For Quakers, preaching by women was normal  

Puritans had many fears regarding the Quaker outbreak and thus targeted Friends far more severely than any others. Quakers, for all their objections, were in debt to radical Protestantism like the Puritans’ more than they were (and are) willing to admit, yet they also stridently demanded that believers take holy perfectionism to a higher order than the Puritans would or could. More inflammatory, Friends openly criticized and even ridiculed Puritans for falling far short of that goal.

Puritans, in response, viewed Quakers as a chaotic threat to godly and social order and watched suspiciously and intently for signs of witchcraft.

Nothing, apparently, inflamed Puritan authorities more than the Quaker embrace of endorsing both men and women in public ministry.

Quite simply, Friends touched a sore, raw spot in the Puritan worldview. Sometimes, the ones you criticize most harshly who are those most like you. (That’s something that’s been observed in literature, especially.)

Preaching by Quaker women on the street and other public places was common at the outbreak of the movement.


WHILE FRIENDS DID NOT ORDAIN or hire individuals to prepare sermons for delivery from a pulpit each week, they did welcome appropriate vocal messages arising in their otherwise silent gatherings in worship. Appropriate were utterances deemed prophetic – explosive mixes of personal perception and Scripture that Quakers felt were being delivered by oracles of the divine – and those who voiced them consistently were endorsed as ministers. Quickly, a unique incantatory style evolved, regardless of the speaker’s background. It did, however, baffle many stuffier types, including the Puritan clergy.

The three Quaker women who were stripped and whipped out of Dover in 1662 were far from alone. Anne Hutchinson had already born its weight in New England earlier. Her adherents had, in fact, nearly toppled the Puritan polity from its position.

Other women Quaker ministers soon returned to Dover, notably the elderly Elizabeth Hooton.

She appears to have been a public preacher among the General Baptists in England, even before she took under her wing a young George Fox, who is generally considered the founder of the Quaker faith. Contrarian that I am, I consider her to the first Quaker, the one who converted you, George.

What she suffered in New England was horrific.

Quite simply, Hooten was a tough old bird. God bless her!

You’ll find a lot more about her in my new book.


MANY FOLKS THINK OF A QUAKER SERVICE as silent, or what we sometimes call “open worship,” and while many Meetings today have pastors, others – including Dover’s – observe mostly a profound silence occasionally punctuated by a vocal message, song, or prayer.

The practice continued once Friends had settled into more orderly Meetings.

Historically, though, a Friends Meeting often had long, impromptu preaching, often of a half-hour or more. Among the Dover members recorded in that role were Tabitha and Mehitable Jenkins, Valentine Meader, Mary Bunker, John Twombly, Benjamin H. Jones, and Amos Otis.

Dover Friends also welcomed itinerate ministry from visitors, some of whom spent protracted time in town. One was the English Friend Samuel Bownas, who may have “learned silence” here. He’s best known for his book, A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister, which sought to curb affectations that had crept into the practice. His guidance still helps.

From their journals, we glean sharp insights into the life of Dover Meeting and nurture of spiritual experience. Even their encounters addressing the wider rough-and-tumble community.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in your choice of ebook platforms at

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary. It wasn’t just any old town.

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