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Quakers and the Concept of Equality

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  1. Simplicity of Living
  2. Universal Equality
  3. Male and Female Equality: the Quaker Exception

The Civil War was a gateway for women's entrance into the public area. As a result of the shortage of men due to the conflict, women were increasingly needed to preserve the society. Never before had women found access to such opportunities for contribution. For this reason, woman's position in society was slightly altered. 'The Society of Friends' in particular, gave women a new rank. Achieving to some extent the biblical status of men's help-meets, women felt that their spiritual aspirations were no longer stifled as under the national Church. The concept of equality, central to the Quaker doctrine, implied that no difference was to be made between any member of the society, whether old or young, rich or poor, male or female. Friends strove to promulgate the notion of universal equality and incidentally equality between the sexes both in the secular and sacred spheres. Consequently, during the revolutionary years Quakerism gave women a justification to obey the dictates of their own conscience rather than that of their conservative contemporaries. From the earliest days of Quakerism, George Fox endeavoured to promote simplicity and equality among his followers. He even defied the boundaries between the sexes giving women more freedom than was usually granted. First and foremost, Fox's belief in plain dress, speech and behaviour stood both as a declaration of religious equality and as evidence of opposition to all other forms of inequity.

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