Englishwomen and Anglicanism

Women are traditionally the defenders of home and religion, but only if the religion was what worked for them. This is from Stevie Davis, Unbridled Spirits:

In the 1930s, a farmer’s wife named Waspe protesting against tithes set her beehive on the baiiiiff. Tithes, against which Quaker men and women resisters had gone to prison in their hundreds, decade after decade, were not finally abolished in rural areas until the mid-20th century. Church-and-state, hand-in-glove, milked the poor for wealth and privilege. In 1659, quaker women pettioned against tithes: 70000 signatures, column after column of names, some we recognise and some we don’t – part of a huge resistance movement which fought an unjust, profane, tax. they were fined; imprisoned; fined again. Tithes remained.

suffragettes in our own century bombed churches. some 17th century women and men (for different reasons) wanted the whole lot razed to the ground, as places desecrated by idol worship. the Anglican church was an arm fo patriarchal government, instrument of social control, with its own law courts, wealth and authority. In an iconoclastic age, our ‘extremist’ foremothers were comprehensive in their aims as God-inspired dissenters. If it took the demolition of every church in England, a Puritan like Katherine Chidley would have volunteered to put her hand to the clearance work. Quaker women espoused a plan to melt church bells as a wealth creation scheme (leaving one in each area as a fire alarm). They denounced swindling, profiteering, oppression of dissidents and the desperate hunger of the poor. The radicalism o their claims should never e underestimated simply because they are not couched in the language of secular democracy. These women were prepared to forfeit freedom, property, health and even life for such causes.

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