“As the Quaker movement grew, it owed much to other leaders also: in particular to James Naylor, a man of temperament more ethereal than Fox always understood, and to the fervent and lion-hearted woman whom eventually Fox married, Margaret Fell.”
–Geoffrey Nuttall, in the introduction to The Journal of George Fox, ed. John Nickalls
Margaret Fell was a remarkable woman. As a co-founder of the Religious Society of Friends, she held Quaker meetings for worship in her home and opened her house to traveling ministers. She herself traveled widely, supporting Friends in England and petitioning various English governments (at least two kings, plus Cromwell) on behalf of persecuted Quakers. She wrote (or co-wrote) at least 23 pamphlets and hundreds of letters, supporting, cajoling, nurturing and haranguing her readers, both Quaker and non-Quaker.
Her pamphlet, Women’s Speaking Justified (1666, 2nd edition 1667), was one of the many works she wrote while in prison for holding Quaker meetings at her house and for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. It is still being cited today by women seeking the right to fill the roles of ministers and priests in their own denominations. Women’s Speaking Justified provides scriptural example after scriptural example of women who prophesied and taught, and of men, and Jesus and God, accepting and approving. Sadly, more than 300 years later, some denominations still fail to recognize prophesy and spiritual instruction as both a male and a female responsibility.
So, imagine my surprise when I searched for Women’s Speaking Justified on both Amazon’s and Barnes and Noble’s websites, and found that it was listed as being out of print. This piece is far too important, and timely, to be difficult to find. And so it has become our first ebook project here at Gypsy Bees.The style of the 1600s can be challenging to read. They had excellent lungs back then, and so their sentences tend to be long-winded. More than that, though, is the appearance of the page…. Modern readers tend to be distracted by the busy-ness of the page. Virtually all nouns are capitalized, quotes are italicized, and proper nouns are both capitalized and italicized.
We have been editing Women’s Speaking Justified with a light touch, because we want Margaret Fell’s voice to remain clearly her own. We have been updating capitalization, italicization, and citation styles to make her more readable. We have also chosen to make some minor changes to the punctuation, where we won’t risk changing Fell’s meaning or voice.
And what a voice: “And was it not prophesied in Joel 2:29 that hand-maids should prophesy? And are not hand-maids women? Consider this, ye that are against women’s speaking, how in Acts the Spirit of the Lord was poured forth upon daughters as well as sons.”
Definitely fervent and lion-hearted. We are very pleased to help make Margaret Fell easier to find.