The Quakers

By Hugh Barbour; J. William Frost | Go to book overview
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20
SOCIAL SERVICE AND SOCIAL CHANGE, 1902-1970

Quaker philanthropists in the nineteenth century supported a multitude of temperance programs, children's homes, schools for blacks, aid societies, and clothing workrooms for indigent women. 1 After the end of southern Reconstruction, the most important social and moral reform for all Friends was temperance. Virtually no one in Protestant circles could justify allowing liquor. For workers, drinking beer at lunch led to drowsiness, inefficiency, and accidents. Laborers who squandered their wages on whiskey reduced their families to destitution, and alcohol supposedly caused crime, insanity, prostitution, and political corruption. Support for total abstinence was characteristic of British as well as American Friends through the 1920s. The effort throughout a century to free Quakers from using alcohol or selling liquor led the Quaker tea-selling Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury families into the English cocoa and chocolate business. American rural areas with many Quakers used the local option to "go dry." Today there is diversity in Quaker attitudes toward alcohol. Evangelical Friends usually insist on abstinence; liberals often allow moderate drinking, but many abstainers remain in eastern Meetings, some also preferring a vegetarian diet or natural foods.

Although many Quaker women who were first active for women's rights stopped attending worship, Lucretia Mott* and Anna Sharpless made voting rights for women a vital issue within Quaker Meetings. Friends like Sarah and Angelina Grimke* and Elizabeth Comstock* played key roles in the early nineteenth-century women's movement, as later did Susan B. Anthony and Abby Foster Kelly. Philadelphia Hicksites publicly supported women's suffrage in 1914; the Orthodox never took a stand. The tactics of Quaker Alice Paul's Congressional Union during World War I, which included picketing the White House, civil disobedience, and going to jail, were too radical for most Friends.

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