Looking for the opportunity to read other peoples’ mail? Curious about how families might pursue the task of passing on their values to the future generations? Quakers, and Quaker educational institutions like Haverford, have a reputation of a long tradition of social justice activism and racial-justice leadership. This course is built upon letters circulated within families as nineteenth-century Quaker individuals sought to stay connected across geographical space, and to hold onto their values of how to live a moral and ethical life. We’ll be reading parents’ exchanges with their children at Westtown, a Quaker boarding school, and studying Quakers’ anti-slavery strategies, as well as the letters of an1838 Haverford alum, reflecting his work with freed slaves during the Civil War era.
Through lectures, reading, and hands-on archival research, students will also explore how American Quakers viewed “education” and its goals, and how the Quaker community sought to maintain its cohesion through stressful times. Quaker theology and family life, as well as an exploration of the social/political backdrop of nineteenth century—including the tension between Quakers’ commitment to abolishing slavery and their equally-strong proscriptions against war--will serve as the focus for examining questions of community identity, and methods of defining and remaining loyal to that identity. Enhanced library, writing, and collaborative research skills are among the primary goals of this course, which seeks also to introduce students to some elements of Quaker history and thought, as a model for studying any community that aims to develop and sustain unified values about the way a life should be lived. (1 credit)