The April 15, 1975 issue of Friends Journal was a themed issue, one of our first, on simplicity and how this Quaker testimony intersects with other issues like pollution, waste, sharing of natural resources, and, specifically, poverty in the United States and around the world. There were insights from Friends on topics such as simple living, economic systems, “de-development,” the land trust movement, fake flowers, the Catholic Worker newspaper, energy crises, vegetarianism, and one article urging Friends to start making moves to live more like those in rural Liberia. As one Friend put it in the “First Word” section, “In this issue … as you will see, answers to questions about simplicity in a complex world are far from simple.”
The main focus of that issue and much of the Quaker world at the time was on simple living and how to reduce impact and involvement in systems that are wasteful and perpetuate poverty. Phyllis Taylor of the Movement for a New Society wrote about workshops they were offering, and W. Donnell Boardman suggested some queries to consider. A checklist was even offered by the editorial staff. These days our focus seems to have shifted from personal goals of simple living toward the systemic forces that create inequality. We now seek to change the systems that create economic inequality instead of just removing ourselves from those systems. While we might not view everything on the “Check List on Simple Living” as necessary anymore, it does give us perspective on where we have been and how far we’ve come.
Other early themed issues include African Americans, women, the lives of Henry J. Cadbury and Howard Brinton, the death penalty, China, the arts, and the 50th anniversary of American Friends Service Committee. Themed or special issues became a regular occurrence beginning in 2000, with only one or two themed issues every year. Now we regularly publish themed issues, with only one or two open issues a year.
This is the last installment in our 60th Anniversary celebration series. We’d like to remind readers that online access to our archives of every Friends Journal issue ever published going back to 1955 is free to members. Happy reading!