Writing Opp: Quaker Heroes

Fast Facts:

The January issue of Friends Journal is looking at superheroes—not the Marvel or Star Wars types (although that might be fun to imagine), but Quaker heroes. Who are our role models? Who are our cautionary tales? What can we learn about ourselves from the people we’ve lionized in the past and how can we envision the beloved community we want by reviewing our choices? Some types of heroes we’re thinking about include:

The unalloyed (but complicated) heroes

  • We’re certainly open to profiles of Friends who can be lifted up as good role models—the Benjamin Lays, Lucretia Motts, Bayard Rustins but we don’t need any fawning hagiographies. Show us the warts and inconsistencies that made them real and complicated figures. How would we react to them today?

The anti-heroes

  • Richard Nixon, the Quakers scientists who went deep into eugenics research, Friends who worked at Native American boarding schools. There’s a lot to be learned about the “Quaker Way” from those times when it short-circuited and Friends did things we look back on in horror. Are their attitudes built into the Quaker worldview that makes us susceptible to certain stumbling blocks?

The complicated hero/villains

  • There are also those figures who have been lifted up as heroes but are being reevaluated. William Penn is the most-talked about example in recent years. He’s long been giving the mythologizing treatment for the founding of Pennsylvania, but his “ownership” of around a dozen enslaved Africans—long left out of the popular myth—makes him a polarizing figure. He can’t be written out of Quaker history, yet his slave-holding can’t be excused. How do we reconcile this?

The more-recent forgotten heroes

  • I often come across Quaker workers in the not-too-distant past who surprise me. Jane Rushmore wrote religious education for generations of Hicksite Friends. Rachel Davis Dubois laid the groundwork for modern practices like clearness committees and worship sharing. Who are the unremembered recent Friends who shaped who we are today?

The meta of Quaker heroism

  • As a radical egalitarian faith (at least in theory) should we even be engaging in hero worship or ancestor worship? What about an ode to those beloved Friends who quietly toil “in the vineyards” year after year, providing the continuity and connective tissue that binds a community together over the long haul?

Submit: Quaker Heroes

Other upcoming issues:

  • Language of Faith, due September 20, 2021
  • Safety in Meetings, due December 20, 2021
  • Climate Change and Sustainability (new!), due February 21, 2022
  • The next general issues (non-themed, write what you want!) have due dates of November 22, 2021, and January 17, 2022.

Learn more general information at Friendsjournal.org/submissions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on Friendsjournal.org may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.