and that what they produced would be worth the price.
Some useful and popular products made by Quaker businesses at that time included iron and steel by Abraham Darby and pharmaceuticals by William Allen. An early meeting house was set up in Broseley, Shropshire by the Darbys.
At the same time that Friends were succeeding in manufacturing and commerce, they were also becoming more concerned about social issues and becoming more active in society at large.
One such issue was slavery. The Germantown (Pennsylvania) Monthly Meeting put their opposition to slavery into their minutes in 1733, but abolitionism did not become universal among Friends until its promotion by concerned Friends like Anthony Benezet and John Woolman. Woolman was a farmer, retailer, and tailor from New Jersey who became convinced that slavery was wrong. Before that time, some Friends owned slaves. In general they opposed mistreatment of slaves and promoted the teaching of Christianity to them. Woolman argued that the entire practice of buying, selling, and owning human beings was wrong in principle. Other Friends started to agree and became very active in the Abolition movement. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting prohibited members from owning slaves in 1776.
Another issue that became a concern of Friends was the treatment of the mentally ill. Tea merchant, William Tuke opened the Retreat at York in 1796. It was a place where the mentally ill were treated with the dignity that Friends believe is inherent in all human beings. Most asylums at that time forced such people into deplorable conditions and did nothing to help them.
By the late 1700s, Quakers were sufficiently recognized and accepted that United States Constitution contained language specifically directed at Quaker citizens -- in particular, the explicit allowance of "affirming," as opposed to "swearing," various oaths.
Influential Quakers of the 19th Century
During the 19th Century, Friends continued to have an impact on the world around them. Many of the industrial concerns started by Friends in the previous century continued, with new ones beginning. Friends also continued and increased their work in the areas of social justice and equality. They made other contributions as well in the fields of science, literature, art, law and politics.
In the realm of industry Edward Pease opened the Stockton and Darlington Railway in northern England in 1825. It was the first modern railway in the world, and carried coal from the mines to the seaports. Henry and Joseph Rowntree owned a chocolate factory in York, England. When Henry died, Joseph took it over. He provided the workers with more benefits than most employers of his day. He also funded low-cost housing for the poor. John Cadbury founded another chocolate factory, which his sons George and Richard eventually took over. A third chocolate factory was founded by Joseph Fry in Bristol.
Quakers actively promoted equal rights during this century as well. As early as 1811, Elias Hicks published a pamphlet showing that slaves were "prize goods"--that is, products of piracy--and hence profiting from them violated Quaker principles; it was a short step from that position to reject use of all products made from slave labor, the so-called "free produce" movement that won support among Friends and others but also proved divisive. Quaker women such as Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony joined the movement to abolish slavery, moving them to cooperate politically with non-Quakers in working against the institution. Somewhat as a result of their initial exclusion from abolitionist activities, they changed their focus to the right of women to vote and influence society. Thomas Garret lead in the movement to abolish slavery, personally assisting Harriet Tubman to escape from slavery and to coordinate the Underground Railroad. Richard Dillingham died in a Tennessee prison where he was incarcerated for trying to help some slaves escape. Levi Coffin was also an active abolitionist, helping thousands of escaped slaves migrate to Canada and opening a store for selling products made by former slaves.
Prison reform was another concern of Quakers at that time. Elizabeth Fry and her brother Joseph John Gurney campaigned for more humane treatment of prisoners and for the abolition of the death penalty. They had moderate success, in that Parliament did eventually pass legislation to improve prison conditions and to decrease the number of capital crimes.
In the early days of the Society of Friends, Quakers were not allowed to get an advanced education. Eventually some did get opportunities to go to university and beyond, which meant that more and more Quakers could enter the various fields of science. Thomas Young an English Quaker, did experiments with optics, contributing much to the wave theory of light. He also discovered how the lens in the eye works and described astigmatism and formulated an hypothesis about the perception of color. Young was also involved in translating the Rosetta Stone. He translated the demotic text and began the process of understanding the hieroglyphics. Maria Mitchell was an astronomer who discovered a comet. She was also active in the abolition movement and the women’s suffrage movement. Joseph Lister promoted the use of sterile techniques in medicine, based on Pasteur’s work on germs. Thomas Hodgkin was a pathologist who made major breakthroughs in the field of anatomy. He was the first doctor to describe the type of lymphoma named after him. An historian, he was also active in the movement to abolish slavery and to protect aboriginal people. John Dalton formulated the atomic theory of matter, among other scientific achievements.
Quakers were not apt to participate publicly in the arts. For many Quakers these things violated their commitment to simplicity and were thought too “worldly.” Some Quakers, however, are noted today for their creative work. John Greenleaf Whittier was an editor and a poet in the United States. Among his works were some poems involving Quaker history and hymns expressing his Quaker theology. He also worked in the abolition movement. Edward Hicks painted religious and historical paintings in the naive style and Francis Frith was a British photographer whose catalogue ran to many thousands of topographical views.
At first Quakers were barred by law and their own convictions from being involved in the arena of law and politics. As time went on, a few Quakers in England and the United States did enter that arena. Joseph Pease was the son of Edward Pease mentioned above. He continued and expanded his father’s business. In 1832 he became the first Quaker elected to Parliament. Noah Haynes Swayne was the only Quaker to serve on the United States Supreme Court. He was an Associate Justice from 1862-1881. He strongly opposed slavery, moving out of the slave-holding state of Virginia to the free state of Ohio in his young adult years.
In the 19th Century Friends began to be influenced by the revivals sweeping the United States. Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife Hannah Whitall Smith, Quakers from New Jersey, had a huge impact on the Christian world. They promoted the Wesleyan idea of Christian perfection, also known as holiness or sanctification, among Quakers and among various denominations. Their work inspired the formation of many new Christian groups. Hannah Smith was also involved in the movements for women’s suffrage and for temperance.
19th century controversies and divisions
The Society in Ireland, and later, the United States suffered a number of separations during the 19th century. In 1827-28, the views and popularity of Elias Hicks resulted in a division within five yearly meetings, Philadelphia, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Baltimore. Rural Friends, who had increasingly chafed under the control of urban leaders, sided with Hicks and naturally took a stand against strong discipline in doctrinal questions. Those who supported Hicks were tagged as "Hicksites," while Friends who opposed him were labeled "Orthodox." The latter had more adherents overall but were plagued by subsequent splintering. The only division the Hicksites experienced was when a small group of upper class and reform-minded Progressive Friends of Longwood, Pennsylvania, emerged in the 1840s; they maintained a precarious position for about a century.
In the early 1840s the Orthodox Friends in America were exercised by a transatlantic dispute between Joseph John Gurney of England and John Wilbur of Rhode Island. Gurney, troubled by the example of the Hicksite separation, emphasized Scriptural authority and favored working closely with other Christian groups. Wilbur, in response, defended the authority of the Holy Spirit as primary, and worked to prevent the dilution of the Friends tradition of Spirit-led ministry. After privately criticizing Gurney in correspondence to sympathetic Friends, Wilbur was expelled from his yearly meeting in a questionable proceeding in 1842. Probably the best known Orthodox Friend was the poet and abolitionist editor John Greenleaf Whittier. Over the next several decades, a number of Wilburite-Gurneyite separations occurred.
For the most part, Friends in Britain were strongly evangelical in doctrine and escaped these major separations, though they corresponded only with the Orthodox and mostly ignored the Hicksites.
Starting in the late 19th century, many American Gurneyite Quakers adopted the use of paid pastors, planned sermons, hymns and other elements of Protestant worship services. This type of Quaker meeting is known as a "programmed meeting". Worship of the traditional, silent variety is called an "unprogrammed meeting", although there is some variation on how the unprogrammed meetings adhere strictly to the lack of programming. Some unprogrammed meetings may have also allocated a period of hymn-singing or other activity as part of the total period of worship, while others maintain the tradition of avoiding all planned activities. (See also Joel Bean.)
Twentieth Century Developments
During the 20th century, Quakerism was marked by movements toward unity, but at the end of the century Quakers were more sharply divided than ever. By the time of the first World War almost all Quakers in Britain and many in the United States found themselves committed to what came to be called "liberalism," which meant primarily a religion that deemphasized corporate statements of theology and was characterized by its emphasis on social action and pacifism. Hence when the two Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings, one Hicksite, one Orthodox, united in 1955--to be followed in the next decade by the two in Baltimore Yearly Meeting--they came together on the basis of a shared liberalism. As time wore on and the implication of this liberal change became more apparent, sharpening lines of division between various groups of Friends became more accentuated.
World War I at first produced an effort toward unity, embodied in the creation of the American Friends Service Committee in 1917 by Orthodox Friends, led by Rufus Jones and Henry Cadbury. A Friends Service Committee, as an agency of London Yearly Meeting, had already been created in Britain to help Quakers there deal with problems of military service; it continues today, after numerous name changes, as Quaker Peace & Social Witness. Envisioned as a service outlet for conscientious objectors that could draw support from across diverse yearly meetings, the AFSC began losing support from more evangelical Quakers as early as the 1920s and served to emphasize the differences between them, but prominent Friends such as Herbert Hoover continued to offer it their public support. Many Quakers from Oregon, Ohio, and Kansas became alienated from the Five Years Meeting (later Friends United Meeting), considering it infected with the kind of theological liberalism that Jones exemplified; Oregon Yearly Meeting withdrew in 1927. That same year, eleven evangelicals met in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to plan how to resist the influence of liberalism, but depression and war prevented another gathering for twenty years, until after the end of the second world war.
To overcome such divisions, liberal Quakers organized so-called worldwide conferences of Quakers in 1920 in London and again in 1937 at Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges in Pennsylvania, but they were too liberal and too expensive for most evangelicals to attend. A more successful effort at unity was the Friends Committee on National Legislation, originating during World War II in Washington, D.C., as a pioneering Quaker lobbying unit. In 1958 the Friends World Committee for Consultation was organized to form a neutral ground where all branches of the Society of Friends could come together, consider common problems, and get to know one another; it held triennial conferences that met in various parts of the world, but it had not found a way to involve very many grassroots Quakers in its activities. One of its agencies, created during the Cold War and known as Right Sharing of World Resources, collects funds from Quakers in the "first world" to finance small self-help projects in the "Third World," including some supported by Evangelical Friends International. Beginning in 1955 and continuing for a decade, three of the yearly meetings divided by the Hicksite separation of 1827, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, as well as Canadian Yearly Meeting, reunited.
Disagreements between the various Quaker groups, Friends United Meeting, Friends General Conference, Evangelical Friends International, and Conservative yearly meetings, involved both theological and more concrete social issues. FGC, founded in 1900 and centered primarily in the East, along the West coast, and in Canada, tended to be oriented toward the liberal end of the spectrum, was mostly unprogrammed, and closely aligned with AFSC; by the last part of the century it had taken a strong position in favor of same-sex marriage, was supportive of gay rights, and usually favored a woman's right to choose an abortion. Its membership tended to be professional and middle class or higher.
Rooted in the Mid-west, especially Indiana and North Carolina, FUM was historically more rural and small-town in its demographics. The Friends churches which formed part of this body were predominantly programmed and pastoral. Though a minority of its yearly meetings (New York, New England, Baltimore, Southeastern and Canada) were also affiliated with Friends General Conference and were more theologically liberal and predominantly unprogrammed in worship style, the theological position of the majority of its constituent yearly meetings was often similar in flavor to the Protestant Christian mainstream in Indiana and North Carolina. In 1960, a theological seminary, Earlham School of Religion, was founded in FUM's heartland - Richmond, Indiana - to offer ministerial training and religious education. The seminary soon came to enroll significant numbers of unprogrammed Friends, as well as Friends from pastoral backgrounds.
EFI was staunchly evangelical and by the end of the century had more members converted through its missionary endeavors abroad than in the United States; Southwest Friends Church illustrated the group's drift away from traditional Quaker practice, permitting its member churches to practice the outward ordinances of the Lord's Supper and baptism. On social issues its members exhibited strong antipathy toward homosexuality and enunciated a pro-life position on abortion. At century's end, Conservative Friends held onto only three small yearly meetings, in Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, with Friends from Ohio arguably the most traditional. In Britain and Europe where institutional unity and almost universal unprogrammed worship style were maintained, these distinctions did not apply, nor did they in Latin America and Africa where evangelical missionary activity predominated.
In the 1960s and later, these categories were challenged by a mostly self-educated Friend, Lewis Benson, a New Jersey printer by training, a theologian by vocation. Immersing himself in the corpus of early Quaker writings, he made himself an authority on George Fox and his message. In 1966, Benson published Catholic Quakerism, a small book that sought to move the Society of Friends to what he insisted was a strongly pro-Fox position of authentic Christianity, entirely separate from theological liberalism, churchly denominationalism, or rural isolation. He created the New Foundation Fellowship, which blazed forth for a decade or so but had about disappeared as an effective group by the end of the century.
By that time, the differences between Friends were quite clear, to each other if not always to outsiders. Theologically, a small minority of Friends among the "liberals" expressed discomfort with theistic understandings of the Divine, while more evangelical Friends adhered to a more biblical worldview. Periodical attempts to institutionally reorganize the disparate Religious Society of Friends into more theologically congenial organizations took place, but generally failed. By the beginning of the twentieth-first century, Friends United Meeting, as the middle ground, was suffering from these efforts, but still remained in existence, even if it did not flourish. In its home base of yearly meetings in Indiana especially, it lost numerous churches and members, both to other denominations and to the evangelicals.
Quakers in Britain and the Eastern United States embarked on efforts in the field of adult education, creating two schools with term-long courses, week-end activities, and summer programs. Woodbrooke College began in 1903 at the former home of chocolate magnate George Cadbury in Birmingham, England, and later became associated with the University of Birmingham, while Pendle Hill, in the Philadelphia suburb of Wallingford, did not open until 1930. Both sought to educate adults for the kind of lay leadership that the founders Society of Friends relied upon. They also maintain modest research libraries and resources.
During the twentieth century, two Quakers, Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon, both from the Western evangelical wing of the group, were elected to serve as presidents of the United States, thus achieving more secular political power than any Friend had enjoyed since William Penn. The policies of neither brought much acclaim to Quakers, with many Eastern American Friends actively opposing Nixon and calling for East Whittier Friends Church, where he held formal membership, to disown him.
Quakers and the Kindertransport
Prior to WWII in 1938-1939 10,000 Jewish children were given temporary resident visas for the UK, in what became known as the Kindertransport, this allowed the children to escape the Holocaust. The Quakers played a major role in pressuring the UK government to supply these Visas. The Quakers chaperoned the Jewish children on the trains, and cared for many of them once they arrived in Britain.
Quakers in Costa Rica
In 1951 a group of Quakers, objecting to the military conscription, emigrated from the United States to Costa Rica and settled in what was to become Monteverde. The Quakers founded the Cheese Factory and a Friends School and, in an attempt to protect the area's watershed, purchased much of the land that now makes up the Monteverde Reserve. The Quakers have played a major role in the development of the community.
Quakers in Brief by David Murray-Rust
Quaker Historical Materials resource page