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November 10, 2002

Posted by Teresa at 12:55 AM *

From “The testimony of Margaret Fox concerning her late husband,” from The Journal of George Fox,a0 1694; describing the first time she heard him speak:

And so he went on, and said, “That Christ was the Light of the world, and lighteth every man that cometh into the world; and that by this light they might be gathered to God,” &c. I stood up in my pew, and wondered at his doctrine, for I had never heard such before. And then he went on, and opened the scriptures, and said, “The scriptures were the prophets’ words, and Christ’s and the apostles’ words, and what, as they spoke, they enjoyed and possessed, and had it from the Lord”: and said, “Then what had any to do with the scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth? You will say, ‘Christ saith this, and the apostles say this;’ but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?” &c. This opened me so, that it cut me to the heart; and then I saw clearly we were all wrong. So I sat down in my pew again, and cried bitterly: and I cried in my spirit to the Lord, “We are all thieves; we are all thieves; we have taken the scriptures in words, and know nothing of them in ourselves.”
Comments on Commonplaces:
#1 ::: Pamela Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 12:24 AM:

Teresa, Teresa, looky!

It's Margaret Fell (pre-Fox, that is), giving pure heck to people who think women shouldn't be able to speak in meeting. Chapter and verse.

It's exhilarating, until one remembers that Dorothy Sayers had to make practically the same arguments all over again hundreds of years later.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 07:55 PM:

Oh, I like that!

When I was in college, we had a ranting preacher turn up on the main pedestrian mall and yell at everybody for several days. He refused to let women say anything -- just shouted over the top of them. He had an amp, so he won.

Hmmmmf. If God didn't want women to preach, He wouldn't have made me look like I belonged there in every pulpit I've ever stood in.

#3 ::: Pamela Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 02:34 PM:

I'd never heard of Margaret Fell until I started dating a Quaker. Her splendid essay did make me wonder why she got married again, given that some of her arguments boil down to, "Well, it does say that if a woman is married she has to let her husband speak for her, but it doesn't say anything about unmarried women and widows." George Fox must have been quite something.

I am sorry to say that even without his amp the mere tale of your ranting preacher leaves me speechless.

It's not just how you look in a pulpit; you have the voice of the matter too.

#4 ::: Celia Marsh ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 12:40 PM:

I was raised Quaker, but (possibly because of that) I never read much about it. Then I went to Rome, and stayed at a Jesuit college with very little English fiction, but a big religion collection, even of other religions. And I picked up a book called "Mothers of Feminism," by Margaret H. Bacon, about Quaker women, and loved it. I hadn't read much about feminism either, and I never had realised that Quakerism was equal opportunity from the begining. It was so neat to read about women in the 1700s who would get called to minister, and basically kiss their husbands good-bye and say, "take care of the kids, I'll be back by winter." And their husbands would let them, and their communities would support them. It seems like such a modern thing.

I remember writing to my grandmother about how old the women it was talking about would live to be -- many of them would be 70 years of age or older, travelling from Meeting to Meeting. My grandmother did all but laugh at me. She was 75 or more and had just moved from our small town to Philadelphia to work for the Quaker UN branch for the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

In retrospect, I wouldn't be surprised if reading that book is what made me so interested in the role of women in the Christian Church in my Late Antquity classes when I went back to college, and now that I'm thinking about post grad degrees in history -- because they started out roughly equal in Christianity as well, but instead of being accepted, it was supressed.

#5 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 09:23 AM:

Years ago I wrote the only (still is, I believe) young adult biography of George Fox. And I thought then--and still think now--that Margaret Fell was far and away the best thing about him. He was a ranter and a raver and could walk across the snow in bare feet (literally) and never feel the cold. But she had a true organizing spirit. Modern Quakerism owes more to her than to him, I believe.


#6 ::: Pamela Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 05:42 PM:

You know, I was wondering about that very thing.

I started reading Fox's autobiography and had to give up; it made me laugh too much. His young self was so very earnest and easily shocked.

So, you gonna write a biography of Margaret Fell?

#7 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 06:40 PM:

Nah--I don't have the energy to revisit all that research from twenty five years ago. Though I wouldn't be surprised if some avatar of Margaret Fell Fox doesn't invade my stories now and again.
Have Strong Woman, Will Invent.

In fact a character in a new children's novel (which I may or may not ever finish writing) is a Quaker widow with child in 19th century Nantucket where the Quaker ladies were power houses and ran their own all-female meetings (as well as their households and the local businesses while all the men were off whaling.)


#8 ::: Pamela Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2002, 12:25 PM:

I certainly understand about the wish not to revisit old research.

I'd love to read that book. It makes me think of Maria Mitchell.

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