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Quaker Women: Published Sources

Resources on Quaker Women in the Earlham College Archive and Friends Collection

A Guide to Finding Published Sources

A good starting point for the published works of Quaker women before 1900 is Joseph Smith, A Descriptive Catalogue of Friends Books (2 vols., 1867; supplement 1893). At the end of almost every entry he provides a brief biographical sketch that can provide clues about localities and locations.

The most comprehensive collection of early Quaker writings is found in the Friends Library, published in 14 volumes from 1837 to 1850. It favors male authors. Moreover, the editors, Thomas and William Evans, were Philadelphia Orthodox Friends who saw their work as an antidote to ''Hicksism." They were not above the excision of material that they considered of "bad tendency." However, its index, compiled in 1949, is a very useful way to gain access to the names of individuals mentioned in early Quaker writings who are not otherwise accessible.

The Hicksite counterpart was the Friends Miscellany, published originally as a periodical, running to twelve volumes. It favors eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writings, but does contain some information on seventeenth-century Friends. There is no index, although each volume has a table of contents.

Seventeenth-century Friends faced legal persecution in both Great Britain and America. Friends kept careful records of their experiences, which were collected and published in 1753 in Joseph Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers (2 vols., 1753). It has an every-name index in volume II.

Early in the twentieth century, the Friends Historical Society in London published two invaluable compilations of information about the activities of the very earliest Friends: First Publishers of Truth (5 vols.); and Extracts from State Papers Relating to Friends, 1654-1672, nos. 8-11. The closest thing that we have to a biographical collection is Piety Promoted in a Collection of Dying Sayings of Many of the People Called Quakers. It went through numerous editions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The title is somewhat misleading. It often contains considerable biographical information, along with the moral and improving "dying sayings."

Piety Promoted was the forerunner of a mass of Quaker memorial literature from the seventeenth century to the present. Memorials were spiritual biographies, usually brief but sometimes quite lengthy, composed after the death of prominent Friends. Friends began collecting and publishing them in the eighteenth century. These are found in the BX7790, BX7791, and BX7794 ranges. The most important of such collections is the Annual Monitor, which collected obituaries for British Friends starting in 1813. Memorials can also be found in the yearly meeting minutes after 1828. These are arranged alphabetically in BX7608.

Quakers began publishing periodicals, weekly or monthly, in the 1820s. From the beginning, these included obituaries and memorials of members. Those in the major Philadelphia journals before 1960 (The Friend, Friends' Review, Friends Intelligencer, and Friends Journal) are indexed in Quaker Necrology. An online index to obituaries in the American Friend for 1894-1960 is available at the Friends Collection website. These Quaker periodicals are rich in writings by women. Unfortunately, there is no general index. Some of the volumes have annual indexes, but they often do not index authors.

Since the early 1900s, two periodicals devoted to Quaker history have been published by the Friends Historical Association of Philadelphia and the Friends Historical Society of London. Bulletin of Friends Historical Association (since 1960 Quaker History) found at BX7604 F53; and the Journal of Friends Historical Society. The former has indexes, but the latter does not. 

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