“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.