From the Fortress of Solitude
I'm hoping this post finds you all safe from the wind, snow and ice that seems to be dominating a large section of the country tonight. As for the conditions at the Fortress, the outside temperature tonight will flirt with 0 degrees but shouldn't go below. It was a cold morning, too cold in fact to walk to school. I drove the Battlestar instead.
Rebecca Fincher b. 1708 PA. .
Phebe Bennett b. 1738 married John Willis
Bennett Willis 1780-1814 and Catherine Nossaman 1782-1842
Jonathan Willis 1807-1889 and Arabella Phelgar 1809-1865
Margaret Ann Willis 1835-1921 and George Matthew Williamson 1834-1928
William Jonathan Williamson and Effie Helen Victor
Vennie, Ima Della, Inez, Lillie Ethel, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles, Maurice.
Tonight I'd like to post something about our 6th Great Grandmother, Rebecca Bennett Fincher. She was a Quaker, like so many of our ancestors who immigrated from England to escape religious persecution. This information on Rebecca was taken from a period source, a Quaker digest. It speaks of her faith in God. What I also find interesting is that it lists her as a minister in the Gospel. The actual words are "she came forth in the ministry.."
To learn more about the ministry of early Quaker women, please read the article below the paragraphs detail the life of Rebecca Bennett.
And now, may I introduce you to our 6th Great Grandmother (of my generation). She is a woman all Williamsons in our family line can be proud of.
Rebecca Fincher, daughter of John Fincher, Sr., was born in Uwehlan Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Ninth mo. 6th, 1708. In the year 1724, she was married to Joseph Bennett, of Kennett, in the same county. In the year 1737, she with her husband and family removed into York county in the same State, on the west side of the Susquehanna River. The next year she came forth in the ministry, a service for which she had without doubt been long preparing. Her labours in this line were " to the edification and comfort of Friends, her conversation adorning her ministry."
She continued faithful to the duty assigned her as long as life was given her. Four days before her death, she walked to the meeting at Newbury, to which she belonged, which was nearly a mile from her residence. She was in that meeting earnestly concerned in the love of the Gospel to entreat all present to prepare for their final change; telling them that when sickness came upon them, they would have enough to do to struggle with the pains of the body. She also exhorted them, that as there were commotions and the noise of war,* in the earth, to trust in the Lord, who is the sure Refuge and Defence of his people.
On her way to her residence after meeting, she was taken ill, " and departed this life the 6th day of the Eleventh month, 1757, in peace with God, as we have reason to think, and in unity with his people." Her age was forty-nine years and two months.
Information on Early Quaker Women Ministers.
Why would unbelievers and skeptics care about the sorts of lives lead by Quaker women several hundred years ago? Rebecca Larson offers readers a picture of how women can live in Christianity which, for some people, is disturbingly radical even today. At the time, it was often cause for scandal and legal action.
Although Quaker women, like Quaker men, had to live by strict rules regarding dress, language and conduct, they both also lived by a radical Protestant theology which taught that all believers had equal access to the Holy Spirit — and, therefore, to the ability to teach and preach God’s message. Because of this, Quaker women had unparalleled freedom and authority in their families, their church, and their own lives:
Although the Puritan model of female submission to male ministerial authority has shaped our views of women in early America, in 1700 Quakerism was one of several religious alternatives for colonial Americans and "possibly the most potent religious movement in the colonies outside Puritan New England." Women's participation in the ministry, traditionally a masculine prerogative, sprang from Quaker belief in both genders' capacity to be guided by the Holy Spirit in inspired preaching.
Larson begins by exploring the early history of Quakerism - George Fox had a revelation that a person could look inward for guidance to God's truth and did not have to rely upon a university or church education for it. According to Fox, the Christian reliance upon "hireling priests" resulted in people losing the gift of preaching through the Holy Spirit.
In theory, this was supposed to be the basis for the entire Protestant Reformation - a priesthood of all believers. In practice, however, professional priests remained the norm and most believers continued to defer to men for that role. Quakers, however, not only put that theory into practice, they also refused to recognize a gender distinction in whom the Holy Spirit might touch. Therefore, women were given the same chances to preach that men were given.
Did any of these women matter? They certainly did - their numbers helped ensure that, with between 1300 and 1500 Quaker women ministers being active in the Anglo-American world during this era. Quakers as a group constituted the third-largest religious denomination in the colonies, holding considerable political and economic power in many places. This was a time when few women wrote and even fewer were actually published — but despite this, these women saw their sermons and tracts reach an eager transatlantic audience.
As Larson shows, preaching women were not simply strange novelties. In fact, they exerted real power over the direction of mid-century Quaker reform efforts. For example, when it seemed that Quakerism might grow soft and complacent in the face of religious toleration and material prosperity, female worked to promote a return to the strict tenets of early Quakerism.
Because of the efforts of these ministers, Quakerism moved toward a commitment to pacifism and universal abolition when such opinions were unfashionable among successful Quakers. But the female reformers won. Thus, largely because of their persistent message, colonial Quakers renounced politics and slave-holding, and settled into their now familiar work for quiet activism and social justice.
There was also a great deal of cultural cross-pollination resulting from their efforts — women ministers circulated throughout British North America, bringing their particular perspectives to new areas and they also traveled back and forth across the Atlantic. Some even traveled during pregnancy, leaving small children at home to be cared for by their husbands or the Quaker community:
Quakers created a unique transatlantic culture, embracing both mysticism and rational capitalism, female spiritual leaders and shrewd male merchants, as they attempted to balance, in historian Frederick Tolles' words, the cultivation of the outward plantation and the "inward plantation" of the spirit.
In their unprecedented public role, they reached diverse audiences in courthouses, meeting-houses, and private homes consisting of men and women, members of other faiths as well as to Quakers, Native Americans and even slaves. Over time, even female Quaker preachers became more and more welcome throughout the colonies. People grew accustomed to seeing them and hearing their message, leading to even greater influence in culture and politics.
The story of these women is very important and, unfortunately, it is largely unknown. We can be thankful that Rebecca Larson has brought it to us.