Mother of Quakerism

Margaret Askew
Fell Fox
(11th generation Morlan)

Her 2nd husband George Fox, Father of Quakerism
George Fox
Father (founder) of Quakerism

MARGARET ASKEW was born in 1614 in England, the daughter of John Askew and Margaret Pyper. Margaret was the great-granddaughter of Anne Askew, the religious martyr who died at the stake July 16, 1546.

She married Thomas Fell in 1632. Thomas was born in 1598. They were the parents of eight children, 1 son and 7 daughters. Thomas Fell was a judge and a strong Puritan.

Throughout her marriage Margaret sought new ways to God. In 1652 (around 38 years old) she met the founder of Quakerism, George Fox. She immediately joined the Quaker movement.

From her earliest affiliation, the Fell's opened their home (Swarthmoor Hall) to the Society of Friends (although Judge Fell never identified himself with the Society of Friends). He did what he could to provide the resources his wife needed to further her cause and to protect his wife and her movement. When he died in 1658, about 60 years old, Margaret Fell's political protection was gone.

In 1669, eleven years after the death of her husband, Margaret married George Fox. At the time George was about 45 years old while Margaret was about 55 years old. Most historians credit George Fox with founding Quakerism but it was Margaret who contributed her fortune and administered the finances of the young church, publicly defended the religion, visited meetings and took care of correspondence.

In addition to being a missionary, preacher, and teacher, Margaret wrote at least 16 books and 27 pamphlets discussing and defending her religion.

She was arrested, questioned, tried, convicted and jailed for her activities. At one point she even had her property confiscated. Her property was restored to her several years later under the reign of a new monarch, Charles II. She was in prison at Lancarter Castle from 1664 to 1668. She was a prisoner because she refused to give up holding Quaker meetings at Swartmoor Hall. While in prison she wrote a number of her articles.

She was very much a feminist, probably 300 years before her time. Here is an excerpt from Women's Speaking ... Justified ...(1667):

      And whereas it is said, I permit not a Woman to speak, as saith the Law: But where Women are led by the Spirit of God, they are not under the Law; for Christ in the Male and in the Female is one; and where he is made manifest in Male and Female, he may speak; for he is the end of the Law for Righteousness to all them that believe. So here you ought to make a Distinction what sort of Women are forbidden to speak; such as were under the Law, who were not come to Christ, nor to the Spirit of Prophecy: For Huldah, Miriam, and Hannah, were Prophetesses, who were not forbidden in the time of the Law, for they all prophesied in the time of the Law; as you may read in 2 Kings 22. what Huldah said unto the Priest, and to the Ambassadors that were sent to her from the King, Go, saith she, and tell the Man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and on the Inhabitants thereof, even all the Words of the Book which the King of Judah hath read; because they have forsaken me, and have burnt Incense to other Gods, to anger me with all the Works of their Hands: Therefore my Wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the King of Judah, that sent you to me to ask Counsel of the Lord, so shall you say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Because thy Heart did melt, and thou humbledst thy self before the Lord, when thou heard'st what I spake against this place, and against the Inhabitants of the same, how they should be destroyed; Behold, I will receive thee to thy Father, and thou shalt be put into thy Grave in peace, and thine Eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.

      Now let us see if any of you, blind Priests, can speak after this manner, and see if it be not a better Sermon than any of you can make, who are against Women's Speaking. And Isaiah, that went to the Prophetess, did not forbid her Speaking or Prophesying, Isai. 8. And was it not prophesied in Joel 2. that Hand-maids should Prophesie? And are not Hand-maids Women? Consider this, ye that are against Women's Speaking, how in the Acts the Spirit of the Lord was poured forth upon Daughters as well as Sons. In the time of the Gospel, when Mary came to salute Elizabeth in the Hill-Country in Judea, and when Elizabeth heard the Salutation of Mary, the Babe leaped in her Womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit; and Elizabeth spoke with a loud Voice. Blessed art thou amongst Women, blessed is the Fruit of thy Womb.

A number of her writings can be found both in the library and on the internet.

She also went to prison in 1670 and 1671.

Her seven daughters traveled as Friends and married Quakers. Margaret traveled to London (usually with one or more daughters) in 1660, 1662, 1668, 1671,1673 and 1674 to plead for tolerance of Friends and George Fox's release from prison and to reassure local Meetings throughout England.

Her greatest gifts to Friends may have been the establishing of the Monthly Meetings for business, for women and men separately, by which marriages and burials, and Friends' needs as prisoners, orphans or fire victims could be met. She wrote Epistles to guide these meetings.

Margaret died February 23, 1701/02, in Swartmoor Hall (her home), Sunbreck, Lancashire, England, about 88 years old.