Be honest: Could you say “No” to “the war to end wars”?
Turns out that president Woodrow Wilson didn’t coin that phrase, and reportedly only used it in public once.
But it doesn’t matter. The phrase, along with one that Wilson did use, “to make the world safe for democracy,” became key pieces of a pioneering and apparently very successful government propaganda campaign to mobilize U.S. public opinion for joining the war. This despite the fact that Wilson won re-election in 1916 on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”
While reading about and “living with” Progressive Friends, I was inspired by several of the memorable personalities I walked with. I admired and learned from all of them, as well as others who interacted with them.
But there’s one Friend I identified with especially: Samuel M. Janney.
Researching and writing about Progressive Friends took up most of my time from the autumn of 2013 through the spring of 2014. Often this was a paradoxical experience: from one angle, it was a very solitary effort: from another, very crowded.
I did this research at Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania, as the Cadbury research scholar in Quaker History. Most of my time at Pendle Hill was spent solo: in the Friends Historical Library at nearby Swarthmore College, poring over old letters, minutes, pamphlets and books; in my room, reading more old documents; then lots of staring into my computer screen, at the ever-growing store of texts available there.
Many, maybe most, early Progressive Friends were involved in spiritualism. It was not a church; one did not need to join. Two features of spiritualism’s appeal in the mid-nineteenth century deserve mention here: perhaps above all, it gave solace to the bereaved, assured them that dead loved ones were at ease, and not beyond the love of the living. And in that era, when deaths from illness were much more common than now, especially among the young, this was no small thing.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an early feminist writer and artist. She’s remembered today mainly as the author of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a short story about . . . well, about a woman being driven mad by the restrictions of her environment and relationships. Some have called it a feminist classic.
In 1856, the Pennsylvania Progressive Friends heard a report from a committee “appointed to consider whether any, and if any, what Limitations ought to be put to the Accumulation of Property in the hands of individuals, as well as corporations, and to suggest laws and other expedients, by which the enormous inequalities among the children of men may be gradually lessened, and hereafter prevented.”
Moncure Conway (1832-1907) was a Virginian who started his career as a proslavery Methodist preacher. In the following passage from his Autobiography, he describes his encounter with liberal Quakers around Sandy Spring, Maryland, in the early 1850s.
Yes, for Progressive Quakers, A Man’s Best Friend Was His Dog-gerel. (It Was A Woman Friend’s Best Friend too.) So here’s a sample, from 1856; it might not be great art, but I hear a lot of current resonance in it. It’s called:
The Tyrant’s Ancient Argument: Or, The Dangers of Thought:
Lucretia Mott, considered at the time of her death in 1880 to be the “greatest American woman of the nineteenth century” by many of her contemporaries, was a Quaker abolitionist, women’s rights activist and social reformer. She was a key figure in an insurgent movement of Progressive Friends. Her messages and actions are very pertinent today – and laid much of the foundation for the current women’s movement.
On Sunday March 5, 2017, at 1 PM, Chuck Fager, will give a presentation on “Lucretia Mott: What Would She Say If She Were Here Today? HINT: She’d tell us we’re in deep trouble and should get up and get busy. (She’d say it very nicely, but urgently).”
The talk will be at the Orange County NC Main Library, 137 West Margaret Lane, Hillsborough NC. The talk will focus on Lucretia’s wide range of activism on many concerns, her pioneering & unforgettable voice for women, and radical views on numerous other public matters. Free & open to the public.