Margaret Hope Bacon (1921-2011)
Margaret Hope Bacon served on the board of the Friends Historical Association from 1975-2007, was President of FHA from 1989-91, and was a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Quaker History.
She was the author of many highly regarded books on Quaker history, including The Quiet Rebels (1969), Lamb's Warrior: the Life of Isaac T. Hopper (1970), I Speak for My Slave Sister (1974), Rebellion at Christiana (1975), Valiant Friend (1980), As Way Opens (1980), Mothers of Feminism: the Story of Quaker Women in America (1986), Let this Life Speak (1987), One Woman's Passion (1993), Wilt Thou Go on My Errand (1994), Abby Hopper Gibbons (2000), In the Shadow of William Penn (2001), But One Race (2007). As an independent scholar, her writings were and continue to be highly influential among researchers.
Margaret Bacon worked for social justice through the American Friends Service Committee, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and other agencies, as well as through the Religious Society of Friends. She was a frequent contributor to Friends Journal and a speaker at Quaker conferences.
Much of her writing and scholarship focused on the role of Quaker women, first as ministers and leaders within the Religious Society of Friends in the eighteenth century, and then as innovators and leaders in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements of the nineteenth century and the peace movement in the twentieth century.
George Fox, in his early ministry, wrote that "the professors were all in a rage, all pleading for sin and imperfection, and could not endure to hear talk of perfection, and of a holy and sinless life." Fox referred to those clergy who believe that people were inherently sinful. Margaret Bacon was the biographer of people who chose to spend their lives seeking, if not to be perfect, to at least work to reform the world, to end enslavement and to allow women their due voice in public affairs. Lucretia Mott spent sixty years in such work. Margaret Bacon spent more than sixty years, from the time she was the young wife of a conscientious objector in the 1940s until the end of her life. In her personal life as well as in her books, she provided a model for living.
Many of her books also grappled with the difficult issue of race relations. Quakers as well as others have not always been immune to racial prejudice. Margaret Bacon's books, from her first book on the history of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1959, frequently concerned reformers, both white and black, who worked together to abolish racial distinctions. If her stories of Grace Mapps Douglass and Robert Purvis show that Quakers sometimes fell short of their own best leadings, they also demonstrate how Quakers and others could find both common cause and friendship across the color line.
George Fox criticized the religious "professors" of his day for pointing to the sinfulness of humans rather than exhorting them to seek perfection. He urged [End Page 47] Quakers to "let their lives speak." Through her writings as well as through her life, Margaret Hope Bacon reminded the modern world how lives can be lived in the light. [End Page 48]