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the decades of the Civil War. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, did not advocate women's social or political equality, but did support women's preaching. Separate women's meetings, first in England and then in British North America, oversaw the readiness of candidates for marriage, cared for the poor and orphans, upheld the maintenance of decorous standards of dress, and at times ruled on other moral issues. Quakers taught that the spirit of God did not differentiate between men and women, and advocated qualities for all believers similar to those which most Protestants stressed for women: humility, self-denial, piety, devotion, modesty. These were not to make one weak in the face of persecution, however, and Quakers were the most viciously persecuted of all the radical groups, perhaps because they were the most adamant in proclaiming their beliefs. Quaker women preached throughout England and the English colonies in the New World, and were active as missionaries also in Ireland, continental Europe, and occasionally elsewhere in the world. They were whipped and imprisoned for preaching, refusing to pay tithes or take oaths, or holding meetings in their houses, and they were accorded no special treatment for age, illness, pregnancy, or the presence of young children. Quaker women also published a large number of pamphlets, most of them apocalyptic prophecies or 'encouragements' for co-believers, as well as spiritual autobiographies - all of which constitute some of the few sources we have from the seventeenth century written by middle- or lower-class women.

Margaret Fell Fox (1614-1702), who eventually married George Fox afteryears of organizing, preaching, visiting prisoners, and being imprisoned herself for her Quaker beliefs, published Women's Speaking Justified in 1669, which argued that Paul's prohibition of women's preaching had only been meant for the 'busie-bodies and tatlers' of Corinth, and provided a host of biblical examples of women who publicly taught others. Fell did not argue for women's equality in secular matters, but for Quakers spiritual matters were more important anyway. The women's meetings that she organized gave many women the opportunity to speak in public and to engage in philanthropic activities for persons outside of their own families. Though Quakers as a group became increasingly apolitical in the eighteenth century, social action by Quaker women continued. Many of the leaders of the abolitionist and women's rights movements in nineteenth-century America were women who had been brought up as Quakers.

Though many areas of Europe experienced social and political revolts in the seventeenth century (leading some historians to suggest that this was a time of 'general crisis'), female religious writers and thinkers on the continent were generally not involved in them to the same extent as Leveller and Quaker

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