Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley

By Barry Levy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX

Wives—Ministers—Mothers

The Welsh Tract and Chester Quaker communities' use of intimate relations to convey the Holy Spirit, instead of the formal relations of extra-household institutions, had another major consequence: the creation of a tightly focused, characterologically consistent, social role for women. 1 The Quakers melded women's sexuality, spirituality, and maternal authority into a novel feminine mystique that later became the model for New England advocates of domesticity.

The initial set of Welsh removal certificates did not express fully George Fox's and Margaret Fell's opinion that women should occupy a powerful place in the Society of Friends. They wanted women to be spiritually equal with men, to have nearly a co-equal role in ruling the Society, to speak in worship meeting as recognized ministers, to exercise authority over men and women through their monthly meetings, and to hold full authority over "women's matters." Among these items, the Welsh meetings only recognized episodically the importance of women's maternal influence.

The 62 Welsh Tract removal certificates, recorded between 1682 and 1695, mentioned 57 men and 60 women (30 of the women were married, 4 widows, 11 spinsters, 14 children). The Welsh meetings gave some married women attention as mothers. Sina Pugh was noted as a "good, careful, industrious woman ... in things relating to her poor small children wise, discreet, and circumspect...." 2 In the few cases where a meeting described a public role for women,

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