In the seventeenth century, a commanding female public minister emerged during the radical religious movement of Quakerism. Margaret Askew Fell Fox was one of the founding members of the Religious Society of Friends, and was popularly known as the "Mother of Quakerism". She has been known less as a minister and more as a founder and provider of financial support then other young women. Throughout this paper I will refer to her as Fell Fox, name she acquired through marriages during her lifetime. Through her struggles and triumphs, radical actions and beliefs, and her desire to worship God, Fell Fox had a significant impact on the world around her. In this essay, I hope to share how Fell Fox’s life, writings, and actions contributed to her radical contribution to life in seventeenth century England.
In 1614, Fell Fox was born in Lancashire, England. She was born into the landed gentry, a level of society with both good education and breeding. In her late teens, she married an older man, a highly respected judge, by the name of Thomas Fell. Fell was politically involved in the society and several times was a member of Parliament. During their marriage, Fell inherited a house from his father and he and Margaret lived at the estate. The estate had been named Swarthmoor Hall by Fell’s father. During that time, Fell was often away from home on court circuits. Fell was well known in the region for his hospitality to travelers, and accordingly, the Hall was open to travelers. Fell Fox followed her husband’s desire for hospitality.
In June 1652, George Fox came to Swarthmoor while Fell was away on a circuit. (Fox was later credited with being the founder of the Quakers.) When Fell returned home, Fell Fox and their nine children were no longer attending their community Anglican Church. Instead, Fell Fox had deeply involved her family and herself in the “Principle and Persuasion” that was introduced to her through Fox. We have later learned that the moment Fell Fox met Fox, she changed her religious alliance. According to a analysis of Fell Fox’s works, her conversion from the Anglican Church to Quakerism revealed “none of the traditional Puritan obsession with self-doubt and self-introspection, while going through a gradual faith-awakening proc...
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_____. Margaret Fell to John Rouse (her son in law) and Wife, 1st of 8th Month, 1664. London: 1664.
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