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Turning Inside Out again?

For the second time a course on 18th century Quakers which I had hoped to run for Woodbrooke has been cancelled because of a lack of bookings. This has led me to consider what to do next. I am not going to abandon the 18th century but perhaps the time has come to approach it in a different way. I shall continue to try to 'introduce you to my friends' through this blog and I will look into the possibility of creating an online course for Woodbrooke for 2020.

At the same time I will put some more effort into research and writing and try to make progress on my biography of Catherine Payton Phillips. I have ideas for some journal articles which I will focus on. I know from long experience that, as the historian Barbara Tuchman put it, 'Research is endlessly seductive. Writing is hard work'. I think that now is the time to do some of that work.

Also, for a while now I have been feeling nudged towards a new direction - or rather to a new approach to an old path. It is twenty-f…
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Lydia Rawlinson Lancaster

It is getting on for ten years ago that I started writing on this blog about Quakers in the past. I kept myself going with several Quaker alphabets and now I am continuing with this occasional series. I began with Grace Hall Chamber and I shall continue with one of her friends, Lydia Rawlinson Lancaster.

Lydia was born in 1683 at Graithwaite in Lancashire, near Lake Windermere, the seventh of the eight children of Thomas Rawlinson and his wife Dorothy, born Hutton. Brought up in a Quaker family, Lydia describes herself as one drawn to thoughts of God from infancy. Her father died when she was six and around this time she remembered being moved to floods of tears by the ministry of a visiting Friend. From the age of fourteen Lydia struggled with the conviction that she was being called to be a minister herself. She resisted this calling for ten years - a period which her contemporaries saw approvingly as a time when she grew in wisdom and experience but which she remembered as a 'lo…

Laid Down

It is nearly a year since I last wrote this blog but now seems a good time to start again. The title of this post is Quaker terminology for what happens when a piece of work comes to an end. It is laid down and the group or committee which has been carrying it on ceases to exist.

A long-standing committee on which I have served for just over a year and clerked since the beginning of 2018 has just been laid down by the central committee in charge of it. The reason for this is unclear and communication throughout could have been better but the decision has been made and the committee has been wound up. When we realised what was happening the committee wrote a minute and tried to change the central committee's mind as we did not think that our work was at an end, but this was in vain. It appears that an alternative approach is being sought but our committee has been laid down.

Under Quaker discipline of course I accept this decision but I have been wrestling with the way it has made me…

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - Z for Zed - The End

This is my last post in the Quaker Alphabet Blog. Since 2013 I have been through the alphabet, writing about Quaker related subjects, four times. Most of the other people who set out on this journey together have moved on to other things and it is time for me to do the same.

I have found this a useful prompt for my blogging - although sometimes no prompt is loud enough for such an arch-procrastinator as myself. The alphabetical structure has sometimes been difficult - not many names begin with Z, although some do, and some letters are much more difficult to find subjects for than others. I was particularly proud of X for Xylography!

I set out to use this format in part to continue to write about lesser-known Quakers of the past and I am happy to have done that. Of my biographical posts the most viewed has been Annie Elizabeth Clark. I certainly intend to continue with this theme and it will be a relief not to have to squeeze my writing into the confines of the alphabet.



Occasionally my…

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - Y for Yearly Meeting Gathering

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about my experience of Yearly Meeting and as I said then I have been a regular attender for many years.

London (later Britain) Yearly Meeting has usually been held in London but in modern times there have been moves to change this. In 1905 London Yearly Meeting was held in Leeds and there were other occasional forays out of the capital - to Birmingham in 1908, Manchester in 1912 and 1926, Llandrindod Wells in 1924, Scarborough in 1925, Bristol in 1937, York in 1941 and 1942 and Edinburgh in 1948.

It was intended that Yearly Meeting should be held in the summer every four years outside London and a minute was made to that effect in 1945. However the organisation of these 'Residential Yearly Meetings' took a while and the first was not held until 1986 in Exeter. I was there as part of the Quaker Women's Group presenting the Swarthmore Lecture and my family came too. In fact the children enjoyed themselves so much that they insisted that we should m…

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - X for the unknown

X is a kind of question mark, an unknown value in an equation. When writing a blog I find that each post is setting out into the unknown. Even when writing within a structure, like the alphabet, the element of mystery and surprise is still there.

One of the things which keeps me going back to Quaker meetings is this element of the unknown. Although there are structures and procedures which have grown up over the years and give a comforting safety and routine, there is also the unknown which, if we are open to it, has the power to discomfort and change us, leading us on to explore new paths.

Quaker community is like this too - both supportive and challenging. Encountering the unknown is what allows community to grow and deepen - but it is seldom easy. I am someone happy in my own company but I know that I also need to make the effort to be part of a community. X for me is the unknown that allows me to balance these two impulses.

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - W for Anna Rebecca Gilpin Whiting

Anna Rebecca Gilpin was born in 1829, the daughter of James and Mary Sturge Gilpin of Bristol. She was the thirteenth of fifteen children in a family of eight boys and seven girls and her eldest brother was the politician Charles Gilpin, who served as M.P. for Northampton for many years, and was known for his opposition to capital punishment. Anna was educated at Wigton and Sidcot schools, a lively girl with a bright temperament which made her a general favourite although she admitted tht she sometimes gave her teachers trouble.

After leaving school she took up First-Day School work and while engaged on this she met John Whiting (1819-1899) a draper of Leeds. They were married in 1850 and had six children, two girls and four boys. On her marriage Anna also took over the domestic management of her husband's business, so that she had several young men under her care as well as her own children.

The welfare of children was very important to her so that, although she took a leading part…