Fell b, This anti-learning bent distances Fell from later religious feminists, such as Mary Astell, who called for the higher education of women in her Serious Proposal to the Ladies For Astell, women can attain wisdom and virtue only if they are taught to improve their natural reasoning skills through the study of religion and philosophy.
For Fell, however, religious worship is about the individual directing herself to the light and keeping to it; it does not consist in a dependence or reliance upon others' words and meanings. Such worship can be performed by anyone, anywhere, at any time. In some of her writings, Fell provides religio-political defences of liberty of conscience freedom of religious belief and worship for Quakers.
In a direct appeal to Charles II, Fell calls upon the king. Fell , Unlike her fellow Quaker William Penn who anticipates the tolerationist views of John Locke , Fell does not offer detailed arguments for liberty of conscience based on pragmatic, political, or epistemological principles. She calls upon the political authorities to exemplify the Christian virtues in their treatment of religious dissenters. In Fell's view, women can justifiably preach because true preaching does not require the traditional book-learning of men, it requires only the light of Christ within.
For many Quakers, the rise of the female preacher, like the conversion of the Jews, would be a realization of millennial expectations about Christ's second coming.
In arguing thus, they were challenging widespread opposition to women's preaching at the time. Critics of women's preaching typically appealed to the natural inferiority of the female sex, the biblical tale of Eve's transgression, and Pauline injunctions against women speaking in church. In the anonymous A Spirit moving in the Women Preachers , the author asserts that women preachers transgress not only the rules of nature but also of modesty, divinity, discretion, and civility. On these grounds, the author concludes that women preachers cannot possibly be moved by the spirit of God but must partake in the spirit of darkness, ignorance, and gross error.
He asks:. What monstrous Doctrine is this? I Cor. This opinion was first held by the Pepuzians, that women might Preach, because they wickedly affirmed Christ assumed the form of a woman, and not of a man. In France, they allow not a woman to bee a ruler over the affairs of mens goods: But with us some women will be rulers over, and directers of mens consciences; for so amongst the Quakers, women commonly teach as well as men.
Miller , Nature informs us that women are physically frail, mentally feeble, and generally lacking in the necessary leadership virtues. Knox supports this view with reference to scriptural claims that it is a virtue for women to be submissive and subject to men. As part of the legacy of Eve's transgression, he points out, the Bible states that man shall be lord and governor over woman Genesis There are several early Quaker texts that challenge these nature and scripture-based arguments against women's spiritual authority.
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In doing so, the authors continue a tradition that began in the fifteenth century with the querelle des femmes , an ongoing debate about the moral and intellectual status of women in continental Europe cf. Kelly , In this debate, defenders of women protest against the contempt and defamation of women in the works of their male-biased peers. To support their cause, they repeatedly cite scriptural arguments for women's spiritual equality with men and put forward long lists of female worthies.
If the spirit of God is manifest in a woman, however, then that woman ought to be permitted to speak—because she speaks with spiritual rather than carnal wisdom. He goes further than Farnworth by arguing that those who prevent women from speaking in church stop Christ himself from speaking. These historical women provide proof that the light of Christ is the same in the male and the female—to suggest otherwise is to defy scripture and to place limits on the divine power.
They reinterpret these texts to make them consistent with other passages that imply that it is permissible for women to speak or prophesy. Cotton and Cole say. Their point is that the Bible endorses a woman's capacity for equal spiritual authority and her entitlement to speak in church and to prophesy. In light of these endorsements, they say, a different interpretation must be given to those injunctions that suggest women must not speak.
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According to Cotton and Cole, this passage might be re-interpreted in a positive light. In light of these earlier defences, Fell's Womens Speaking Justified is rather unoriginal in terms of content. In this work—first published in , and then with a new postscript in —Fell brings together many of the different argumentative strategies used in the aforementioned Quaker texts.
She reinterprets key scriptural passages, she provides numerous examples of biblical women speakers, she draws out the egalitarian implications of the doctrine of the light, and she appeals to anti-clerical and anti-authoritarian Quaker principles.
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Toward this end, she examines significant passages about women in both the Old and New Testaments. Following the fall, this spiritual equality between the sexes was compromised. In Fell's view, these words from Genesis foretell the special role that women would play in the restoration of humankind.
Those who prevent the Seed or the inner light of the Woman from speaking, Fell says, prevent the message of Christ:. Those that speak against the Power of the Lord, and the Spirit of the Lord speaking in a woman, simply, by reason of her Sex, or because she is a Woman, not regarding the Seed, and Spirit, and Power that speaks in her; such speak against Christ, and his Church, and are of the Seed of the Serpent, wherein lodgeth enmity.
These women provide historical proof that God gave his spirit to women as well as men. But Fell singles out Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary mother of James —the women who first delivered the news of Christ's resurrection to the apostles—for special mention. In essence, she offers a pragmatic argument for permitting women to speak in church.
If the apostles had not listened to women, then the restitution of humanity would never have come about. Women clearly have a special providential role to play in spreading the word of the Lord. If ministers do not permit women to speak in church, then terrible consequences might follow. In light of Fell's points about women's spiritual equality with men and their special role in redemptive history, she advises her readers to re-interpret or re-contextualize those common injunctions against women's speaking in the Bible.
Her argument proceeds by way of simple modus tollens. If this injunction applied to all women, she says, then no woman would be permitted to speak.
But the apostle does permit women to speak—he explicitly mentions the four virgin daughters of Philip Acts , who were respected as prophets. And are not Hand-maids women? Therefore, some women must be permitted to speak. Fell points out the hypocrisy of those priests who forbid women to preach and yet include the words of Deborah in their sermons. These priests are being blatantly contradictory: they allow that women can speak the word of God, and yet they deny that women can speak the word of God.
At this point, it might also be noted that Fell's works were often intended to be read aloud, and so we must be aware of a certain performative aspect to Womens Speaking. The author's argument achieves its greatest force when it is spoken or performed.
This is because the very act of saying the words establishes the conclusion of Fell's argument—the idea that women are capable of speaking the word of the Lord. The onus then falls on her critics to point out where she speaks in ignorance. But given that she repeats the same scriptural passages that they themselves use her arguments rely on premises they would accept , then there would appear to be little comeback.
Fell's arguments are echoed in the works of later Quaker women. Like Womens Speaking , this work is more than just a collection of quotations from the Bible: it is intended to show that, following Christ's restitution of humanity, women once again share a spiritual equality with men. They point to the fact that, despite their affirmations of spiritual equality, the Quakers still uphold a negative conception of sexual difference, they suggest that women preachers must typically transcend or efface their female sexuality, and they do not call for wider socio-political changes for women.
In response, Gill notes that. Such an argument retains categories of gender difference, thereby assigning them continued significance. Masculine characteristics remain preferable to those associated with women. Tuana They implicitly accept the prejudices of their misogynist critics, such as Joshuah Miller and John Knox, who maintain that women are physically weak and mentally feeble by nature. Another, closely related, problem is that in some Quaker texts natural women themselves are not permitted to preach the word of the Lord.
Women are permitted to speak only insofar as they are instruments or bearers of the light. But this separation between the spiritual and the physical is problematic. Spiritually speaking, the body of the female preacher is simply irrelevant to the delivery of the message; while physically speaking, the female preacher still represents all that which is despicable and unworthy of God.
In sum, it would appear that the early Quaker defenders of women's preaching either ignore or denigrate a woman's sexed body. The problem is that this spiritual equality does not automatically translate into political equality for women in a more general sense. Here the Apostle speaks particularly to a Woman in Relation to her Husband, to be in subjection to him, and not to teach, nor usurp authority over him, and therefore he mentions Adam and Eve : But let it be strained to the utmost, as the opposers of Womens Speaking would have it, that is, That they should not preach nor speak in the Church, of which there is nothing here.
Fell , 9. Here Fell implicitly accepts the husband's authority over the wife's within marriage. Her stand on women's preaching is not meant to challenge hierarchical relations within the marital institution, it challenges only women's subordinate position in the church. Smith sees this as a pattern in sectarian women's texts of the seventeenth-century:.
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Most female religious writers simply ignored political or feminist topics. Even Margaret Fell Fox, one of the most forceful supporters of women's being able to speak in Quaker meetings, argued in Women's Speaking Justified … that they should never speak in a way that would usurp authority over men. For the large majority of women writing religious tracts during the seventeenth century, the question of women's rights simply never arose.
Smith , Along the same lines, Broad and Green , —79 point out that there is no necessary inference from the Quaker theory of spiritual equality to the view that women as well as men ought to have equal access to social goods, such as education. The Quakers' arguments do not logically lead to equal education for women, because women do not require an education in order to attain salvation or to be in the spirit of the Lord. Their arguments do not logically lead to equal employment opportunities or full political participation for women either, because it is only necessary that women be active and employed in religious matters.
Larry Ingle appears to have done some amazing scholarship of original sources and I am eager to start reading. Thank you, Chuck for the book reviews. When an individual deliberately makes trouble in a meeting are we to avoid naming that individuality the minutes? I wonder where it comes from then, beyond some pushy individuals eager to suppress inconvenient or uncomfortable facts.
That is, not coincidentally, the way that our records will be useful in the future, as a faithful record. Yes, Fox wrote about his happiness when tragedies befell his enemies. All the more reason to take a good accounting of our failings. I know that Larry has promoted attaching names to minutes.
The emphasis should be on the promptings of spirit in the meeting, not on who was moved to share that prompting. Attaching names, at least for me, would shift the emphasis to who, rather than what. Great stuff. Your pieces on the NC and IND yearly meetings are great thought-provokers, and will be a decade from now and longer.
In fact, they are all decent, and like any author, some stand out and will do so over time. The individuals who received and often struggled with these messages of the spirit was very relevant to both the content, the delivery, and the impact. Hi Chuck. Neither are they Luke and John. The latter, based on modern analysis of his use of Greek and the theological concepts he uses, plus his utter ignorance of the geography of Jerusalem, is thought to be an educated Greek, most likely from Athens, who was trained in one of the philosophy schools there, and undoubtedly a convert to Christianity.
For records of Minutes in Meetings, the flows of Spirit are what interest me. So Party A and Party B would do. I agree.
George Fox Quotes | Smart Quaker | Fox quotes, Religion, Faith
I think that difference in complimenting ministry between Conservative and Liberal Friends sort of fits in here. These were printed by the hundreds. Obviously, over time things get lost, thrown out, or fall apart, so if the earliest biographies are in the last years versus, say, the 18th century, then that would seem less likely. How much is intentional lie versus faulty memory of a long life? And on note of journals and the publishers leaving things out: Elias Hicks. Inner Light Books recently published an unabridged version, almost years after the original publication.
Both were reprehensible to me. Such alterations were increased by editors working after his death. Here the historical infractions were more laziness and sloppiness, but these are habits that permit the accretion of myth and untruth, and are unworthy of his profession; they make his achievement not only important as a document, but also as a judgment of too many of his predecessors.
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