Yet despite the many attempts of both the British and the microorganism to bring “Penn’s City” to it’s knees, Philadelphia remained the most important city in the Colonies during the eighteenth century, even gaining the nickname of the “American Athens” by the latter part of the century. Add some buckled shoes, knee breeches, and a tricorned hat to that independent spirit, and who wouldn’t be smitten?
Twenty years later, my interest in Colonial Pennsylvania persevered—“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof”—except this time I saw it as the perfect setting for a historical novel that happened to call for indentured servants, wheat farms, an Irish immigrant family, and an epidemic. It also helped that a woman had been accused of witchcraft in the colony in 1728, which isn’t surprising considering the high number of Germans and Scotch-Irish in the population.
And then there were the Quakers, those quirky, peace-loving people immortalized for modern day on the oatmeal box. From the first rough outline, I knew they would play a critical role in the story due to their overwhelming presence in the colony. But when it came to basic character sketches, I had surprisingly little knowledge about this group of dissenters other than what appeared in the Eighteenth century novels, History of Tom Jones, a Foundling and Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress. I started to dig, and the deeper I got the more I realized how far their peculiar teachings had set this colony apart from the other twelve.
The Society of Friends, or Quakers, came into being near the end of The Protestant Reformation in the Seventeenth century. Their founder George Fox espoused to the extreme the core Reformation ideal of removing all intermediaries between God and the individual. Needless to say, this often put his teachings at odds with established religious leaders and monarchies that derived their power from God. Between 1660 and 1685 around 15,000 Quakers—one in three—were imprisoned in England for such crimes as blasphemy, public speaking, refusal to swear an oath and disturbing the peace.
Something had to give, and on March 4, 1681, a prominent Quaker, William Penn, accepted a land grant of approximately 600,000 square miles from King Charles II in lieu of a large debt owed by the crown to his father, Admiral Penn. He used the land to establish a haven for religious freedom known as the “Holy Experiment.” Fed up with being tossed in jail and otherwise persecuted, Quakers came to Pennsylvania in droves.
Along with their plain dress and speech, they brought with them certain principles that would become ingrained in the American ethos, primarily, equality, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.
Quakers embraced true equality centuries ahead of their time. And I don’t just mean for white male property owners. Everyone was included—men and women, European, Native Indian and African, rich and poor. A person’s gender, race, or financial status was irrelevant as all people were the same under God. Though the practice sometimes fell short of the principle, they did an overall decent job in putting their words to action. Women could speak and vote in public meetings, and like male members, could travel unaccompanied to preach and be recognized with the gift of ministry. Before relations soured with the Walking Purchase, Native Indians and whites sat on juries together. And The Society of Friends was the first organization ever to officially ban slavery.
Stemming from their understanding of equality, Quakers refused to be respecters of persons. They did not acknowledge titles, regardless of how many generations a dukedom could be traced back. They also did not bow or curtsey or show deference of any kind. By virtue of being human, the king had the same intrinsic worth as the laundress and was treated accordingly, with respect for the person rather than a list of noble titles. This, along with their refusal to swear oaths often led to the misconception that they were one step away from treason.
In truth, Quakers considered government essential to civil society. William Penn in particular supported Quaker involvement in political office. When the government was established in Pennsylvania, he swore that, “You shall be governed by laws of your own making, and live a free and, if you will, a sober and industrious people. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person.” People were needed to create laws and maintain order. What they weren’t needed to do was oppress or elevate themselves above others, nor at any time insert themselves between the individual and God.
My gushing aside, Quakers would never have been voted most fun for a night out—that bawdy, rambunctious bunch stayed home in England. And as they were pacifists, I would have picked the Puritans or Anglicans for my team in any of the armed conflicts that occurred during the time. All the same, as an avid admirer of early American thought, I am thankful for the strength of character that allowed William Penn to write, “This prison shall be my grave before I budge a jot, for I owe my conscience to no mortal man.”
Thank you so much, Kari, for this fascinating post! I had no idea the Quakers were so far ahead of their times when it came to equality and freedom.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for my review of Goddess Born. And continue below for more information about the author, her novel and the other stop on the blog tour.
Publication Date: May 29, 2014
eBook; ISBN: 9781426898365
eBook; ISBN: 9781426898365
Selah Kilbrid is caught between two worlds. A direct descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, she is bound by Tuatha Dé law to help those in need. Yet as a human, she must keep her unique abilities hidden or risk being charged for a witch. In 1730 Pennsylvania, the Quaker community of Hopewell has become a haven for religious freedom—and fanaticism—and there are those who would see her hanged if the truth were revealed.
For eighteen years, Selah safely navigates the narrow gap between duty and self-preservation, until the day a prominent minister uncovers her secret. Obsessed with her power, Nathan Crowley disregards her betrothal to a distant cousin from Ireland and demands marriage in exchange for his silence. Selah stalls for time, but when news reaches the Colonies of her cousin’s death, time has run out.
Rather than submit to Nathan, Selah coerces a stranger to pose as her husband. It’s a good plan—her only plan—even though Henry Alan harbors his own dark secrets. But when she returns to Hopewell a married woman, the real fight has just begun. As unseen forces move against her, Selah doesn’t know which poses the greater danger—a malignant shadow closing in from outside or the internal fire that threatens to consume her heart.
Book Two in the Goddess Born series will be published in November 2014 and Book Three in June 2015.
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About the Author
Kari Edgren did not dream of becoming a writer. Instead, she dreamed of everything else and was often made to stay inside during kindergarten recess to practice her letters. Despite doting parents and
a decent school system, Ms. Edgren managed to make it through elementary school having completed only one book cover to cover – The Box Car Children, which she read approximately forty-seven times. Things improved during high school, but not until she read Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in college, did she truly understand the power of a book.
Ms. Edgren aspires to be a Vulcan, a world-acclaimed opera singer, and two inches taller. She resides in the Pacific NW where she spends a great deal of time torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts. Ms. Edgren hasn’t stopped dreaming, but has finally mastered her letters enough to put the stories on paper.
For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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Goddess Born Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, September 22
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, September 23
Review at By the Book Reviews
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, September 24
Review at The Readers Hollow
Interview at Manga Maniac Café
Thursday, September 25
Review at Book Babe
Friday, September 26
Review at Curling Up With a Good Book
Sunday, September 28
Spotlight & Excerpt at Casual Readers
Monday, September 29
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Tuesday, September 30
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 1
Review & Excerpt at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, October 2
Review at Books, Etc.
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Friday, October 3
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, October 6
Review at Bookish
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, October 7
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Flashlight Reader
Wednesday, October 8
Review at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, October 9
Review at The True Book Addict
Friday, October 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Monday, October 13
Review at Book Nerd
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Tuesday, October 14
Review at I’d So Rather Be Reading
Wednesday, October 15
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, October 16
Review at A Book Geek
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Friday, October 17
Review at Historical Tapestry