In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews125 the Brandywine Valley, of whom there were an extraordinary number in the eighteenth century, rather than writing more generally about both English and American traveling ministers. And it would have been of great interest to learn more about the influence of some of these women in their local meetings. Local women's minutes need to be studied in greater depth in each part of the country, for it seems clear that their role and power varied enormously and may have had a great deal more to do with the creation of leadership on the part of Quaker women than we have yet recognized. A study of local minutes might reveal whether Jensen's central thesis—that changes in work patterns for rural women led to their liberation in the public sphere—or whether the Quaker doctrine of gender equality was the overriding influence in determining the role of Quaker women both in the Brandywine Valley as well as elsewhere. Nevertheless, we cannot fail to be grateful to Joan Jensen's careful and fresh studies, for the picture she has given us of farm women's day-to-day lives, and for the many fresh clues she provides for further research into the interaction between economic and religious factors in shaping the world of our foremothers. Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaMargaret Hope Bacon Nation ofNantucket. By Edward Byers. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987. 367 pp. $30.45. This is a first class work of careful scholarship, interestingly written, and embodying stimulating theses regarding why the whaling island gives a clue as to what is good and bad in our western Christian civilization. A century ago and more, Herman Melville was transfixed by Nantucket in Moby Dick, where by transposition the importance of the Quaker "far-away" island was recapitulated. Already in the 1760's Crèvecoeur's Letters ofan American Farmer indicated that the perceptive observer had "eyes to see." There are shortcomings in the volume because Byers seems not to have taken account of the book of membership of Nantucket Monthly Meeting (1708-1944), which combined with information in Alexander Starbuck's 1924 History of Nantucket make it possible to estimate membership. Byers, for example, excludes Thomas Macy (1687-1759) when he was a treasurer of the meeting as well as of the town. But these are minor blemishes. The main thesis lies in Crèvecoeur's statement that Nantucket "embodies the essence of American possibility. '' Yet the "nation of Nantucket,'' to quote Emerson, was built on the exploitation of Indians, Blacks, Polynesians, and Cape Verde Islanders, not to mention the thousands of white "Ishmaels." A small oligarchy of first families survived a "half-shares" revolution in the 1670's to include them in the nation which (like Switzerland) developed a multilateral identity of "privatism," using the seasonal workers to build up enormous wealth widely shared but only among the "nation." Politically the nation accepted the guidance of an elite, half Quaker and onethird Congregationalist, till the challenges of the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 (combined with subsequent depressions) caused the members of the elite to turn against one another. Nantucket Monthly Meeting committed group suicide rather than accommodate to the secular culture which independence brought to the States. Still as late as 1820, the Quaker elite on the island were the great whaling magnates, participants in the Massachusetts and Federal governments (from which they were excluded in the colonial period). But by 1831 the Hicksite division hit 126Quaker History the meeting a body blow which sent it reeling into the Wilburite separation of 1845. However, as John F. Kennedy once said, "Those who do not know the past are condemned to relive it." Byers's work is an excellent corrective in many areas. For once the Nantucket Indian gets his due, and the hitherto hidden proletariat looms with new importance. The "radical spiritism" which lay behind the founding of Nantucket is well portrayed, but Thomas Mayhew's charter to Martha's Vineyard is strangely omitted. Appeals from monthly meeting to quarterly meeting are overlooked, but not the appeal of the town to the General Court of Massachusetts in 1757. The history of city street illumination adds an...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 125-126
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.