Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865

By Lee, Deborah A. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865


Lee, Deborah A., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865 * A. Glenn Crothers * Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012 * xvi, 374 pp. * $69.95

An integral yet distinct minority, Quakers played a significant role in shaping northern Virginias economy and culture. Glenn Crothers gives these Upper South members of the Society of Friends the respectful, critical, and in-depth treatment they deserve. He argues that Virginia Quakers variously integrated into and dissented from mainstream society, with more cooperation during times of peace and prosperity and more intolerance during wars and recessions. Over time, these men and women objected to slavery and aided people of color, modeled a free labor alternative to slavery, and expanded middle-class culture with more education and equality for women and people of color.

Beginning in the 1730s, members of the Society of Friends from Pennsylvania and New Jersey migrated to northern Virginia and the Lower (northern) Shenandoah Valley. They purchased attractively priced land and established cohesive communities with central Quaker meetings. These meetings were affiliated with those in Baltimore and Philadelphia, so members retained close ties to northern Friends, even as they necessarily integrated into mainstream society.

Crothers pays particular attention to Quaker values and attributes that were often in tension with one another, such as regional and religious identities, simplicity and prosperity, peace and advocacy (or agitation), truth and diplomacy. At their best, these tensions were creative and productive, but they also led to infighting, schism, emigration, and persecution. During times of crises, and as the Quaker population diminished because of migration to the free territories of the Midwest, women expanded their leadership roles and their bonds with one another and reinforced the community.

At first, peace principles engendered the most difficulty with mainstream society, especially during the Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War, but Quaker opposition to slavery became more of a problem after slave rebellions and as sectional differences intensified. …

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