Quaker women have been the subjects of considerable scholarly interest because of the freedom that they had to preach and speak publicly, which in turn made them leaders in the early women’s rights movement. The life of Priscilla Hunt Cadwalader (1786–1859) shows the limits of this Quaker commitment to gender equality. Cadwalader was one of the best-known Quaker ministers in the United States between 1820 and 1850, a leader in the division of American Friends into Hicksites and Orthodox in 1827–1828. When the critical separation took place in the Ohio Valley, however, she was strangely mute, which weakened the Hicksite forces there. She had become a center of controversy because her second marriage to a fellow Quaker minister failed publicly and ended in an unprecedented divorce. This essay looks at Cadwalader’s life and analyzes the responses of fellow Quakers. Orthodox Friends used her marital difficulties to attack Hicksites; Hicksites responses ranged from denial to vindication to attempting to remove Cadwalader from public ministry. It concludes that had Cadwalader been more active in the Hicksite Separation that the Hicksites might have emerged stronger, that her case shows the inability of Quakers to deal with failed marriages, and that her experience may have been one of the cases of gender injustice on the minds of the Hicksite Quaker women who organized the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848.


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pp. 407-431
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