One of the remarkable woman featured in the Quaker Tapestry embroidered panels is Margaret Fell. Margaret was a founder of the Religious Society of Friends and she is known popularly as the “mother of Quakerism”.
In 1652, Margaret heard the ministry of George Fox and was convinced. She served as an unofficial secretary for the new movement, receiving and forwarding letters from roving missionaries. She wrote many epistles herself and collected and disbursed funds for those on mission.
She travelled from Lancashire to London, to petition King Charles II and his parliament for freedom of conscience in religious matters. These journeys were made on horseback and are depicted on the Margaret Fell Tapestry Panel, C2
In her work ‘A Declaration and an Information from Us, The People called Quakers, to the Present Governors, The King and Both Houses of Parliament, and All Whom It May Concern’ published in 1660 she explains the priciples of Quakerism and pleads for religious freedom.
In 1664 Margaret Fell spent six months in Lancaster Gaol (Prison) for failing to take an oath and for allowing Quaker Meetings to be held in her home.
After this she was sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of her property. She remained in prison until 1668, during which time she wrote religious pamphlets and epistles. Her most famous work is “Women’s Speaking Justified”, a scripture-based argument for women’s ministry, and one of the major texts on women’s religious leadership in the 17th century.
Because of her 1666 writing, Womens Speaking Justified, Margaret has been considered by many to be a feminist pioneer. This short pamphlet, written whilst Margaret was imprisoned, highlights several arguments in favour of women’s preaching and sets out the spiritual equality of the sexes.
Having been released by order of the King and council, she married George Fox in 1669. She was then imprisoned again for about a year in Lancaster for breaking the Conventicle Act.
In 1673 Margaret travelled to London again to intercede on George’s behalf after his arrest, he was freed in 1675. After this, they spent about a year together at Swarthmoor, collaborating on defending the recently created organizational structure of separate women’s meetings for discipline against their anti-Fox opponents.
Margaret Fell spent most of the rest of her life at Swarthmoor, continuing to take an active part in the affairs of the Society well into her eighties. In the last decade of her life, she firmly opposed the effort of her fellow believers in Lancashire to maintain certain traditional Quaker standards of conduct (for example, in matters of dress). She died aged 88.
Other remarkable women depicted in the Quaker Tapestry panels include Elizabeth Fry and Mary Hughes. See the embroidered panels for yourself here at our museum in Kendal, Lake District, and learn more about the amazing lives these women led. For up to date opening hours and ticket information please visit our website.