Quaker Timeline

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


17th Century


1652

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.


1655

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.


1656

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.


1657

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.


1660

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.


1661

A fourth and final Friend is hanged in Boston.

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


1662

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


1682

William Penn establishes the Quaker state of Pennsylvania.


1689

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


1701

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.


1738

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.


1751

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.


1755

Quaker marriage becomes legal


1758

Quakers begin campaigning to abolish slavery


1767

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.


1768

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


1796

Quakers pioneer humane mental care at The Retreat, York


19th Century


1813

Elizabeth Fry starts her prison reform work at Newgate Prison.


1825

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


1843

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.  


1846

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


1870s

Growth of Quaker chocolate makers Cadburys and Rowntrees.


1871

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.


1876

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.


1890s

Fair-trading Quaker banks Barclays and Lloyds thrive


20th Century


1901

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.


1903
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.


1920

First conference of Quakers worldwide.


1927

Friends House opens as the home of British Quakers.


1938

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


1947

Quakers awarded Nobel Peace Prize for their war relief work


1952

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


1967


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


1989
After eight years work from the contribution of over 4,000 Friends worldwide the Quaker Tapestry is completed.


1997

Quakers work at the UN to bring about Landmine Ban Treaty


21st Century


2009

British Quakers campaign for same-sex marriage


2014

Quakers in Britain disinvests from fossil fuels


2019

Newark Meeting House, England, opens.


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