‘But who took the time to write what was first spoken?’

Many of us turn to early Friends for inspiration. But the scribes who recorded their words are often anonymous. Jane Mace investigates

‘Some are familiar names, but most are less well known, and a good number of them are children.’ | Photo: MJ Seka / Unsplash.

Publishing the ‘truth’ was a big commitment for early Quakers, but expressing their message was first and foremost a spoken matter. They called out to crowds in marketplaces, and demanded attention from church congregations. They confronted powerful men in formal chambers; they spoke up in courtrooms and corridors. For this, many of them were brutally punished and persecuted. But they refused to give up and, thanks to the written records, we can read their histories and learn from them.

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