Date of Award

Summer 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Committee Director

Carolyn Lawes

Committee Member

Michael Carhart

Committee Member

Jane Merritt

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 S955 2009


This study examines the flexibility of Quaker women's roles in their domestic, sacred, and secular communities. It traces the experiences of a group of Philadelphia Quaker wives and mothers who were forced to support their families when revolutionary authorities arrested and banished their husbands to Virginia during the American Revolution. First, it investigates Quaker women's duties in their households and suggests that gendered responsibilities overlapped significantly for eighteenth-century Quaker men and women. By considering the Quaker husband-wife relationship and the Quaker parent-child relationship, one may conclude that Quaker gendered tasks were not rigid. Chapter Three proposes the idea that Quaker mothers sometimes acted like fathers, and Quaker fathers often acted like mothers. The Virginia exiles lives fulfilled the duties of Quaker fathers by becoming providers for and protectors of their households and children; furthermore, the exiled Quaker men acted similar to mothers, because they enjoyed affectionate relationships with their children comparable to the Quaker mother-child relationship. The Virginia exile narrative allows us to explore the complexities involved in understanding eighteenth-century Quaker women's roles in the domestic setting.

This thesis also explores Quaker women's public activism in their sacred and secular communities. Chapter Four proposes that Quaker women's identities as wives and mothers and their political activism were closely linked. The wives of the Virginia exiles became active in secular affairs only when their families and livelihood were threatened. Furthermore, Chapter Four argues the women built upon the foundations of their faith and used the skills they had acquired as leaders in their church community to cross over into secular politics. The exiles lives petitioned and met with important colonial officials on behalf of their husbands and played an integral role in the men' eventual release. Their actions were not viewed as unfeminine by their peers, because they fit with Quaker women's religious duties as wives and mothers.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).