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Larson, Rebecca:

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ISBN 10: 0679437622 / ISBN 13: 9780679437628
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Nick Aretakis (Manteca, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. x,399pp., including illustrations. Fine in a fine dustjacket. The product of a Harvard History Ph.D. dissertation supervised by Bernard Bailyn, and a pathbreaking study of the work of Quaker women in the eighteenth century Anglo-American world. Bookseller Inventory # 858

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Binding: Cloth

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


In this pathbreaking book, Rebecca Larson restores a group of remarkable women to the American historical landscape. From Ann Moore, whose religious vision impelled her to preach to the British military during the French and Indian War, advising them to rely not on physical weapons and warfare but upon God; to Mary Weston, whose visit in the 1750s to Charleston, South Carolina, prompted the colonial legislature to adjourn in order to attend the noted preacher's meeting; to the celebrated Rachel Wilson, whose eloquence and piety drew crowds during her ministerial tour of the colonies in 1768 to 1769, Larson broadens our conception of women's activities before the American Revolution.

More than a thousand Quaker women ministers were active in the Anglo-American world during this era, when Quakers formed the third-largest religious group in the colonies. Some circulated throughout British North America; others crossed the Atlantic to deliver their inspired messages. In this astonishing public role, they preached in courthouses, meeting-houses, and private homes to audiences of men and women, to those of other faiths as well as to Quakers, to Native Americans and to slaves. At times they crossed paths with prominent figures such as Patrick Henry and Henry Laurens.

Larson offers striking insights on the ways in which this public, authoritative role for women affected the formation of their identities, their families, and their society. How did these spiritual leaders negotiate the challenges of marriage and childbearing while travelling thousands of miles on religious journeys? Some even traveled during pregnancy, leaving small children at home to be cared for by their husbands or the Quaker community. Through their interweaving narratives we hear long-silenced, forgotten voices that deepen our understanding of the once thriving transatlantic Quaker culture that balanced mysticism with pragmatism, recognizing female as well as male spiritual leaders.

Daughters of Light is an important contribution to the history of women and religion in early America.


Daughters of Light by Rebecca Larson is a startling reassessment of the place of women in American colonial history. Larson's story of 18th-century Quaker women describes women's power in popular reform movements of that era, and explores Quaker women's redefinitions of marriage and motherhood. Colonial Quakers, like their contemporary descendants, believed that "the Holy Spirit had been planted in the hearts of all humans to inwardly teach them." Although Quakers had strict rules regarding women's dress, language, and behavior, Quaker women were never denied their claims of a direct connection to God. (Their Puritan sisters, by contrast, practiced a religion that idealized female submission in both the earthly and spiritual realms.) So when Quaker women believed they were called to preach--in meeting houses, courthouses, and private homes; to other Quakers, to Native Americans, and to ecumenical audiences; in the West Indies, England, Europe, and the American colonies--they were given the freedom to do so. All domestic duties were configured to account for divine demands. (The Spirit leading Quaker women, as one wrote, "was to me like a needle of a compass ... for so it pointed where I ought to go.")

Daughters of Light begins with a deft summary of Quaker history; it moves on to consider the theological justification for women's preaching, the ways in which women discerned their callings and arranged their journeys, and the effects of these journeys on private life, on Quaker communities abroad, and on the larger culture of colonial America. Larson is best, however, at describing the transformations wrought by these journeys on the women's inner lives. "Thy mother is become very courageous in riding thru deep waters and over rocky mountains beyond what I could expect," one woman wrote to another's child, in 1724. "She says fear is taken away from her and that she is born up by a secret hand, which I am very glad of and thankful to the Lord for." --Michael Joseph Gross

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Nick Aretakis has been in business since August, 2014 and specializes in books on American History, Western Americana, Diplomatic History, Modern Greece, Books about Books, Bibliography, and Film

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