Quaker Timeline

This is a timeline of the Quakers from their formation as an organised movement in 1652 to the current day.

17th Century


The English Civil War Period (1642 – 1651) is over and it leaves many people in England searching for answers.

Several such people searching for answers include a group of Seekers and like-minded individuals who form the Society of Friends in the north-west of England.

Highly influential on the formation of the Society of Friends are the Seekers who call themselves the Children of the Light and are led by George Fox. They had begun calling each Friend five years earlier in 1647 and form the backbone of the Society.

Fox preaches to Maraget and Thomas Fell at Swarthmoor Hall and the building becomes the hub for early Quakersism.


From her home at Swarthmoor Hall, Margaret Fell helps organise Quakers into a national movement. By 1655, the Valiant Sixty are formed to preach Quakerism across England and Wales using the hall as their administrative base.


The 16-year-old James Parnell is imprisoned in Colchester Castle for his beliefs and subsequently dies there in controversial circumstances. Parnell becomes know as the ‘Boy Martyr’.

James Nayler, one of the Valiant Sixty, causes a national scandal and brings the young Quaker movement into a disrepute that threatens its very existance.

Mary Fisher and Ann Austin become the first Quakers to sail from England to the American Colonies in a ship named Swallow. They land in Boston and, although there was no law barring their presence, they were jailed for three weeks and sent back to England.

A group of Quaker eight missionaries leave England for the American Colonies, sailing on a small ship named Speedwell. Upon arrival they are imprisoned for being Quakers. After nearly three months of confinement, the group of eight Quakers was put back on the Speedwell, and sent back to England.


The ship named Woodhouse is built for the sole purpose of transporting Quaker missionaries from England to the American Colonies. Following its journey, the ship arrives along the coastline of Long Island in late May, and lands at New Amsterdam on 1st June 1657, after seven weeks at sea. After disembarking, the Woodhouse’s Quakers make their way to Maryland and Virginia.


The Commonwealth of England ends as The Restoration sees the return of rule by the monarchy.

Systematic persecution of Quakers begins on both sides of the Atlantic.

Three Friends are hanged for their beliefs, which include Mary Dyer, in Boston, Massachusetts. a year later in 1661. Collectively, they become known as the Boston Martyrs.

Quakers publish their Declaration of Peace Pamphlet.


A fourth and final Friend is hanged in Boston.

Quakers present their Declaration of Peace Pamphlet to King Charles II in person.


The Quaker Act further persecutes Quakers (and other Non-Conformist groups)


William Penn establishes the Quaker state of Pennsylvania.


Act of Toleration allows Quakers (and other Non-Conformist groups) to worship legally.

In recognition of the change in law, several purpose-built Meeting Houses are constructed and open such as the one in Lincoln.

18th Century


William Penn signs the groundbreaking Charter of Privileges, which guarantees both religious and political freedoms in Pennsylvania. The charter becomes a key inspiration for the Untited States’ free type of government.


A manuscript of Quaker beliefs and values is written. This evolves through the years into what is now known as Quaker Faith & Practice.

Benjamin Lay, an early abolitionist, carries out his ‘real blood’ protest against slave owning Quakers.


Philedelphia’s State House bell (now more famously known as the Liberty Bell) was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of William Penn signing the Charter of Privileges.


Quaker marriage becomes legal


Quakers begin campaigning to abolish slavery


After four years surveying, the Mason-Dixie Line in completed by the Quaker Jeremiah Dixon and his partner Charles Mason. The line comes to define the boundaries between north and south America.


The botanical illustrator Sydney Parkinson sets sail for Australia and New Zealand aboard Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour.


Quakers pioneer humane mental care at The Retreat, York

19th Century


Elizabeth Fry starts her prison reform work at Newgate Prison.


Quaker firms open first steam railway, ‘Stockton & Darlington‘.


The Friend, a weekly Quaker magazine, is first published and continues to this day – making it one of the world’s longest running continuous publications.  


The Great Hunger sees Quakers send famine pots, manufactured at Coalbrookdale, to Ireland – thus creating the first soup kitchens.


Growth of Quaker chocolate makers Cadburys and Rowntrees.


The Quaker Star is first worn by British Quaker relief workers during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1.

Quakers are allowed admittance to Cambridge and Oxford universities.


Ten years before the appearance of Coca-Cola, Charles Elmer Hires introduces his manufactured root beer to the world, thus kick-starting the global soft drinks industry.


Fair-trading Quaker banks Barclays and Lloyds thrive

20th Century


The Quaker Mill Company of Ravenna, Ohio, merges with three other mills to form the Quaker Oats company. Quaker Oats becomes the United State’s first cereal to be trademarked, but the brand has no formal association with the Quakers.

The American Quaker Lizzie Magie invents the Landlords Game. The game can be played with either a socialist or capitalist set of rules. The idea is stolen from her and becomes Monopoly, which drops the socialist set of rules.


First conference of Quakers worldwide.


Friends House opens as the home of British Quakers.


Quakers begin evacuating children from Nazi Germany on what becomes known as the Kindertransport.


Quakers awarded Nobel Peace Prize for their war relief work


To mark the tercentenary of the Quakers’ becoming an organised movement, a commemorative plaque is erected at Fox’s Pulpit.


Pulsar Stars are discovered by the Quaker Jocelyn Bell Burnell when she was a student at Cambridge University.

After eight years work from the contribution of over 4,000 Friends worldwide the Quaker Tapestry is completed.


Quakers work at the UN to bring about Landmine Ban Treaty

21st Century


British Quakers campaign for same-sex marriage


Quakers in Britain disinvests from fossil fuels


Newark Meeting House, England, opens.

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