The Quakers & William Penn Illustration

The Quakers

 
 

For Kids

Quakers: In England, in the 1600s, there was a group of people who called themselves "Friends". Others called these people Quakers. Quakers believed that everyone could talk to God directly, without the interference of a priest or a minister. In England, at this time in history, everyone had to belong to the Church of England and follow its rules. Not to belong was against the law. In fact, it was considered treason. That's a big law to break. But the Quakers would not back down. They did not believe in the pomp and splendor of the Church of England and they refused to join the Church or obey its rules. Many Quakers were arrested and sent to jail for their beliefs.

So, in the 1600s, William Penn, along with many other Quakers, left England and sailed for the New World on a ship they named "Welcome". They settled in Pennsylvania. There, they practiced religious freedom. People were free to believe what they wanted and talk to God in their own way. People from all over Europe poured into their communities, seeking religious freedom.

As for the Quakers themselves, Quaker meetings were quiet places. There was not a lot of discussion usually. People sat peacefully, thinking about things. Both Quaker men and women could speak up if they believed God wanted them to share a thought or an idea. But mostly, they each communicated with God, each with their own thoughts, in silence.

Quakers believed (and still believe) that religion is action not words. To a Quaker, if you are religious, then your actions must show it. To show their religion, Quakers treated other people with honesty. They tried to help the poor. They worked (peacefully) for women's rights and the rights of Native Americans. The one belief they had that caused them more trouble than any other was their belief that all people could live in peace if they simply refused to fight. Since Quakers believed in peace, Quakers would not fight, no matter what the reason.

Quakers in the New World were brave, and loyal, and often misunderstood. Quakers stood up for what they believed was right and good. They protested. They boycotted. They politely and incessantly pointed out what needed to be done to correct what they thought was a wrong. Yet, many people believed that the gentle Quakers were weak and cowardly because the Quakers would not bear arms.

William Penn

Quakers - The Religious Society of Friends

Nathanael Greene

Life in the Middle Colonies

Quick Comparison: Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers

See Also: Who came to the New World?

What did they bring with them?

For Teachers

William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

Introducing the Quakers Lesson Plan

The Society of Friends lesson plan