Some of the oldest documents that Mary Crauderueff handles in her role as curator of Quaker Collections at Haverford College date back to the 1650s, when Quakers published theology tracts that often became back-and-forth conversations with anti-Quaker writers.
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When Quakers move from one place to another, the meeting they came from will send a letter to the new meeting saying that this is a member in good standing, so you have the receipt from the place that they left and one at the new meetinghouse that they’re going to. You have this relationship between the two places, so you can really track over time where people have gone, which is really amazing.
Working in a Quaker Historical Library
My name is Mary Crauderueff and I live in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia and I am the curator of Quaker Collections for Haverford College.
Early Quaker Writings
Quakers have created a lot of different types of materials over the years. We started in the late 1600s making a lot of tracts—writing a lot about the faith and about theology, starting to figure out, “What is this faith? What is Quakerism?” We also have a lot of anti-Quaker material, which is really cool because it shows the development of people talking back-and-forth to each other.
I like to talk with students about it like they’re blog posts. They are talking back and forth to each other. That’s what you get in the early 1600s and you move forward and find similar things throughout time.
You also have a lot of—to use more common vernacular—church records. You have things like membership records, marriage records, and marriage certificates. You have minutes of the business meetings and you have committee minutes. Other cool things that we have are deeds for meetings and meetinghouses. People will sometimes come to various Quaker archives and say, “Our meeting is in this dispute with the township. We need to find the original deed to the meetinghouse and we think that you have it. Can we look at it?” Things like that.
I also really love our family papers. Sometimes we have generations worth of materials from a single family. It’s really fun to see materials from the 1600s up to the twenty-first century all laid out together in one collection. It’s really fun to see: who is this family over time? How have they changed—or have they changed? Is there still an essence of who they were in the beginning in that trend? That I really love as well.
The 1688 Germantown Protest
One of the coolest documents that we have—one of my favorites actually—is the 1688 Germantown protest. It was written here in Germantown, Philadelphia, and it was written by a group of Quakers who were against slavery. They presented this petition to their monthly meeting and then to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. They were essentially saying, “We are against owning people and we think that slavery is wrong. And we think that nobody should own slaves.”
Something that I appreciate about this protest is the funny history that we get with it. I grew up in the Quaker faith, where I learned about this petition as a Quaker protest against slavery. I have begun to have more friends in the Mennonite community who talk about it as a Mennonite protest. I think that’s one of the most amazing things because it just reminds us that this two-page document, you have to remember the context around it. It’s not just these two pieces of paper; there’s a lot more story about it.
You can really expand that to all the materials we have. You can get this one side of it and you have to put that together with everything else to understand it to its fullest.
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The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.