Michele Lise Tarter and Catie Gill (eds), New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women, 1650–1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. xv + 284. ISBN 9780198814221. Hardback, £75.
The experiences of early Quaker women had been largely overlooked until the late twentieth century and, as Tarter and Gill state, scholarship about Quaker women has only grown and expanded with each year into the twenty-first century (p. 1). New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women, 1650–1800 is a groundbreaking interdisciplinary volume that seamlessly takes the reader through the experiences of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Quaker women, exploring the personal lives of these women, as well as how they interacted within their own communities and with the outside world.
Early Quakerism easily lends itself to the interdisciplinary approach Tarter and Gill have employed, weaving together history, literary studies and religious studies. The contributors have used manuscripts, meeting minutes, diaries and court records, as well as current secondary source material, to expand and challenge ways of viewing Quaker women. The volume is comprised of 12 chapters divided into three sections: ‘Revolutions’, ‘Disruptions’ and ‘Networks’. These sections are not defined by geographical boundaries or strict chronology – the sections highlight the events shaping the transatlantic world and women’s differing roles in Quakerism, exploring the ‘incipient motivations of their writings’ and capturing how they ‘negotiated the ethical dimensions of being part of a religious Society’ (p. 5).
‘Revolutions’ begins with Hilary Hinds’ chapter ‘Sarah Jones and the Appearance of the Quaker Light’, which provides a thorough examination of the 1650 pamphlet This is Lights Appearance in the Truth, and its role in the ‘formation of the distinctive Quaker voice and the theology formulated therein’ (p. 29). Hinds’ method of scrutinising the pamphlet is to ‘be led by it’ rather than viewing it as a source to be ‘mined for the light it might shed’ (p. 14), a welcome and thought-provoking methodology. In my mind, this tightens the prose. In ‘“Antinomian” Appeals to Rulers in Restoration England’, Catie Gill looks at Quaker women petitioners, their relationships with secular authorities and how women ‘facilitated the development of identities’ that went beyond that of ‘humble supplicant’ (p. 49). Stephen W. Angell examines the complex nature of the early modern family, with particular emphasis on slavery. ‘Early Quaker Women and the Testimony of the Family, 1652–1767’ is the most accessible chapter of this volume, reflecting on the personal experiences of Mary Fisher, Alice Curwen, Abigail Allen, Sarah Lay and Sophia Hume. Michele Lise Tarter concludes this section with ‘Written from the Body of Sisterhood: Quaker Women’s Prophesying and the Creation of a New Word’, which looks at prophetic women and their ‘revolutionary relationship to language’ (p. 70).
‘Disruptions’ appropriately begins with Erin Bell’s ‘Stock Characters with Stiff-Brimmed Bonnets: Depictions of Quaker Women by Outsiders, c.1650–1800’. This chapter examines the ‘deeply gendered’ and stereotypical depictions of Quaker women (p. 91), meticulously citing periodicals, stage productions, court hearings and the 1795 novel The Quaker. Naomi Pullin’s ‘“She Suffered for My Sake”: Female Martyrs and Lay Activists in Transatlantic Quakerism, 1650–1710’ looks at the transatlantic experiences of female martyrdom and persecution, and the Quaker woman’s role in sustaining her household and local meeting in times of difficulty. Pullin’s impressive chapter leads seamlessly into ‘In the Light and on the Road: Patience Brayton and the Quaker Itinerant Ministry’, in which Sarah Crabtree argues that women understood the risks involved with itinerant preaching and, despite their ‘clear and important displays of female ability, autonomy, and authority’ (p. 144), Quaker women were still limited by the gendered standards of the day. Crabtree’s chapter is focussed on the life of Patience Brayton of Rhode Island (1734–94), a Quaker Elder, travelling minister, wife and mother. This section concludes with Desirée Henderson’s ‘“The Impudent Fellow Came in Swareing”: Constructing and Defending Quaker Community in Elizabeth Drinker’s Diary’. Elizabeth Drinker’s (1735–1807) documented experiences during the Revolutionary War provide an insight into this period of American history as well as the sense of community she felt with her co-religionists. Henderson’s examination of Drinker’s diaries demonstrates that she wrote them with a larger literary purpose, intending for them to be read by a wider audience.
The final section, entitled ‘Networks’, begins with Rebecca M. Rosen’s chapter on the dissemination of poetry and the literary networking of Hannah Griffitts. In ‘Copying Hannah Griffitts: Poetic Circulation and the Quaker Community of Scribes’, Rosen examines the control Griffitts held by curating her books of poetry, and draws a fascinating comparison to Emily Dickinson’s hand-bound fascicles (p. 179). Kristianna Polder’s chapter challenges Margaret Fell’s oft-cited label as ‘Mother of Quakerism’ and argues that she should instead be viewed as ‘Mother of the New Jerusalem’. George Fox and Fell believed that, within the New Jerusalem, ‘the stigma of Eve on women was eradicated’, and throughout Fell’s life she challenged ‘social and patriarchal expectations without apology or self-deprecation’ (p. 201). From Polder’s examination of the complex meaning of ‘Motherhood’, Elizabeth Bouldin’s chapter ‘“The Days of Thy Youth”: Eighteenth-Century Quaker Women and the Socialization of Children’ explores the role of women as educators, guiding future generations while also serving their respective Quaker communities. Jean R. Soderlund’s insightful chapter is the last of the volume and shows the role women played in the creation of the multicultural society in West New Jersey. In ‘Quaker Women in Lenape County: Defining Community on the West New Jersey Frontier’, Soderlund examines the relationship Quaker women developed with the Lenape Indians, as well as with the Dutch, Swedish and Finnish settlers, and how women were largely responsible for maintaining good relations within the colony. The volume closes with a fitting afterword by Christine Trevett, whose influential work on women and Quakerism has served as an inspiration and springboard for countless studies.
This volume expertly demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary scholarship, which is reflected in each chapter. The editors’ selection of authors with wide-ranging expertise allows them to showcase different approaches (historical methodologies and literary/textual criticisms) to offer readers compelling vignettes of early Quaker life from multiple perspectives. In this way, the editors fulfil their goal of moving this scholarship from its hagiographic roots to a more scholarly approach.
Quaker women were not one dimensional. Their roles often conflicted with societal norms. As Tarter and Gill’s volume shows, this conflict played out not just with those outside Quaker communities but was also integral to Quaker women’s experiences within their communities. New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women is a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of Quaker studies. It is a volume written for a scholarly audience, but maintains a refreshing readability throughout. Its diverse yet cohesive content will undoubtedly inspire future research on early Quaker women, as well as thought-provoking interdisciplinary collaborations for years to come.
Peter J. F. Coutts, Evaluation of Tithes as a Source of Ecclesiastical and Economic Information (Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press, 2018), pp. 182. ISBN 9780994601605. Paperback, £12.32 (ex. VAT).
Academic interest in the nature and extent of Quaker observance of tithe testimony has been debated since Eric Evans first drew attention to the low ratio of recorded sufferings to Quaker population in the Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society in 1969.1 However, those seeking a further contribution from this work should understand the intention of its author. Dr Coutts, an independent researcher with a background in Antipodean palaeoarchaeology and ‘a latent interest in Irish Church history’, describes the study as an adjunct to an earlier Quaker volume, providing an ‘evaluation of the use of tithe data as a source of ecclesiastical and economic information’. Thus, while the information is centred on the Quaker meeting at Newgarden (Ireland) between 1658–1723, and much of the source material comes from the archive of the Friends Library, Dublin, the material presented (and conclusions offered) are ultimately most likely to interest the early modern agro-economist.
This is a short study: over half the pages consist of tabulated data drawn from various archives. Coutts mines a patchwork of records to create a basis for statistical comparison across the period. In the process, he uncovers much contemporary detail on individuals on all sides of the tithe question: clergy; impropriators; tithe farmers, collectors and takers; together with quanta on what (some) local Quakers ‘suffered’. From this, some clear observations are able to be made on commodities produced across the area during the period; unfortunately, much less can be said about the Quaker tithe testimony. One useful conclusion is that tithe records may be used with books of sufferings to help gather information on early membership, not least some socio-economic indicators based on relative tithe contributions. For Newgarden, it seems that Quakers from whom tithes were collected were significantly wealthier than typical Catholic Irish of the period (p. 79). A second is that the analysis also suggests (albeit tentatively) that only a minority of Quakers were subjected to tithe ‘sufferings’, which still rather begs the question as to whether the majority paid or avoided the tax.
It is perhaps not to be expected that the author is aware of recent developments in Quaker historiography, but failing to take advantage of any of Evans’ many works on this subject is a missed opportunity. It would also have been advantageous to consider the growing opinion that Quaker record-keeping might more accurately be described as ‘copious’, rather than ‘meticulous’: this would help explain the difficulties arising from what are acknowledged as incomplete records of ‘sufferings’, as well as the absence of granular detail within the records kept. Thus, while we learn useful detail on certain individuals, the larger questions – particularly those concerning the position of Quakers who ignored the testimony – are left unanswered.
Gerard Moran, Fleeing from Famine in Connemara: James Hack Tuke and His Assisted Emigration Scheme in the 1880s (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2018), pp. 63. ISBN 9781846827211. Paperback, €8.95.
Gerard Moran’s Fleeing from Famine in Connemara: James Hack Tuke and His Assisted Emigration Scheme in the 1880s is one of the short books published in the Maynooth Studies in Local History series. The front matter states that the series aims to ‘range widely … over the local experience in the Irish past’ to ‘present the range of possibilities open to anyone interested in studying that past’, suggesting that a wide-ranging readership is envisaged. While many people know about the Great Hunger of 1845–52 in which approximately two million people either died or emigrated, fewer are aware of the other famines that afflicted Ireland in the two centuries from 1700. The book concentrates on the one that occurred in 1879–81 in Connemara in the west of Ireland. It aims to give a more detailed account of a particular episode of famine as it affected one specific region of Ireland than is usually found in more general accounts of Irish famine history, which, understandably, are usually dominated by the Great Hunger. Moran also wishes to draw attention to the hitherto neglected work in Connemara during the 1880s of the English philanthropist James Hack Tuke, who had taken part, with fellow Quakers, in providing relief during the Great Hunger and who returned to Ireland, again on behalf of the Religious Society of Friends, to try to help those affected by famine.
The author has worked extensively on nineteenth-century Irish history, including writing Sending out Ireland’s Poor: Assisted Emigration to North America in the Nineteenth Century and co-editing the recently published four-volume The History of the Irish Famine.1 In Fleeing from Famine in Connemara, Moran refers to the structural issues specific to the region that made the local population particularly vulnerable, such as the persistence of pre-Great Hunger patterns of landholdings, which meant that, as population levels recovered in the second half of the century, most of the farms were too small to provide even a basic level of subsistence. He argues that momentous contemporary events in Irish politics, such as the Land League agitation, led to the suffering of the Connemara population not receiving the attention it should have done. He discusses Tuke’s travels around Connemara, his investigative journey to the USA and Canada, the development of his emigration scheme and the support he initially received from Irish clergymen and others. Tuke devoted a great deal of his personal time and energy, and sometimes his own money, to researching and administering a well-ordered funded emigration scheme to help famine victims eager to leave impoverished lives in Connemara to emigrate to Canada or the United States, where arrangements were put in place to help new arrivals settle in, which was not done in all such schemes. The author addresses the difficulties encountered when Tuke’s project was adversely affected by unmerited association with the negative outcomes of other, poorly executed schemes. That, together with Irish nationalist opposition to any use of emigration, led many, who had earlier been advocates for Tuke’s work, to withdraw their support, ending his scheme. Tuke maintained his interest in the Connemara region for some years after that, working with others to provide help to the population who remained and who still needed considerable assistance.
The book is written by an academic author who has the ability to make his material interesting and readily approachable to those who do not share his familiarity with the topic. Published by an academic press, the volume is plentifully and usefully supplied with footnotes which cite many references from which a keen reader can glean suggestions for further investigation. However, while the publisher seems to have judged that a full bibliography was not needed, the lack of even a brief list of recommended further reading is a missed opportunity in a short, readable publication about local history, a field which attracts lay as well as academic interest. The author could be better served by the editing, which may have ensured the inclusion of present-day equivalents for 1880s sums of money and explanations of abbreviations used, and eliminated occasional issues with punctuation, grammar and typography. There may have been an understandable wish on the publisher’s part to save production expense by limiting the number of pages. However, the text font size is towards the lower limit for ease of legibility and the font size for the notes is, not unusually, even smaller, which could cause accessibility difficulties for some who would otherwise enjoy reading the book.
That having been said, the text succeeds in offering an approachable and nuanced understanding of the circumstances in Connemara during the ‘forgotten famine’ and in giving greater recognition to the role played in Irish history by James Hack Tuke. It deserves to succeed in the aim of the series: to encourage a wider interest in Irish local history.
Alessandro Falcetta, The Daily Discoveries of a Bible Scholar and Manuscript Hunter: A Biography of James Rendel Harris (1852–1941) (London: T & T Clark, 2018), pp. xxviii + 676. ISBN 9780567674180. Hardback, £97.50.
This book is the fruit of 22 years of detailed and painstaking research among a vast store of texts relating to Harris as well as specialist acquaintance with the field in which Harris was most expert: early Christianity based on manuscript sources. Moreover, Falcetta’s study transmits to the reader an affection for Harris that imparts delight to the perusal of its 676 pages. The work fills a gap in the literature of not only biblical research but also nineteenth- and twentieth-century Quaker history and progressive Christianity more generally. Despite a few reservations, I commend it to anyone with an interest in these areas.
Harris holds an honoured place in recent Quaker history as the first director of studies of the ‘Woodbrooke Settlement’ (now known simply as ‘Woodbrooke’). Woodbrooke was established in 1903 as part of the new movement among British Quakers to improve understanding of their Christian and Quaker religion and especially of the Bible in the light of current research. Harris was known as an outstanding scholar in biblical and patristic studies, a peer of experts such as Fenton Hort or Adolf Harnack, and also as having made his mark through first-hand discoveries among the manuscripts held in monasteries in the Middle East. Students at Woodbrooke sometimes found his lectures confusing: he refused to abide by any schedule and, it was said, his lectures might be on any subject except the one announced. Some Woodbrooke colleagues, notably William Littleboy, who, with his wife Margaret, held the important position of warden at Woodbrooke for some years during Harris’ tenure of office, found him deficient in true understanding and appreciation of Quakerism. (Harris was ‘Quaker by conviction’, having begun life as a Congregationalist.) Nevertheless, he made his mark on Woodbrooke not so much by the brilliance of his lectures as by the extraordinary attractiveness of his personality, his ever-present, often irreverent wit, and his transparent devotion to Christ, as Friend even more than as Master.
Falcetta writes extensively about Harris’ Woodbrooke years. His chief interest, however, is in Harris as the discoverer and interpreter of manuscripts, especially Christian ones. Twelve of the book’s 34 chapters are mainly concerned with Harris’ journeys in Bible country, which were sometimes combined with humanitarian missions. A particularly notable episode is his expedition by camel in 1893 with the famous twin ‘sisters of Sinai’, Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, to the Monastery of St Catherine’s on the Sinai Peninsula. The story of this adventure and the many discoveries arising from it is only one of a number of stirring yarns Falcetta tells of this intrepid bibliophile explorer. Harris’ wife, Helen Balkwill Harris, was an active partner in the journeys taken for chiefly humanitarian purposes. She also undertook gruelling missionary and humanitarian journeys on her own account, including a visit to South Africa in 1901 to inspect conditions in the concentration camps, first revealed by Emily Hobhouse. The Harrises made joint visits to Turkey to bring aid to the Armenian population, victims of massacres in the 1890s as well as in the twentieth century. Helen had died by 1916, the year in which Rendel Harris was twice shipwrecked by German torpedoes in the Mediterranean, the second time drifting for four days in an open boat.
Falcetta relates these aspects of Harris’ life with the competence of one thoroughly master of his subject. In this reviewer’s opinion he is on less sure ground in dealing with Harris’ spirituality, Christian and Quaker. Falcetta draws on previous scholarship and reminiscence to argue that Harris’ faith was deeply influenced by the holiness revival of the late nineteenth century. Lacking first-hand evidence of Harris’ experiences of conversion and sanctification, he quotes an account given by the American David Updegraff (1830–94) of his own experience for an idea of what Harris might have gone through, without allowing for personal and cultural differences. While Harris differed from many of his Quaker contemporaries in his affiliation with the holiness tradition as well as in his love of hymns, he distanced himself from the bibliolatry that marked some evangelical teaching of the time and also from the dismal hell-fire preaching of such influential figures as Charles Haddon Spurgeon (whom Falcetta does not mention). Harris’ evangelicalism sat alongside an unafraid acceptance of biblical criticism and modern science, especially Darwinism.
As for his Quakerism, we are told briefly of the features of early Quakerism that attracted him—its encouragement to freedom of thought along with unity in the Spirit, its reverent but not slavish attitude to the Bible and the sense seen in George Fox’s writings of emancipation from sin (see pp. 39–40)—but we are left guessing as to Harris’ view of Quakerism of his own day. Quakers such as Edward Grubb (1854–1939) and John William Graham (1859–1932) recoiled in dismay from the theological doctrines to which they had been exposed in childhood, on both intellectual and moral grounds. They were children of the Victorian ‘crisis of faith’. Was Harris affected by the climate of doubt so prevalent in intellectual circles at the time? Falcetta does not tell us. He does, however, relate that after Alfred Neave Brayshaw, who taught at Woodbrooke on the subject of Quakerism, was dismissed in 1906, Harris did not want the post to be filled at once. Apparently, he distrusted ‘Quakeriology’: he wanted the settlement to be ‘a centre of high scholarship’, not a ‘Quaker institution’ (pp. 232–36). Harris, apparently, was not entirely of the ‘Quaker Renaissance’.
Impressive though the book is, it has an unfortunately large number of infelicities in grammar or vocabulary, witness in some instances, perhaps, to the author’s not being a native English speaker. Careful proof-reading by another person might have eliminated many of these.
A most delightful feature is the profuse quotation from Harris’ letters, illustrating the impish humour of their author, as well as his scholarship, faith and humanity. An edition of his letters, or a selection from them, would be of great value. There can be no doubt as to who would be the best person to undertake this work.
Fiona Reid, ‘“We Did Not Fight”: Medical Pacifism and War’, Medicine in First World War Europe: Soldiers, Medics, Pacifists (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), pp. 149–190, pp. 280, illus. ISBN 9781472505927. Paperback, £21.58.
Linda Palfreeman, Friends in Flanders: Humanitarian Aid Administered by the Friends’ Ambulance Unit During the First World War (Brighton, Portland and Toronto: Sussex Academic Press, 2017), pp. xvii + 223, illus. ISBN 9781845198718. Paperback, £24.95.
Susan Armstrong-Reid, China Gadabouts: New Frontiers of Humanitarian Nursing, 1941–1951 (Vancouver and Toronto: UBC Press, 2017), pp. xiv + 356, 34 photos, 11 maps. ISBN 9780774835923. Hardback, $85.00.
If ever there was an exemplar of small groups creating a major impact, it is the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU). Indeed, while chatting with a documentary maker about the First World War FAU recently, they expressed such astonishment that so few personnel could help so many—over four years the FAU trained around 1,700 to work in the UK and overseas, and their evacuation of injured soldiers alone saw them assist over half a million—that I had to go back and double-check the figures! Established by Quakers (though not an official Quaker body) within days of the British government declaring war on Germany in 1914, the organisation would operate during the First and Second World Wars in theatres of conflict across the world, and would continue efforts under various guises until 1959, the year before National Service began to be phased out. It is therefore surprising that comparatively little scholarly attention has been paid to the FAU, and particularly so in 1914–19. Aside from less than a handful of articles, and mentions here and there, the official history, written in the immediate aftermath of the Armistice, has been the main publication regarding the so-called ‘Great War’. Two monographs written during the centenary have sought to change that, with varying degrees of focus and success, and are joined in this review by a path-breaking history rooted in the Second World War.
Fiona Reid’s Medicine in First World War Europe is a welcome addition to the historiography. This accessible textbook is especially valuable as it considers the multiplicity of identities working in the field—or, as its sub-title puts it, Soldiers, Medics, Pacifists. Indeed, one of the chapters is dominated by the Friends’ Ambulance Unit—and, given that the book contains only six chapters (including the introductory and concluding sections), these 40 pages are a substantial portion. In ‘“We Did Not Fight”: Medical Pacifism and War’, Reid argues that the nineteenth century saw peace societies and moral principles press for the humanisation of war, but that in turn humanitarianism became militarised. However, she argues, ‘those serving in Quaker, or Quaker-led, organizations aimed to demonstrate a medical pacifism which would not just avoid war but alleviate its suffering without succumbing to the militarization which had beset the national Red Cross organizations’ (p. 162). She then charts what she sees as the gradual compromise of Quaker principles in a Unit that embraced Friends and non-Friends.
Yet some of the material used by Reid to prove her case is open to different interpretation. For example, a description written by birthright Quaker Lawrence Rowntree ‘could easily have been written by a soldier’ (p. 185), but it could also be an interlocution of class. It is unclear whether a single passage used to illustrate FAU members’ ‘glamorization’ of war is from a Quaker (p. 188). Reid is absolutely correct to suggest that there were many blurred lines, and her discussion of the Royal Army Medical Corps finding it difficult to work with the FAU, while also containing medical pacifists, is valuable (pp. 178–81)—but there is little recognition of the spectrum of conscience, class and religion contained within the FAU. There are also factual slips, helping to suggest that the extent of the primary research was limited—entirely understandable, given the ambitious scope of the book.
Linda Palfreeman’s Friends in Flanders, on the other hand, is an in-depth study of a short period and specific place in the First World War activities of the FAU, in which the diversity of conscience is an ongoing theme. Palfreeman’s book is steeped in archival research, both in the UK and in Belgium, and the depth of her understanding and the clarity of her story-telling is a delight. The 11 chapters are arranged chronologically and cover 1914–15. While one will need to seek other sources for an analytical history, the author begins by embedding the FAU firmly in the context of the peace testimony and the eruption of war, and within the controversy it encountered among Quakers. It is this contextualisation, evident throughout the book, that aids readers’ understanding of the richness and impact of FAU activities in Ypres. Nevertheless, the book is also built around key players, chief among them reporter, teacher, mountaineer and non-Quaker Geoffrey Winthrop Young. Young’s reporting of the German invasion of Belgium for the Cadbury-owned Daily News led to his increasing alarm at the lack of medical care in the warzone, in turn prompting the establishment of what would become the FAU.
The remaining chapters tell the story of what the FAU did in Flanders. Chapter Four conveys the work at ‘The Shambles’ at Dunkirk—the first medical aid carried out by the first volunteers for injured men of all sides offloaded in a train shed in 1914 with little planning of what would happen thereafter—and the efficient flying squad of motor ambulances that was deployed from Woesten across the greater Ypres region. The reader is then taken through episodes in the first year of the FAU, including the three hospitals it established and helped to run, the remarkable public health work in relation to the typhoid epidemic that surged through Flanders in winter 1914/15, and the aid and welfare activities undertaken as part of the Aide Civile Belges. Palfreeman rightly underscores the centrality of non-FAU figures to the success and expanse of relief work, especially the Roman Catholic Curé Delaere, the Sisters of La Motte (especially Soeur Marguerite) and the Belgian countesses van den Steen de Jehay and d’Ursel. At the same time, the actions, thoughts and voices of ‘regular’ members of the FAU—drivers, orderlies, doctors and more—are integrated into the fabric of the book. Their efforts and heroism are underscored, though occasionally less charitable sentiments are airbrushed out: for example, some of the more candid thoughts of Laurence Cadbury.
More usually, individual members felt the ‘awful smallness’ of their own efforts in the crucible of war (p. 145). Yet Palfreeman’s book charts carefully the extent of the efforts in the Ypres region alone; through their work with soldiers and civilians in the first two bombardments that bookended autumn 1914 and spring 1915; from initial civilian evacuation to typhoid epidemic to poison gas, May final evacuation and decimation. Even then, the FAU had a role to play. Geoffrey Young, with Curé Delaere, continued to enter the bombarded settlement and saved art, sacred items and the town’s archives when the Belgian government did nothing. As well as its other activities, then, the FAU helped save the history of Ypres—but with the town’s fall came the end of the so-called ‘knight errant’ period of the Unit.
The romantic derring-do of the FAU’s cumbersome motto ‘find work that wants doing, take it, regularise it later if you can’ did not sink entirely without trace then or after the Unit was disbanded in 1919. Two decades later, with the rumblings of a new world war in play, original FAU figures came together to re-form the Unit, its maxim simplified to ‘Go anywhere, do anything’. Its efforts during 1939–46 saw members—controversially now including women—work in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The ‘China Convoy’ often seems set apart from its activities elsewhere. Susan Armstrong-Reid’s China Gadabouts (the book being named after contemporary wags’ eponymising use of their own motto acronym GADA) indicates why. Like volunteers who went out to join the China Convoy, the reader is thrown in at the deep end, without the context necessary to get their bearings in Chinese geography, culture, politics or history. These elements are mentioned throughout the nine chronologically-arranged and frequently well-illustrated chapters, alongside the outlining of FAU activities in China, potted biographies of volunteer nurses, and analysis and assertions regarding the agency of women (Chinese and Western) in directing medicine and relief against a larger backdrop of changing international humanitarianism. The resulting text helps place the reader within the culture shock experienced by Western medical personnel working in traditional and profoundly deprived Chinese communities in the midst of highly-mobile international conflict and guerrilla civil war.
The introduction is very clear, too much so almost, as any other voice or input is relegated to endnotes, leaving only the contentions and intentions of the author: put briefly,
nurses’ experiences [were ‘selected’] to shed new light on the Convoy’s pacifist principles, culture, and struggles to realize its transnational pacifist vision … [the author] attempted to find nurses’ voices as women, alongside and in relation to the convoy men, to understand how gender and professionalism defined and shaped the convoy’s history … [as well as] the agency, professional identity, and nationbuilding role of Chinese nurses. (pp. 4–5)
Armstrong-Reid’s hope was to transform understandings of past humanitarian nursing in order to apply lessons to now. That remains to be seen, but the author has produced a different kind of history, and one that a short review cannot easily encapsulate.
From Armstrong-Reid’s descriptions of the work carried out and the compromises made in order to function, the China Convoy operated in the spirit of the First World War FAU. Discussions about how Quaker tenets, ideals and practices were embedded in the nursing, surgical, hospital, clinic, public health and relief work—for soldiers and civilians, and with Communist forces—are a pronounced theme running throughout the book. While non-Quakers and non-pacifists were admitted at a quota of 20 per cent, the interplay of personalities rather than beliefs per se is highlighted through the attention to specific members of staff, predominantly nurses. Most of the chapters are built around these potted biographies, which take two or more volunteers and use their backgrounds and experiences to illustrate the development of the Convoy from the nurses’ joining of splinter units that sprang up in response to need witnessed or work pursued. Alongside personalities, the mix of different nationalities within the Convoy—British, US, Australian, New Zealand and Chinese—caused issues, some of which surrounded interracial relationships and the behaviour of independent women, and some that were inflected through tensions between FAU factions that the author characterises as ‘faith versus work’ (p. 243). The 1947 relinquishment of the FAU’s running of the Convoy to the Friends Service Unit, and more firmly under the control of the American Friends Service Committee, changed the internal dynamics of the Convoy. It also spelt the end of the Gadabouts, with Communist concerns around the independence of what they considered a US organisation; an important milestone was passed with the 1951 devolution of Zhangzhou Hospital to local authorities.
Armstrong-Reid’s book, like the activities of the China Convoy, is dense, detailed, confusing, essential and hugely rewarding. It is not an easy read or an elegant narrative, like Palfreeman’s micro-study of Friends in Flanders, nor as familiar as the ground covered by Fiona Reid’s textbook. It skips over the fundamentals, so the gravity of what the FAU did in China during the Second World War is not felt in the same way as the other two books evoke of the First. In many ways this demonstrates the place we are currently at in twentieth-century Quaker historiography: some of the basic foundational histories are only now being researched and written, so there are difficulties in either integrating effectively Quaker into general history or carrying out cutting-edge studies. Nevertheless, that the three vibrant texts covered in this review are beginning to address this demonstrates not only that now is an exciting time intellectually, but also that the FAU is gradually and finally receiving the attention it deserves.
J. Russell Boulding (ed.), Elise Boulding: Writings on Feminism, the Family, and Quakerism (Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2016), pp. xv + 168. ISBN 9783319309774. Hardback, £74.99.
J. Russell Boulding (ed.), Elise Boulding: A Pioneer in Peace Research, Peacemaking, Feminism, Future Studies, and the Family. From a Quaker Perspective (Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2017), pp. xxi + 178. ISBN 9783319313634. Hardback, £69.99.
J. Russell Boulding’s (J. R. Boulding) two edited volumes of Norwegian–American sociologist Elise Boulding’s (E. Boulding 1920–2010) writings seek to contribute to the growing body of scholarship on her work by framing it from the perspective of her Quakerism and a strong emphasis on ‘the family’ as a metaphorical structure for building society. These volumes aim to demonstrate the necessity of examining E. Boulding’s work through these two foundational lenses, which have been surprisingly overlooked in previous attempts at cataloguing her work. The consideration of her work on peacemaking and feminism alongside her writing on Quakerism and family dynamics/structures highlights Quakerism and the family as significant and consistent elements undergirding her lifelong thinking. However, the overabundance and variety of resources undermines the primary intent of demonstrating the importance of Quakerism and family in E. Boulding’s work, with Writings on Feminism, the Family, and Quakerism being the more effective volume of the two reviewed.
It is an understatement to say that Elise Boulding’s interests ranged across genres. In fact, her interests were so wide that it is truly impossible to encapsulate her ideas into a short list of categories. Her work reflects this diversity, in that she would sometimes gather multiple fields into dialogue in one article, often relying on the twin tools of metaphor and human experience to explain complex ideas or processes. Boulding saw connections between seemingly disparate elements of the multiple areas within which she worked, and saw little need to maintain the neat divisions between fields. Yet, it is this same aversion to categorisation that has made her work challenging to study in a truly comprehensive way. There is simply so much variety that any attempt to frame it in a systematic fashion will fall apart under the weight of it all.
This is the challenge that these two edited volumes face. As the titles attest, in J. R. Boulding’s effort to collate articles, chapters and writings representative of his mother’s work that may have not received the same attention as her more famous books, he has gathered together materials that range across a dizzying spectrum, with the only obvious through-line being that they were written by one author. While this has the obvious publishing benefit of widening the scope of potential interest in the volumes, a critique of that approach seems quite obvious: why would scholars from such disparate fields as, say, Futures Studies read the parts of the volume having to deal with Peace Research, unless they already had an interest in that field? Similarly, while there might be a more obvious connection between feminism and Quaker Studies, the connection can seem somewhat arbitrary at first glance.
In Writings on Feminism, the Family, and Quakerism J. R. Boulding broadly achieved the goal laid out in the title through a collection of extracts and articles divided into four sections, with material in each section generally matching the stated theme: ‘I) Feminism and Ethnicity’, ‘II) Family from a Sociological Perspective’, ‘III) Family from a Quaker Perspective’, and ‘IV) Quaker Spirituality’. Each section has multiple extracts, with the notable exception of section IV, which only has one early (1956), and short, article. The rest of the sections include writings from her most productive writing period (1970–2000). The articles effectively demonstrate the importance of domestic life on framing E. Boulding’s perspective on feminism. This speaks to her rootedness in lived reality: while she was an idealist, seeking to break down structures of violence and oppression in society, most especially those which had a greater impact on women, she insisted on acknowledging the experience of the majority of women whose lives are framed either by their role in the domestic economy or by society’s judgment of its lack of dominance in their lives. By presenting the ways this idea also exists in E. Boulding’s spiritual life, the volume effectively demonstrates the interlaced effect of the Quaker emphasis on human experience as a primary tool for examining, and transforming, both the individual and society.
The sense of these volumes being a grab-bag of extracts is much stronger in A Pioneer in Peace Research, Peacemaking, Feminism, Future Studies, and the Family. This volume is split into three sections: ‘I) On and About Elise Boulding’, ‘II) Peace Research and Peacemaking’, and ‘III) The Family, the Future, Feminism, and Quakerism’. The first section serves as a personal and scholarly biography for E. Boulding, including a complete bibliography of her copious writing output as well as a collection of reflections from other scholars on her work. The other two sections gather representative selections on peacemaking and future studies, respectively, from the perspective of E. Boulding’s vision of domestic feminism. The usefulness of the extracts in these separate sections is unquestioned: they provide an invaluable aid to effectively comprehending the core elements of E. Boulding’s ideas. Yet, their diversity is actually the most significant flaw in the volume: while individually invaluable, they simply do not join together in anything resembling a common theme. Instead, this volume feels like it is actually three very different collections forced to reside together within the confines of one book.
Despite the structural flaws of these volumes, they emphatically remind scholars of the foundational importance of E. Boulding’s Quaker spirituality and family life to her pioneering work. Far from suffering from intellectual homelessness, Elise Boulding was actually a creative thinker capable of seeing connections between seemingly wildly disparate concepts, whose fierce compassion forces us to continuously reassess our understanding of the value of family life in building effective societies and cultures of peace.
Stephen W. Angell and Pink Dandelion (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Quakerism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. xvi + 394. ISBN 9781316501948. Paperback, £24.99.
This is a handbook designed to give an overview of Quakerism. The four sections of the book cover history (very briefly, in three broad sections), expressions of Quaker faith (in five chapters, again briefly, and touching on key issues rather than trying to be exhaustive), regional studies (in five chapters just about covering the whole inhabited globe) and emerging spiritualities (where the five chapters pick up key themes from earlier sections, such as non-theism, evangelism or ecumenism, and explore them in more detail). Each chapter would work well as a brief reading to introduce the topic, and the book will enhance university library collections. Indeed, the importance of this volume to Quaker studies as a developing field probably lies in this feature, together with publication in a series and from a press which makes this a likely destination.
In the first part of the book, Chapter 1 deals with the period 1650 to 1808, Chapter 2 with 1808 to 1920 and Chapter 3 with 1920 to 2015. Although all five authors (Robynne Rogers Healey, Thomas D. Hamm and Isaac Barnes May, and Timothy Burdick and Pink Dandelion) are expert in their relative fields, the material sometimes felt like it had been cramped or skimmed over in each short chapter. That said, so much work has been done on Quaker history that to produce a summary at all is a significant step.
The second part of the book, ‘Expressions of Quaker Faith’, contains chapters covering literature (Nancy Jiwon Cho), social justice and sustainability (Katherine Murray), the Quaker Peace Testimony and responses to war (Elaine Bishop and Jiseok Jung), Quakers and education (Stephen W. Angell and Clare Brown) and Quaker material culture (Emma Jones Lapsansky). If this list looks like it is missing some items, these usually appear in another form—for example, truth, a central issue for Quakers, is discussed with specific reference to fiction in the chapter on literature, and equality is dealt with in the sections on social justice and education. I did wonder whether social justice and sustainability should have been two chapters: although there are connections, these were not extensively drawn out in the chapter, which is more focussed on (interesting and well-researched) campaigns and organisational responses to the issues.
A world tour of ‘Regional Studies’ comprises the third part of the book. A British reader might feel there is a gap here, although the justification given for this in the Europe and Middle East chapter—that Britain is extensively covered elsewhere—is reasonable. The five chapters are on North America (Stephen W. Angell and John Connell), Latin America (Ramón González Longoria and Nancy Thomas), Africa (George Busolo, Oscar Malande, Ann K. Riggs and Theoneste Sentabire), Europe and the Middle East (Hans Eirik Aarek and Julia Hinshaw Ryberg) and Asia-Pacific (Stephanie Midori Komashin). Of the four sections, this is probably the one with the most material not previously published, not collected or not presented in an accessible form elsewhere.
Finally, Part IV, ‘Emerging Spiritualities’, covers unprogrammed traditions (Michael Birkel and Deborah L. Shaw), non-theism (Dan Christy Randazzo), evangelical Quakerism in its global Christian context (Jon R. Kershner), convergent Quakerism (C. Wess Daniels and Greg Woods) and women’s work in intra-Quaker ecumenism (Margery Post Abbott). These chapters feel like they have a little more room to breathe, each having a slightly narrower focus than chapters in the previous sections. There is still a good deal of material to cover, but this is mostly handled elegantly.
Although there are variations between authors, the overall style of this book is clear, accurate and easy to follow. Succinctness is both a strength and a weakness: although the reader sometimes wishes for more detail, as described above, authors throughout the volume succeed in giving summaries and overviews that set the scene and support further research. I found this to be more of a weakness in the history chapters, perhaps because they summarise so much existing research, and less of a problem in the chapters that present case studies of previously less well-known material. The intellectual coherence of the volume, largely created by clear structure both within chapters and in the book as a whole, is a considerable editorial achievement, as is the relative absence of repetition. As an example of the latter, of the many Quakers bodies in the world, only Evangelical Friends Church International gets more than one substantial introduction.
An implicit theme, perhaps only emerging when the book is read cover-to-cover, is the complex relationship of some of the authors to their subject matter. In Chapter 18 Margery Post Abbott speaks explicitly from the position of a ‘participant-observer’, while in Chapter 17 C. Wess Daniels refers to himself in the third person, and in Chapters 10 and 14 Nancy Thomas and Deborah L. Shaw respectively provide first-person accounts of relevant material, clearly labelled as such. Less satisfactory is a place in Chapter 12 where Hans Eirik Aarek and Julia Hinshaw Ryberg make statements about a Quaker community in Sweden without clarifying whether these things are known from first-hand experience, personal communication, a traditionally published source, social media or by some other route (p. 234). The extensive use of personal communication in Chapter 13—where Stephanie Midori Komashin offers a masterfully speedy yet thorough tour of Quakerism in Asia-Pacific—on the other hand, could be a model for presenting this kind of research.
I would recommend this book to undergraduate students wanting to include Quakerism in an essay, lecturers looking for short and effective readings on topics within Quaker studies, researchers at any level starting work on an area of Quaker studies with which they are unfamiliar, and members of Quaker communities wanting a better understanding of the ‘big picture’ of their faith as it exists in the world today.