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Quaker Studies

Abstract

The presence of Quaker women at the founding of a social movement for women's rights in Britain in the late 1860s has received growing attention from historians in recent years. Yet the links between the religious faith of such Quaker women and their political radicalism has remained largely unexamined. A liberal theology which acknowledged the spiritual equality of women has been assumed to have prompted their involvement in a liberal politics, and more especially in women's rights campaigning. This article argues that the relationship between religious views and political action was more complex in this case. It suggests that the growing participation of Quaker women in moral and social reform movements in this period, together with their increasing access to office in local government and voluntary organisations, served, in fact, to fuel a reevaluation of their position within the Society of Friends. It concludes that indeed the constitutional arrangements of this body became a ground of gender contest as a consequence of women's enlarged role in the outside world.

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