10 women change-makers from AFSC’s history

Anna Cox Brinton

Anna Cox Brinton

Anna Cox Brinton, a Quaker and classics scholar, helped feed children after WWII and went on to serve on AFSC boards and committees for most of her adult life.

AFSC Archives

“I came upon a sort of people who held that women have no souls, adding in a light manner, ‘no more than a goose.’ But I reproved them, and told them that was not right; for Mary said, ‘my soul doth magnify the Lord.”  Journal of George Fox (1646)

Quakers’ views on the rights of women have, since the 17th century, been regarded as progressive. Quakers have long promoted education for girls as well as boys, including in the field of medicine, and encouraged women to adopt a more public persona. When the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was established in 1917, women were integral to the formation and mission of this service organization. The first meeting of Friends to discuss the creation of a “national headquarters” and the development of meaningful service work for young Friends included, among its 12 contributors, three women. The minutes of that first gathering stated that “girls as well as boys should be united for service.” It is with that goal in mind that the AFSC has always operated.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we pay tribute to and offer a brief picture of a few of the AFSC staff and advisors whose courage, strength, and wisdom helped foster peace and social justice throughout the world.

A message of good deeds

Rebecca Janey Timbres Clark went into nursing as a young woman after speaking with AFSC's first Executive Director, Vincent Nicholson. She dedicated much of her life to the work of AFSC around the globe, from post-WWI Poland to India to the Soviet Union.

Lifting the curtain of race

Before becoming the first African-American woman elected to a state legislature in the United States, Crystal Bird Fauset worked with AFSC to expose broad new audiences to the issues of race in America.

Telling the AFSC story of change

"Swords into Ploughshares," written by Mary Hoxie Jones, was the first comprehensive history of AFSC's work and values. Mary was instrumental in ensuring the safe preservation of the organization's rich history.

Evacuating children from war

Alice Resch and Mary Elmes risked their lives to evacuate children from Nazi-occupied France to the United States. Their correspondence illustrates both women's steadfast commitment to the safety of dozens of children threatened with internment.

Teaching toward a world without war

Elizabeth Gray Vining, a writer with the AFSC, helped to build new bridges as the first woman tutor to the crown prince of Japan after WWII.

Supporting school desegregation in Mississippi

As AFSC's Southern Field Representative, Connie Curry worked closely with the Carter family in Mississippi to desegregate public schools.

A counter narrative from inside Vietnam

Marjorie Nelson, while working as a doctor in Vietnam, went missing after a violent bomb strike.  She returned with a fresh understanding of the human side of conflict.

Creating an international women’s movement

Saralee Hamilton ran the National Women's Program from 1975-2006, bringing a feminist perspective to the work of AFSC for more than 30 years.

Preventing civil war at home, transforming conflict worldwide

Dekha Ibrahim Abdi promoted peaceful solutions to conflict by sharing her own experience of violence in her Kenyan community. 

Who we are

AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more

Where we work

AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.

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