Category Archives: Hard-Core Quaker

Making (Quaker) History: the Roundtable Is Now on Video!

Lots of questions! (Plus videos.)

By the end of the Quaker History Roundtable last weekend, there were lots of questions; several flip chart sheets worth.

We wrapped up the gathering on Sunday morning June 11, after fourteen lively presentations, with a brainstorming session on research we’d like to see about American Quakerism in the last century. 

We had already accumulated two flip chart pages of suggestions. And in two more hours, we filled several more sheets. Only the fact that it was time to head home brought the intellectual jam session to a close.

This should not be surprising. Both the energy and the curiosity had been running high since . We had learned a lot in the fourteen formal presentations since Thursday evening. But there was so much more to explore.

Presenters Isaac May (left) and Guy Aiken (left center) listen as ESR’s Lonnie Valentine (hands raised) pursues an idea, as Jeff Dudiak from Canada (right) listens in.

Back home after this extraordinary long  weekend, the ideas are still echoing,  and calling.

There was a lot to like at the Quaker History Roundtable,, at least for me. Here are several things in particular:

  1. The mix of elders and rising talent. Our lineup included some of the most distinguished senior Quaker historians still active, and several young researchers and archivists who are just entering the field.
  2. In addition, we did pretty well elsewhere on the diversity front: there were participants of color, LGBTQ, close to parity male/female; various branches were represented, and at least one was a registered Republican.
    Group photo of presenters. Back row (left to right): Doug Gwyn, Dick Nurse, Tom Hamm, Guy Aiken, Chuck Fager, Celia Caust-Ellenbogen; Middle row: Janet Gardner, Betsy Cazden, Steve McNeil, Gwen osney Erickson, Emma Lapsansky, Mary Craudereuff; Seated, front: Greg Hinshaw, Larry Ingle, Isaac May & Steve Angell. Thanks to all!
  3. This variety was not the result of a planning committee checking off boxes. Presenters stepped up, and brought papers as their ticket of admission. So active interest in what has happened among American Friends of late is found on numerous points of the spectrum.
  4. There was a sense of immediacy and connection. Many events that presenters wrote about, some of us had lived through, or had personally felt the reverberations. And in some cases, though the “history” goes back many decades, it is far from over yet.
    Larry Ingle, retired author of a landmark study of the Separation of 1827 and the leading biography of George Fox, describes the ambiguous response of Quaker officials to the famous Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers Communist spy scandals of the late 1940s and early 1950s — a case that launched a young Quaker Congressman, Richard Nixon, onto the national stage. Beside hm is Isaac May, a doctoral student from the University of Virginia. Isaac examined the 1928 presidential election, which pitted a world-famous Friend, Herbert Hoover, against Catholic Al Smith. The contest, he showed, brought out much that was not very uplifting about Friends.
  5. Willingness to open up tough questions: Does FUM have a future? Was there militant segregation, war fever & homophobia in a large southern yearly meeting? (And how much still lingers?)  Communists working with AFSC?
    Other socialist influence among Friends then?
  6. Gwen Gosney Erickson (left) from Guilford listens to Mary Craudereuff, from Haverford, describing plans to renovate and expand their archival collection and facility. They also grappled with questions such as: who gets remembered and documented in Quaker archives? How do these collections find ways to broaden their work to better include communities and persons whose voices are marginalized or silenced?

     Archives are exciting! Staff from four major collections (Lilly Library at Earlham, Haverford, Guilford College’s Quaker Historical Collection & Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library) showed that their stacks and vaults are not only rich treasure troves of insight and answers for seekers, but also arenas for some of today’s most contested questions, and magnets for talented younger Friends.
    It was no accident that the Roundtable was opened by two very articulate archivists, focusing on such issues. They voiced plenty to ponder & work on here, both in and out of the stacks.
  7. A supportive setting. Major kudos are due to to the Earlham School of Religion, from Dean Jay Marshall to its office staff, for unstinted support and active hospitality to the Roundtable project.
    ESR Dean Jay Marshall, welcoming us to Indiana. Backing him up were staffers Miriam Bunner, Mandy Ford, videographer Ryan Frame, students Eva Abbott, Anne Hutchinson & John & Elizabeth Edminster, and faculty Steve Angell. My apologies to the kitchen staff & other volunteers who helped out in various sessions, and whose names I did not record.

    The facilities were comfortable and compact (no need to wander a sprawling campus, unless one wanted to). Meals were ready on time; and staff & volunteers were ready to help ease the many details; the video cameras ran quietly and continuously.
  8.  Media to share the event: by autumn, there will be a book of papers, which will include the Research Agenda notes as well.
    And in the meantime, videos of the presentation have just been uploaded by ESR’s intrepid videographer,  Ryan Frame, You can find them, in nine segments, by clicking here.

Watching is free and no registration or other data sharing is required. (But comments are welcome!)

What can become of  a venture like this? My hope is that it stimulates & encourages more research and reflective presentations on these and the many other remarkable events, personalities, troubles and accomplishments that marked Quakerism’s 20th century in the U. S. These can show up in many venues; keep an eye out.

 

For those skeptics who doubted the existence of the Quaker History Roundtable.

 

 

Quaker History Roundtable — With Webcast!

It’s Here!

The Quaker History Roundtable opens Thursday evening, June 8. Its focus is 20th Century American Quakerism, and it will continue through Sunday morning, June 11.

If you can’t join us in person, you can watch it online. It will be webcast online here.

Background on the Roundtable is at its own webpage, newquakerhistory.net.

The schedule is below. (Fuller descriptions are on the QHR website.)

Thursday – June 8

7:15-7:45 PM – Chuck Fager – Opening – Welcome & Overview &

Introductions

8:00-9:30 PM – Gwen Erickson: History & Historiography & Friends

Mary Craudereuff: Quaker Archives & Civil Rights &
marginalized groups

Friday – June 9

Daisy Douglas Barr of Indiana: she was a Quaker pastor, renowned for her preaching, and served at several Friends churches in the Hoosier state. She was also the head of the Ku Klux Klan’s huge women’s division during the early 1920s,, in the years that the KKK largely controlled the state.

8:00-9:00 am – Breakfast – ESR – 9:25 am Welcome by Jay Marshall, Dean of ESR

9:30-11:15 am – Betsy Cazden: Friends World Committee for Consultation & Modernism: a Critique

Guy Aiken: AFSC, Neutrality & Justice

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch – ESR

1:15-2:45 pm – Tom Hamm: U.S. Young Friends groups and their 20th century impact

Steve Angell: The Dog That didn’t Bark: The Reunification of Canadian Yearly Meetings

3:00-4:30 pm – Janet Gardner & Dick Nurse, documentarians, on their film The Quiet Revolutionaries, showing of work-in–progress, discussion

5:00-6:00 pm – Dinner – ESR

7:30-9:00 pm – Stephen McNeil: Quakers & Japanese Americans

Lonnie Valentine: Quaker Tax Resistance, 20th Century

Saturday June 10

8:00-9:00 am – Breakfast – ESR

9:30-11:15 am – Emma Lapsansky: Quakers and 20th Century Intentional Communities

Kathy Adams: Willie Frye: Controversial North Carolina Quaker Pastor & Activist [Read by Chuck Fager]

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch – ESR

1:30-3:00 pm – Greg Hinshaw: Friends United Meeting & The Mainline

Doug Gwyn: An overview of FGC’s first 20 years

3:15-4:30 pmArchivists’ panel & Tour (Tom Hamm leading):

Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library

Mary Craudereuff, Haverford Quaker Archives

Gwen Gosney Erickson, Guilford College Friends Historical Collection

Tom Hamm, Earlham College Library Quaker archives (with tour)

5:00-6:00 pm – Dinner – ESR

7:30-9:00 pm – Isaac May: Quakers, Herbert Hoover & the 1928 Election

Larry Ingle: A Quaker Elite & Whittaker Chambers

Sunday – June 11

8:00 – 9:00 am – Breakfast – ESR

9:30-11:30 amAgenda for Research & Close

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch – ESR & departure

William Penn & the Fruits of Technological Solitude

Last First Day I needed a brief reading to open Meeting. Feeling reflective, a little book by William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude came to mind.  

Some Fruits was first published, anonymously, in 1693, and has been in print most of the 320-plus years since. A copy of it has sat on my bookshelf for a few decades. 

Some Fruits came to be written because Penn was obliged to disappear for a couple of years. He had to beat it because of his longtime friendship with King James II. Continue reading William Penn & the Fruits of Technological Solitude

Update: Friends Central School Fires Teachers Who Invited Palestinian Speaker; Invites Him Back

Earlier this year I posted about a controversy at Friends Central School in Philadelphia, where a Palestinian Quaker, Sa’ed Atshan, was invited to visit and speak, then abruptly disinvited & the two teachers who invited him, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa,  were suspended.  

The previous posts are  (here,  here ,  here & here).  

The news site philly.com reported on May 10 that the two teachers have now been terminated effective June 30. Along with that decision came an invitation from the school to Sa’ed Atshan to speak at Friends Central sometime in the future, on “his personal experiences and path to peace education.”

The report added that

[The suspended teachers] were offered severance pay of $5,500, but that is contingent on their dropping a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit, said Mark Schwartz, their lawyer.

“This is a ridiculous offer,” he said. “I’d be surprised if they took it. Unlike the school, these two have some principles.”

School representatives on Tuesday declined to give a reason for the terminations.

 

 

 

Continue reading Update: Friends Central School Fires Teachers Who Invited Palestinian Speaker; Invites Him Back

The Handmaid’s Tale 1990: When Frightening Fiction Including Quakers Crashed into a Frightening Quaker Reality (And After)

The Long Read:

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel. The story below is not. It is true, and it happened in 1990, but its reverberations are still being felt, and are maybe stronger and deeper now than when they burst into view. Margaret Atwood’s fictional vision was directly relevant to it — as well as that of another novel which became its mirror image. Read on to understand why.

It begins with a showdown at Silver Bay, involving witches versus demons.

I. Gilead Meets the Goddess


New York Yearly Meeting gathers at Silver Bay, a resort complex on Lake George, north of Albany. Silver Bay is a lovely and peaceful setting, to which many New York Quakers return as pilgrims each summer seeking rest and renewal among Friends.

When the yearly meeting gathered in July of 1990, rest and renewal seemed in short supply. The 1980s had not been easy for New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM).

While many other unprogrammed yearly meetings were growing, New York’s membership declined by about ten per cent; the body struggled to meet its budget; and worst of all, its annual sessions were wracked by chronic wrangling, over doctrine and morals. An effort to rewrite its Faith and Practice, pending since 1977, dragged on abrasively throughout the decade; by 1990, this process had become so acrimonious that the Yearly Meeting put it on hold for a year.

In its travail, New York had become a kind of field laboratory for an ongoing experiment in institutional Quaker ecumenism. Unfortunately, in the latter years of the 1980s, many of the results of this test had not been promising, and never more so than at its 1990 session.

Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale 1990: When Frightening Fiction Including Quakers Crashed into a Frightening Quaker Reality (And After)

Friends’ History Coming Alive: The Quaker History Roundtable

I’ve been retired for four-plus years, and interested in Quaker history for about fifty. I’ve done research, attended conferences of historians, and written my share of articles and books on related topics. I’ve also organized some conferences. (For more about this work, click here. )

Retirement is supposed to be when, with time growing short, one gets to work on the bucket list. And on my list, making some sense of the last century — half of which I spent among Friends — is pretty high. Much higher than going on a cruise.

Call me weird, but I think watching glaciers melt is like watching paint dry. Besides, I’ve checked, and not one of these boats has a decent Quaker library.

Working on Quaker history has been continually stimulating for me, and often fun. And not much has been done on the 20th century among Quakers — despite the fact that a LOT went on.

Seventeen years past the end of that century, I figured it was time to start filling that gap. So about a year ago I started sounding out scholars and others I’ve met and heard about who are also Quaker history geeks, and suggested we do some work, then get together and share and discuss it; many were interested. And I had enough savings to underwrite it, so I did.  Continue reading Friends’ History Coming Alive: The Quaker History Roundtable

Ringing Spring’s Bell for Continued Quaker Resistance

When Friends pulled the rope on the bell atop Spring Friends Meeting, the ringing convened the Carolina Friends Emergency Consultation on March 25. And its session began with cheers & applause.

Pull the rope, ring the bell for victory over the AHCA, and to call for continued resistance.

That’s because there was a major success to celebrate: the abrupt, inglorious end of the so-called “American Health Care Act” the day before. Continue reading Ringing Spring’s Bell for Continued Quaker Resistance

A Quaker Race Riot In Philadelphia?

Three forces in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PHYM) are on a collision course, and unless there is a major new development they are due to meet head-on Saturday March 25, at the spring yearly meeting session.

On one track is the self-styled Undoing Racism Group (URG), which is determined to “hold accountable” the YM, its staff & structures in a drive to “decenter whiteness” & uproot what it sees as an entrenched culture of “white supremacy.”

On another track are those in the YM who are uneasy with the URG. Everyone insists they want to banish racism; but some question whether URG is the best vehicle for this work. Its assertive/aggressive style, some doubt the wisdom of its proposals, some are troubled by both.

This mix is volatile enough. Then on March 4, the third train hove into view in the form of the PYM General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer. She announced several staff changes, abolishing four job slots, and downgrading another.
[Photo below: Christie Duncan-Tessmer, General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.]

Job cuts are always hard. As Zach Dutton, PHYM Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life, put it on March 6, 2017: 

Laying down the four coordinator positions that make up the Youth & Young Adult Programs Team allows us to create space for the expansion of the current set of programs we offer. I know that this seems counter-intuitive. It also hurts the Friends who work in these positions to lose their jobs. It hurts the communities they serve to lose relationships with their coordinators. This fact bears repeating and holding up. There is nothing about laying down the positions that isn’t painful and that doesn’t make life hard in the short term. We are doing everything we can to ensure that the coming transitions are as smooth and supportive as humanly possible.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has had to absorb many in recent years; Continue reading A Quaker Race Riot In Philadelphia?

Lucretia Mott & The The Wild Chase Scene

Who was Jane Johnson, and why was she racing down Philadelphia streets  in a coach with Lucretia Mott in September of 1855? And why were federal marshals trying to catch them??

And why did Johnson run through Mott’s house and out the back door?

There’s two ways to find out the answers to these (and many other) exciting questions.

One is hard, the other is easy . . . .

The first way is the harder one:

Continue reading Lucretia Mott & The The Wild Chase Scene

The Shoe Drops (Again) for North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM

This past week (so far) a bunch of big shoes have dropped, including:

— a huge war buildup;

— the sharks circling for the kill on health care; while

— even longtime peaceful immigrants living in fear;

— Muslims, even American-born ones, being harassed at the borders;

— clean air & water are gurgling down the tubes;

–  more vote suppression is on the march, and

– I probably forgot several more —

But stop the presses–!!

The really big Quaker news is that the hardline evangelical caucus in North Carolina YM is upset (again) because they aren’t yet guaranteed “sufficient separation” from a handful of liberal meetings they’ve been trying to purge for more than two years. And so they’re pushing for yet another in the unending series of showdowns; it will come this Saturday, March 4, at the NCYM Representative body session.

And who cares about a distraction like fair Quaker process? Continue reading The Shoe Drops (Again) for North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM