QHR: How It Came About & Presenter Previews & Photos & Videos

Now Available:

The book of papers from the Roundtable is now available; it can be ordered here, or via Amazon & Kindle..

Photos & Videos from the Roundtable

Group photo:
Back Row,
(L to R): Doug Gwyn, Dick Nurse, Janet Gardner, Tom Hamm, Guy Aiken, Chuck Fager, Celia Caust-Ellenbogen;
Middle Row: Betsy Cazden, Stephen McNeil, Gwen Gosney Erickson, Emma Lapsansky, Mary Craudereuff;
Front Row:  Greg Hinshaw, H. Larry Ingle, Isaac May, Stephen Angell. (Not pictured: Kathy Adams)

Dramatic visuals are not typical of an assembly like this one. Such events  consist mostly of people reading papers, while others listen intently, then ask questions, comment, and sometimes debate. The excitement, and there was plenty here, is evoked in the talk, the work it embodies, the enlarged understanding and the new work it makes possible.

And so it was at the Quaker History Roundtable. The Roundtable began its presentations with two archivists: Gwen Erickson and Mary Craudereuff (below), who explored some of the questions and issues involved in selecting and preserving materials in our time, for an unpredictable future.

The video of these first two presentations by Gwen & Mary is online here.

The second pair of papers was by Betsy Cazden and Guy Aiken, below. Betsy considered the modernist assumption and worldview that underlies the work of the Friends world Committee  for Consultation, and Guy examined the tension and evolution between commitments to neutrality in conflicts, vs, a choice for “justice” in the work of the American Friends Service Committee. The video of these two presentations by Betsy & Guy, plus a Welcome to  by ESR’s Dean Jay Marshall, is online here.

More group studies were brought by Steve Angell & Tom Hamm, below. Tom charted the rise and fall of several Young Friends groups, which had to contend with conflicts both internal and among parent bodies. Steve described the long but successful journey of fractured subgroups of Canadian Friends into a reunified Canadian Yearly Meeting. The video of these presentations by Steve & Tom is online here.

Stephen McNeil  and Lonnie Valentine were next. McNeil (at podium, below) recounted some of the work, often heroic, by American Friends among Japanese in their homeland, and among the 100,000-plus Japanese-Americans who were interned in  U.S. prison camps during World War Two. Valentine summarized the dogged, often costly witness of Quaker tax resisters in the century that saw the rise of an unprecedented, tax-funded military-industrial complex. The video of these presentations by  Stephen & Lonnie is online here.

Emma Lapsansky’s paper was about the experience of a  Quaker-founded intentional community, one of many such experiments by U.S. Quakers in the past century. Chuck Fager read a summary of the biographical sketch of Willie Frye Jr., a pioneering, controversial pastor in North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), written by Frye’s daughter Kathy Adams.  The video of these two presentations, by Emma and Kathy/Chuck is online here.

Greg Hinshaw (left, below) outlined the trajectory of the U.S. Protestant Mainline churches and contended that the shifting fortunes of Friends United Meeting were shaped by its ties to this movement. Doug Gwyn (at right) reported on his ongoing study of the early course of the Friends General Conference gatherings, which became an ongoing liberal Quaker tradition in 1900. The video of these presentations by Greg & Doug is online here.

The archivists then returned in force, from four of the leading American Quaker collections: from left: Tom Hamm, of Earlham College & its Lilly Library; Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, from the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College; Gwen Gosney Erickson, who heads the Quaker Historical Collection at Guilford College; and Mary Craudereuff of Haverford College’s archives. Their presentations were followed by a tour led by Tom Hamm of the nearby Earlham collection. The video of this panel presentation is online here.

The formal presentations concluded with Isaac May, (below, right) describing the mostly low-visibility (and not always edifying) Quaker involvement in the campaign to elect Herbert Hoover as President in 1928. H. Larry Ingle then lifted the veil on the shabby treatment by a Quaker Philadelphia elite of a new Friend, Whittaker Chambers, after Chamber accused Philadelphia favorite Alger Hiss of being a spy for the Soviet Union. Hiss was later convicted and served time. The video of these presentations by Isaac & Larry are online here.

[One extra session, by filmmakers Richard Nurse, below right and Janet Gardner, left, was on a historical documentary about Friends, “The Quiet Revolutionaries,”which they are working on. 

The video of the presentation and lively discussion about the project is online here.]

To close, the final morning was devoted to brainstorming ideas for future research on Quakerism in the 20th century. (Below, Steve Angell rode herd on the microphone.)

Perhaps spurred by the many threads of study that were highlighted earlier, the ideas came thick and fast.  Many flip chart pages were soon filled with them, hung on the wall, and then rolled up for storage. Alas, no video of this session is available.

A summary listing of the research ideas will be included, along with all the finished papers, in a Roundtable book that will be forthcoming. [Watch for updates!]


Background: Why is the Quaker History Roundtable like an Alaska cruise?

[Note: for inquiries about the Roundtable, email me at: contact@nullnewquakerhistory.net ] And for Presenter previews, scroll down.]

Of course, it’s really not. Except in one respect: it too involves travel, through time more than actual space; also, such cruises are mostly taken, so I’m told, by retired folks. And the Quaker History Roundtable is also a retirement project: mine.

I’ve been retired for four-plus years, and interested in Quaker history for about fifty. I’ve done research, attended conferences of historians, and written my share of articles and books on related topics. I’ve also organized some conferences. (For more about me, go here: http://afriendlyletter.com/chuck-fager/ )

Retirement is supposed to be when, with time growing short, one gets to work on the bucket list. And on my list, making some sense of the last century — more than a third of which I spent among Friends — is pretty high. Much higher than going on a cruise. Working on Quaker history has been continually stimulating for me, and often fun.

But not much has been done on the 20th century among Quakers — despite the fact that a LOT went on. Seventeen years past the end of that century, I figured it was time to start filling that gap. So about a year ago I began sounding out scholars and other Quaker history geeks, and suggested we do some work, then get together and share and discuss it; many were interested. And I had enough savings to underwrite it, so I did.  Many thanks are due to the Earlham School of Religion for agreeing to host it, and cooperate on the arrangements. Fortunately, history geeks are relatively simple to arrange for, logistics-wise: they mostly talk and argue (er, discuss), then eat and talk & “discuss” some more.

And when it’s done, I’ll compile the book of papers from it, a task that’s now much easier and less expensive than it was a few years ago, still to the amazement of yours truly, who wrote his first three books on an ancient instrument called a typewriter.

For reference: a typewriter, circa 1950

That new volume will be a record of our fun, can extend the reach of our work, and I hope will stimulate some others to dig into the rich and largely unexplored record of American Quakerism. After all, while I’m immensely grateful to all those who sent in proposals for presentations, it’s also true that we’ve barely scratched the surface.

And before anyone asks, quite properly, why I was so parochial as to focus on American Quaker history, when the increasingly conventional wisdom is that ever more of the action is outside the US borders and in the global south, here’s the answer: this is what I know, it’s what I felt I could handle organizationally, and what I could afford. I urge those who want to fill in the recent history of Quakers outside the US and the “First World” to get busy and do it, or help it get done. I hope I’ll be around to read and hear some of the results.

But enough about me, except for the admission that if you use the contact form to send in an email, I’m the one it comes to. Now we turn to several  early “field reports” from some of the Roundtable participants.

And remember: the Roundtable will be open to visitors, with no conference fee.

Glimpses of the presentations, which are still taking shape.

 Kathy Adams is a recently retired educator. She grew up in North Carolina Yearly meeting (FUM) as a pastor’s daughter, and saw much turmoil in that body from close range, on committees. The story she outlines is one very likely to be buried in pious denial, of the sort described by other participants below. And the essay Kathy Adams has produced is exactly the kind of candid, ground-breaking work that I hoped the event might encourage.

– A paragraph summary/abstract of your topic

Willie R. Frye (1931-2013) served as a pastoral minister in North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM for almost forty years. Raised as a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian, his convincement as a member of the Society of Friends led him to embark on a journey of discovery that inspired him to take strong stands on peace, race, and LGBTQ issues. Although he was loved and respected by many Friends, he was demonized and labeled as a heretic by others in NCYM-FUM.

— How did you get interested in this topic?

Willie R. Frye was my father. He left volumes of writing which I inherited. Writing this paper gave me an opportunity to paint a portrait of Dad and his life’s work among Friends.

— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging

I knew my dad intimately, so there were no big surprises for me. I was fascinated that he wrote poetry that no one had ever read—not even my mother.

— how has your research changed your view of the topic (if it has)?

My view of Dad’s life and work has not changed. Writing this paper was cathartic in that I was able to reveal his cruel treatment at the hands of members of NCYM-FUM.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?

My hope is that others may be inspired to live lives of sacrifice and service based on Quaker testimonies. Dad’s passion for social justice was motivated by his relationship with the Inward Christ and by his mystical experiences. Perhaps others will feel empowered by reading his story.

— Is there a graphic related to the paper you can share? Or maybe a striking quote?

Wille Frye Jr.

BETSY CAZDEN has been a lawyer, but more recently an independent scholar.

Among other topics she has explored is the rise of the “independent Meetings” since the early 20th Century. Based in Rhode island, she has been active in the Friend World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) for 25 years, and lately served as Clerk of its Executive Committee.

— A paragraph summary/abstract of your topic

This paper argues that Friends World Committee for Consultation, officially founded in 1937 and rooted in the All Friends Conference of 1920, was essentially a modernist project.


While FWCC has officially welcomed all who call themselves Quaker, its essentially modernist agenda has alienated Friends from the evangelical yearly meetings, especially those in North America. The refusal of these Friends to affiliate with FWCC is often baffling and frustrating to liberal Friends in the 21st century, for whom an inclusive (and often post-modernist) welcome to all comers takes priority over any attempts at doctrinal purity or even coherence.
Yet a series of conflicts throughout its history confirms that the FWCC leadership has often explicitly favored the “modernist” viewpoint over the fundamentalist or evangelical one, as representing “real” Quakerism. In other words, the complaints of evangelical Friends that FWCC does not actually represent all Friends have considerable foundation in past decisions.

The paper puts the development of FWCC, including its work with the United Nations and other international agencies and its ecumenical connections to other Christian bodies, in the context of the chasm between modernist and fundamentalist churches during the second quarter of the twentieth century and continuing to the present day. It confirms that in that debate, the founders who shaped FWCC chose the modernist fork, a choice that continues to guide FWCC’s basic policies to the present day despite its increasing inclusion of evangelical churches outside of the United States.


MARY CRAUDEREUFF is the Curator of Quaker Collections at Haverford College

— A paragraph summary/abstract of your topic​

Based upon examples from personal papers in Quaker and Special Collections at Haverford College, I will explore how Quakers were involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and relationships with specific leaders therein. Then, I will dig into the question about what materials have been preserved, what hasn’t, why, and what can be done about it, in particular with 20th century materials.

I’ll discuss the ways archives collect materials, what materials tend to end up in the archives, what often does not get represented in archival materials, and ideas for how this can be changed for the future, and why this is important in Quaker history. This part will be based on current work happening within the archival community, with Archivists for Black Lives Matter , and the 2014 book Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion.

— How did you get interested in this topic?

I’ve always been interested in 20th century social justice movements. I was asked to give a presentation at work (the Quaker and Special Collections at Haverford College) for our Dig into the Archives program. As I looked at the finding aid for Dorothy Steere’s collection, I saw that there was a box that included correspondence between her and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When I opened the box, it was a treasure-trove of amazing materials collected by Dorothy, including correspondence, a diary she kept on a visit to Montgomery, along with a comic book, and other ephemera. This started me thinking about the materials in archives — what is collected? what is *not* collected? why? what can be done to shift these paradigms?

— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging

In the past couple of years I’ve been working towards thinking more about how to incorporate justice work into my life, and I think that it can be helpful to see not only the “easy” parts of that work, but also to see examples from when folks have messed up.

One example of this can be seen in a letter written after Dorothy’s visit to a church in Montgomery, wherein she talked with the Sunday school, comparing South Africa, where she had previously visited, with the American South. She writes in her diary about being very pleased with her talk, but this letter instead describes how the group was very offended, and that the pastor who brought her and the other Quakers in might be fired because of it. It’s a good reminder that no matter how good an intention, we can still hurt people with justice work.

— How has your research changed your view of the topic (if it has)?

Something I’ve enjoyed digging into with this research is working with students. I’ve used the materials in 5 classes, and in particular we talk about the materiality of the archives, and the differences of working with digitized materials versus working with physical newspaper, comic books, correspondence, diaries, and more, from various points in time. This is a good topic to talk about this with classes because we use the physical materials in class, and they can view related materials (including some of the correspondence between Steere and King) on the King Center’s website to compare directly between how it feels to use a copy versus the physical object.

As someone who works with a variety of materials daily, I find it helpful to work with people who are learning about this, who bring insights to the newness of the learning, and to see that interest blossom into using archival materials throughout their college career and beyond.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?
I think it is important to understand that the abolition and anti-slavery work of the 18th and 19th centuries is not over, and that there are direct ways that Quakers need to be involved in intersectional justice work, especially racial justice, queer justice, and gender justice work. As an archivist, I am in a field that can help to steward materials and collections that increase our worldviews, and can actively seek to bring justice to the world by being sure to collect materials from all, not just cis-hetero-white-men identified peoples.

— Is there a graphic related to the paper you can share? Or maybe a striking quote?

One of the first items I found that drew me into this collection.

Quote: “The ultimate lesson, I learned, is that history is not what happened in the past, but rather what is communicated about the past. And what is communicated about the past is shaped by what survives and is deemed valuable enough to preserve.” Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion. This quote inspires me with the Quaker and Special Collections because it pushes me and my colleagues to do better — to see more stories in the collections we have, and to make sure we are collecting diversely for the future, so that a broad spectrum of stories are being preserved.


STEPHEN ANGELL  is the Leatherock Professor of Quaker Studies at the Earlham School of Religion


— A paragraph summary/abstract of your topic

I’m interested in the mid-twentieth-century reunification movements between Hicksites and Orthodox (both Gurneyites and Wilburites), as well as previously unaffiliated meetings, that resulted in united yearly meetings in five primarily East-Coast locations: Canadian, New England, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

How did these reunions come about? How does the accomplishment of such reunions affect North American Friends even today?

Since I’m located in Indiana close to the FUM archives, I’m also interested in the ramifications for four of these yearly meetings (all except Philadelphia) of dual affiliation with Friends United Meeting and Friends General Conference.

— How did you get interested in this topic?

Depends on how far back you want to go. Just in the past few months, I was writing a 5000 word essay on Quakers in North America, and I realized that this was definitely an under-studied topic. That provided the immediate impetus.

Another way of looking at this question is to say that I was interested in it since before I was born. My grandfather, grandmother, father, and two uncles joined the Religious Society of Friends in Chappaqua, New York, as a family about 1930, transferring their membership from the Congregationalist Church. At that time, there were two meetings in Chappaqua. When I asked my uncle about ten years ago, which meeting the Angells joined, Hicksite or Orthodox, he really didn’t want to say.  [He believed] It just shouldn’t be important. One picture of the successful reunion in New York Yearly Meeting, shows my grandfather, Roy Angell, sitting on the Hicksite side of the clerk’s table. (See the book, Quaker Crosscurrents.) All five of my relatives were zealous advocates and activists for reunification from the time of their convincement as Friends.

In about 1968, my mother, father, two brothers, one sister, and I, moved to the family farm in Dutchess County, New York, in the beautiful Hudson River Valley. This was thirteen years after reunification, so I got to witness firsthand the effects of reunification especially upon the former Orthodox minority, many of whom had belonged to pastoral meetings.

Some of these former Orthodox Friends found themselves repelled by the predominant liberalism of New York Friends, and their meetings shed their Quaker affiliations in some way. Other pastoral Friends adapted by generally embracing the social gospel emphasis of many within the new united yearly meeting, sometimes changing back from pastoral to unprogrammed worship. In short, the recent changes have been complex. Not all are due to reunification, but it is part of what has made New York Yearly Meeting what it is today.

— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging

The reunification processes were painstaking and multi-faceted. Reunification seemed inevitable long before a sense of the meeting coalesced into actual approval. I was surprised that 1927 and 1928, more than a quarter-century before the 1955 reunifications in New York, Canadian, and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings, were key years in the reunion process. 1927 and 1928 represented the centenary of the Hicksite-Orthodox separation. These yearly meetings observed this centenary with actions that demonstrated that most Friends wished that this split no longer existed.

In 1928, each Philadelphia Yearly Meeting appointed representatives for the first time to attend each other yearly meeting’s sessions. The American Friends Service Committee in New England held Conferences of All Friends for that region, so that all Friends could understand and accept each other better. The two New York Yearly Meetings marked the centenary of the 1828 separation by holding a joint meeting in New York City, with part of the meeting held in both meetinghouses. Inspired by the New York example, the two yearly meetings in Canada met in joint, concurrent sessions at Newmarket, Ontario.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?

Within the past ten years, the Society of Friends seems to have embarked on another contentious, even schismatic, season. This is a clear situation where historical insights have a direct application to current events. We are probably too close to the current difficulties to have a sense of the deep regret and loss and need for repentance that can settle in around the soul as a result of these separations, which are continually wounding events.

It is my hope that Friends today can benefit from the wisdom of Friends who, after 80, 100, 120 years of separate existence, profoundly regretted the schismatic actions of ancestors – and who took patient, persistent, positive actions to heal these wounds and reunify the body of Friends.

— Is there a graphic related to the paper you can share? Or maybe a striking quote?

Battalions of Young Friends led the way. This quotation from Arthur Dorland’s history of Canadian Friends could probably be replicated dozens of times in each of the yearly meetings which reunified:

“A young Conservative Friend and a former member of the Unit in China finally brought the question to a head in 1951 when he addressed a letter to the three Yearly Meetings assembled in joint session at Pickering College, pointing out the need for organic union and the danger of further delay. It was apparent that if the loyalty and support of young Friends were to be retained, some decisive action could no longer be delayed.”

The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 2005 produced a DVD entitled “The Hicksite-Orthodox Reunification: 50th Anniversary Perspectives” that has many striking graphics. I recommend it for your viewing


ISAAC MAY is completing a doctorate in religious studies at the University of Virginia.

— A paragraph summary/abstract of your topic    

 I’m interested what the 1928 presidential election reveals about Quakerism. That election pit Herbert Hoover, a Quaker, against Roman Catholic Al Smith. In the course of the election many anti-Catholic arguments were used against Smith. Even though Quakers were somewhat outside the norm for American religion they joined with more traditional Protestants in this kind of rhetoric. Some Quakers aimed to prove their “Americanness” by condemning Catholics.

— How did you get interested in this topic?

I did my senior thesis in college on Richard Nixon’s relation to Quakerism. I was fascinated how his religious commitments to a pacifist denomination might square with his conduct in office. Examining the first Quaker president, Herbert Hoover, seemed like a natural progression.

Hoover is a fascinating figure because he was beloved as a humanitarian before his presidency. He had worked tirelessly to help feed and rebuild Europe after World War I, and Quakers rightly saw him as embodying the best of their faith. Hoover’s failures in the Great Depression seemed to provide a less dramatic, but similar tale.

Gradually, I became interested in the 1928 election rather than Hoover’s presidency. The campaign had been particularly ugly because of the anti-Catholic sentiment invoked against Democratic candidate Al Smith. The image of pious Hoover and his Quaker allies at the center of a campaign with such charged language and bigotry is a seeming contradiction that I’m still trying to understand.

— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging

A large portion of my current project explores the anti-Catholic prejudices of Quakers during the 1928 election. It’s startling and deeply disturbing to see the religious and ethnic bigotry that Quaker deployed as they sought to prevent the election of Al Smith, a Roman Catholic, to the White House. Some of this hatred was overt, much like Midwestern Quaker membership in the Ku Klux Klan, but I find myself perhaps most repelled by the veiled “dog whistling” by more socially and politically progressive Quakers.

One women, a professor from Washington State, stands out. During the election, Quakers had a difficult time dealing with the fact that Al Smith’s stand on foreign policy was less hawkish than that of their own candidate Herbert Hoover. This professor argued that there was no chance an “Irishman” could be more peaceful than a Quaker. It was basically an appeal to innate racial and ethnic characteristics, suggesting that Smith’s heritage predisposed him to violence.

What makes this even worse to me is that this argument was invoked in the name of preserving the peace testimony of Quakerism. She was not bigoted in spite of her Quakerism, she was bigoted because of it. As a Quaker, I find that hard to come to terms with.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?

One of my main interests is how Quakerism became part of the American mainstream at the beginning of the twentieth century. Before that Quakers had been an insular group; they married with their own community, wore distinctive clothing and were largely cut off from a wider intellectual world.  Yet somehow they shed this image of themselves, and by the 1920s could get one of their own elected President. We need to understand how Quaker involvement in politics played a role in them becoming more like other American Protestants.

Yet I also hope that looking at Quakers tells us something about broader trends in American religion. In many ways, this story resembles the stories of other religious outsiders on American history- like Catholics and Mormons -who shed distinctive practices and beliefs and eventually tried to gain political influence. Our understanding of Quaker history should fit into this broader understanding of religious groups.

— Is there a graphic related to the paper you can share? Or maybe a striking quote?

The image above is of an anti-Catholic-anti-Al Smith campaign.ad.

Here is a photo of the West Branch Iowa Meeting House, where Herbert Hoover grew up. 

— Anything else you’d like to mention?

It’s particularly odd that both twentieth century Presidential elections that have involved serious Catholic candidates pitted them against a Quaker; Hoover versus Al Smith 1928 and Nixon against John Kennedy in 1960. I strongly suspect that some Quakers only began to clearly define themselves as Protestants once “their” candidates began to run against Catholics. I don’t get to do too much comparing these two elections in the paper, but it would be great to return to for a future project.



Several more QHR presenters have taken part in email interviews about their Roundtable projects. Here are excerpts.

GUY AIKEN is completing a doctorate in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia

— A summary/abstract of your topic

This paper uses original research in the archives of the AFSC, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and the Bundesarchiv Berlin (Lichterfelde), to probe the tension between peace and justice in the AFSC’s major humanitarian projects between the Great War and World War II.

Neutrality is a tenet of humanitarian organizations generally, and the early AFSC was no exception. In order to feed over five million German children in the early 1920s and over sixty thousand coalminers’ children in Appalachia in the 1920s and 30s, and to rescue upwards of six thousand Jews and non-Aryans from Nazi Europe during the Holocaust, the AFSC had to maintain a posture of absolute political (and religious) neutrality. Neutrality was also often the posture of middle-class churches preaching the Social Gospel, which influenced the staff and volunteers of the AFSC in the 1920s and 1930s.

But neutrality can also be a logical consequence of a certain interpretation of Quakerism, one that finds the Spirit leading in the single direction of peace among all people, who individually, each and every one, have that of God in them. This paper argues that the neutrality which humanitarianism, the Social Gospel, and a certain kind of Quakerism demanded often precluded the AFSC from pursuing the justice that peace requires.

A glance at AFSC social-justice projects after World War II poses the question of whether the AFSC came to discard neutrality once the US federal government assumed the burden of mass humanitarianism both at home and abroad.

— How did you get interested in this topic?
Reading Thomas Kelly with Max Carter at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in the spring of 2009 led me to pursue a PhD at the University of Virginia with an initial focus on Kelly and Rufus Jones that broadened into a consuming interest in the AFSC’s German child-feeding, or the Quakerspeisung. On a four-month research fellowship in Philadelphia, to research the AFSC in Germany, I became engrossed as well in the AFSC’s work in Appalachia in the 1920s and 1930s.

— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging

One of the AFSC’s workers in Germany was a German immigrant to the United States who, according to her application to the AFSC, boarded with my great-grandfather in Worcester, Massachusetts, for eight years upon arriving in the country as an orphan.

— How has your research changed your view of the topic (if it has)?

I started with an image in mind of the AFSC’s work in Germany as nothing but heroic. Deeper research into the AFSC’s mission to the Gestapo in December 1938, in particular, together with exposure to the organization’s Appalachian work, led me for a time to be extremely critical of their neutral stance. Finally, in writing the dissertation on which this paper for the Roundtable is based, I arrived at what I hope is a more nuanced view, by turns admiring, critical, and ambivalent.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?
I hope it will show the enormous influence of the Social Gospel on liberal Quakers and the severe testing of the peace testimony that the early AFSC occasioned for its workers.
— Is there a graphic related to the paper you can share? Or maybe a striking quote?

“We do not ask who is to blame…” – Rufus Jones, AFSC mission to the Gestapo’s “Statement of Aims,” 1938


GREG HINSHAW is Superintendent of the Randolph Central School Corporation in Winchester, Indiana:

— Abstract/Summary Of Project
The Five Years Meeting of Friends, created in 1902 and known since 1966 as Friends United Meeting, has, from the beginning reflected the larger trends within what has become known as mainline Protestantism. Its creation was contemporary to growth and institutionalizing centralization in other denominations. From the beginning it was, by far, the largest such group of Quakers in the world, and its focus on foreign missions, publications, church extension, and peace and temperance work also mirrored that of the larger churches, which were its fellow members in the Federal Council of Churches. The theological conflict it faced in the first third of the century, the dominance of modernist, center-left leaders, the resurgence of neo-evangelicalism within its ranks after World War II, and its precipitous decline in North American membership since the 1960s all show its connections to the larger mainline. In numerous other ways, large and small, virtually all of the successes and failures of the Five Years Meeting reflect not so much its Quakerism but its attempts, intentionally or not, to serve as a Quaker version of establishment Protestantism.

–How did you get interested in this topic?

I am a lifelong, multi-generation member of Friends United Meeting from a local meeting that has, for most of its history, taken a measured view of FUM. I have served a total of a dozen years on the General Board of FUM and for the last nine as a member of its Executive Board. I was asked to write the chapter on FUM for the Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies at the suggestion of Tom Hamm.

One or two things that are colorful, surprising, or challenging:
Theological tension has been present within FUM almost from the beginning, though a broad centrist core, largely centered in Indiana, Western, Wilmington, and North Carolina, has dominated the organization for all of its history. As membership in these core areas has rapidly declined, the fortunes of the organization have shifted.

— How has your research change your view of the topic?

I have a much clearer understanding of the presence of conflict and strategy within FUM over many decades. I also have consistently encountered themes that swing from a triumphalism at being the “biggest” to embarrassment at having seemingly exchanged some elusive original form of Quakerism for a generic Protestantism.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?

FYM-FUM Quakerism has always been the largest form of Quakerism is the world, and, considering the membership in Kenya, may remain so for many years, but it has received very little scholarly attention, a deficit that is mirrored by a dearth of comprehensive scholarship on mainline Protestantism in general. I hope that this paper will be the start of further historical work on the place of FYM Quakerism in North America and in the world both in Quaker and larger mainline contexts.

— Two striking quotes:

“Midwestern Quakers have adapted some of the practices of mainline denominations. They have pastors, planned meetings, and more conservative politics.” -Indianapolis Star, November 14, 1992

“A recent study of the Five Years Meeting by a professional group brought forward the report that the body is effectively organized to prevent action and decision. The current mood in Quakerism is to be shy of all leadership, either in recognizing it, or assuming it.”
-“The Image of the Friends Pastor, no date, Lorton Heusel’s files



DOUG GWYN, the author of several books, including Apocalypse of the Word and The Covenant Crucified. My current favorite is his recent study, Personality & Place, a “theological history of Pendle Hill,” which goes well beyond describing one Quaker center’s evolution to paint a revealing portrait of the larger Quaker movement for which it has been the crossroads for four generations.  Doug is currently doing research at Pendle Hill:

Title and summary: Blowin’ in the Wind: Friends General Conference Gatherings, 1896 to Present

The annual FGC Gathering is a unique phenomenon.  It may be used as a registering instrument to trace what has inspired or disturbed liberal-progressive Friends year by year.  I am currently writing a history extending up to 1950, utilizing affect theory and rhetorical analysis to understand the evolution of what I am calling FGC’s “heroic period.”

I am not a Gathering regular, and have often viewed it skeptically as mere “zeitgeist,” a Religious Society of Trends.  But I always come away from Gatherings energized and intrigued.  I decided that I need to explore this further — even to take “zeitgeist” more seriously.  Chuck Fager’s recent work on Progressive Friends and Tom Hamm’s work on 19th-century Hicksites added to some helpful frameworks for interpretation.

The most surprising part of my research so far has been to find how confident and optimistic the first Conferences were that the world was finally “coming our way,” that their Quakerism was the “normal” religion for the new century. A more realistic and resilient vision emerges after World War I.

I hope this work will offer Friends a useful sense of the trajectory that leads to Gathering as we know it today.

Inspirational quote: “Quakerism is a cheap religion.  I fear that we may come to value it at its cost.”  Clement Biddle, Swarthmore Conference, 1896.


From EMMA LAPSANSKY-WERNER, Haverford College. Her scholarly interests have ranged widely, including co-authoring the text, The Struggle for Freedom: A History of African Americans, and editing a book on Quaker Aesthetics: Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design and Consumption, 1720–1920. She has even been known to use Quaker mystery novels in her classes. Here she is exploring another aspect of Quake communal experience:


Since as early as William Penn in the 1680s, Quakers have held the conviction that a carefully-planned living environment and community-governing structure can build, nourish, and sustain individual virtue. In modern times, many Friends continue to subscribe to that conviction. Thus, Quakers have consistently experimented with “intentional” communities (some would call the “communes”) based on that conviction. This paper explores the dreams, goals, and experience of several such Quaker intentional communities in the United States, from the 1930s to the present day. It invites future scholars to shine their light on these experimental communities.


— How did you get interested in this topic?

Having met several members of Philadelphia’s Friendship Cooperative Houses, Inc, which thrived from 1946 into the 1960s, I was fascinated by their narratives of their experience. The 30+ interviews I conducted with founders and members FCH, Inc, soon developed an interest in comparable institutions such as the Celo Community in western North Carolina; Pennsylvania’s Pendle Hill Quaker Study Center;  and Costa Rica’s Monteverde Community, among others. The efforts of the visionaries who imagined the relationship between community life and individual virtue inspires me, and sparks my imagination.


— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging

I love to explore the borders along Quakerism/capitalism that have been such an important part of Friends’ history. One of the founders of the FCH, Inc community described his goal thus: “to do a little good and make a profit.” I find it interesting to view the issues through that lens.


— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?

Quaker life, from its beginnings, has struggled (sometimes creatively, sometimes viciously) with the tension between individual “authority” and community “authority”? I like to think that contemplating how we’ve navigated those rutted roads in the past might help us think well about how to navigate them in the future.


H. LARRY INGLE is retired from teaching history at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. He secured his reputation as a leading Quaker historian with a pair of firsts: Quakers In Conflict, the first account of the Orthodox-Hicksite separation of 1827; and First Among Friends,  first genuinely scholarly biography of George Fox.

His most recent book, Nixon’s First Cover-Up, takes the wraps off the most recent Quaker president’s use (& misuse) of his Quaker heritage in a notorious political career. Here his sights are set on another noted 20th century America Friend.


The title is, Pickett vs. Chambers: A Case Study of Elite Class Power. It  presents the context and describes the efforts by AFSC executive secretary Clarence Pickett to marginalize ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers within the Quaker community after his 1948 testimony implicating New Dealer Alger Hiss for passing along copies of government documents for shipment to the Soviet Union.

Clarence Pickett, AFSC Executive Secretary, 1929-1950.

It demonstrates how Pickett’s testimony in Hiss’s second perjury trial called into question Chambers’s veracity and then cast doubt on his commitment to Quakerism in the secular public media. In the process my paper pulls the curtain back on one method used by weighty Friends to isolate “conservative” Quakers and make them uncomfortable, even unacceptable, on even rural meetings’ backbenches.

— How did you get interested in this topic?:
Long fascinated by Chambers, I became more so after researching my 2015 book on Nixon’s First Cover-up.

— One or two things you’ve learned so far that are colorful, surprising or challenging:
I was surprised by the depth of Chambers’s experience with Quakerism, recounted in his classic memoir Witness, itself worthy of designation as a Quaker journal. And I was both surprised and shocked by Clarence Pickett’s gall in assuming that he had the standing to challenge a Friend as he did Chambers with impunity. And then he never mentioned nor explained anything about the whole affair in his memoir.
— how has your research changed your view of the topic (if it has)?
It makes me wonder if my rather lofty view of Quakers is supportable or not.

— How do you hope your work will enlarge our understanding of recent Quakerism?
It should certainly give other scholars a different, more realistic, set of questions to ask their material.
— Is there a striking quote  related to the paper you can share?

Excerpt from a Pickett letter to the editor of the Saturday Review, 14 Jun 1952, on  the impact of Chambers’s willingness to toy around with Reinhold Niebuhr’s version of  neo-orthodoxy: “This all leaves one feeling that religious assurance is yet to come to this troubled spirit [Chambers’s], and that the race with catastrophe is not over.”

Above: the mug shot of Alger Hiss, former U.S. diplomat & consultant for the AFSC, who was convicted of perjury after being accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union.

Watch for more previews of QHR presentations here. And if you’re interested in attending the Quaker History Roundtable, (there is no attendance fee), email Chuck Fager at:  contact@nullnewquakerhistory.net