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Quaker Studies

Abstract

Quakers are widely believed to have been in the forefront of 19th century social change, and in particular to have been in favour of women's equality. Through consideration of individual and corporate public statements by British Friends during the period of militant campaigning for women to have the parliamentary vote, I show that this perception is inaccurate, largely mythic, and based on generalisation from the actions of a small number of individual Friends. I suggest that Friends' reputation for having been corporately progressive on the question of women's equality is undeserved, based on superficial consideration of the use of the term 'equality', and that the position of the London Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends was far more cautious and divided than is generally supposed.

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