The Influence of Quakers on American History
Some of the strongest influences in history are usually silent and nearly forgotten. They are the catalyst of movements and the backbone of change. They are the foundation for what we take for granted today. Through their efforts, milestones have been made in politics and social movements. These groups have been formed based on ethnic backgrounds, gender, and social statuses as well as religion. Let me introduce you to the Quakers.
Who Were the Quakers?
According to the Quaker site: "Quakers are members of the Religious Society of Friends, a faith that emerged as a new Christian denomination in England during a period of religious turmoil in the mid-1600's and is practiced today in a variety of forms around the world. To members of this religion, the words "Quaker"and "Friend" mean the same thing." (http://www.quakerinfo.org/index)
They promote peace and involvement in the community around them without fearing to take up a cause. Throughout history, their stance on peace has led movements that have helped to shape the nation today.
Most people think of peace when the Quakers come to mind. Choosing peace over war has been one of the fundamental beliefs of The Religious Society of Friends which is their official name. Great movies have been made featuring their stance on peace.They are known for facing conflict without the aid of a gun or any other weapon. Their stance is that there are other ways to resolve conflict instead of bloodshed or endangering the lives of others.
Over the years, their stance of peace has led many movements to avoid and/or end wars from the American Revolution to the military encounters of today. Though their peace movements are huge they are not the only things that Quakers have done that have influenced America.
When it came to ending slavery, Quakers were some of the first abolitionist that took of the charge. Quakers believed that each and every human being was created in the eyes of God. Therefore, slaves should be freed and treated just like everyone else in the New World. This did not occur a few years before the Civil War. The Quakers were pushing for the abolishment of slavery before the first shot of the American Revolution. Their involvement wasn't a bandwagon move. They helped start the movement. Many of the members of the Underground Railroad were Quakers who helped many runaway slaves reach freedom.
Equality of Women
Since Quakers believed in the equality of everyone, it was only logical that the next step would be the rights of women. The women in early American history were not prisoners or pushed to the back and forgotten. They were powerful in the social circles which also influenced the political world, but that is where it stopped. Their drawing room parties might be where many political decisions were made and their keen observation skills might be the only thing that helped their husband’s political careers, they were not allowed to vote. Early in American history, Quakers were pushing for women to have the right to vote. Their vote should count the same as men. It took many years, but eventually women were able to officially influence politics thanks to the patient determination of the Quakers.
Keeping with the belief that all humans are created equally, it was the Quakers who pushed for equal education for children. They did not believe that economic standing or gender should prevent a child from receiving a good education. They founded schools that mixed the rich and the poor as well as the girls and the boys. This expanded into college education for women which was almost unheard of in early American. Quakers were the force behind John Hopkins admitting women into the medical profession.
As previously mentioned, the Quakers have been huge in the peace movement. Yes, they have tried to end wars by pushing for peaceful solutions. But they also have tried to eliminate the reasons for war. The Quakers are active in trying to influence the political aspect of war so that peace can be the most sought after solution instead of bloodshed.
The Quakers have played a huge part in American history. Though slaves might have been freed eventually and women would have found a way to get their voices heard in politics, it would have taken years longer if it was not for the strong movement of the Quakers. How much harder it would have been for women to get an education if the Quakers had ignored that hole in American society, we will never know. Quakers have influenced much of what we take for granted today but they continue on seeking more peace and more equality.