The Religious Society of Friends
The movement that became the Society of Friends (Quakers) began in Britain in the 1640s. Some of the early leading figures in the movement were Margaret Fell, George Fox, and James Naylor. Referring to members of the Society of Friends as “Quakers” is a very old practice. The term arose in connection with that the ways that Quakers’ bodies moved when they believed themselves to be experiencing what they described as the “power of the Lord.” Shortly after the Society of Friends was founded, Quakers made their way to the Caribbean and to North America. Quakers played a crucial role in the creation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Three of the best known colleges in Pennsylvania—Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford—were founded by Quakers.
Friends can now be found throughout the world. According to some estimates, about 190,000 Friends live in Africa, about 130,000 live in the Americas, and about 40,000 live in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, or the West Pacific. Although Quakerism is often thought of as an especially liberal form of Protestantism, only about a quarter of the world’s Quakers could be accurately described as “liberal.” Terms that are used to describe other groups of Quakers include “conservative,” “holiness,” and “evangelical.” Although the world’s Friends hold disparate views on many religious, social, and political issues, most Quakers share (as Pink Dandelion pointed out in The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction):
- a strong commitment to peace and nonviolence,
- an emphasis on direct, inward experience of the divine, and
- a preference for making group decisions without resorting to the principle of “the majority rules.”
The Haverford College Libraries
The Haverford College Libraries maintain one of the finest collections of Quaker material to be found anywhere in the world. Find out more about Haverford's Quaker and Special Collections.
The Douglas and Dorothy Steere Professorship in Quaker Studies
Haverford College has recently created the Douglas and Dorothy Steere Professorship in Quaker Studies. The professorship is intended to help sustain the College’s Quaker heritage and contribute to the burgeoning field of Quaker studies by catalyzing rich scholarly inquiry among Haverford faculty and students into the history, nature, and meaning of Quaker beliefs and practices.
Douglas V. Steere (1901-1993) and Dorothy M. Steere (1907-2003) served the Society of Friends for much of their adult lives, and their influence remains strong to this day. From 1928 to 1964, Douglas Steere was professor of philosophy at Haverford College. Both Douglas and Dorothy were prolific writers and speakers. They were instrumental in planning Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat and study center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania.
The Steeres were actively involved in the American Friends Service Committee. After WWII, they travelled to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa as part of relief efforts. Dorothy served as a work camp leader and on the AFSC’s Personnel Committee. Douglas helped organize relief efforts in Finland, Norway, and Poland, and developed the Finnish Settlement Movement. They were members of Radnor United Meeting of the Society of Friends. Learn more about Dorothy and Douglas Steere.
Dorothy and Douglas Steere