|Portrait of Mary Springett now in Pennsbury Manor PA|
Mary's religious quest, which she wrote about later in her spiritual autobiography, was for the nature of true prayer. This led her to absent herself from Church services and then from family prayers and brought her into conflict with her guardian. He warned her that her behaviour was putting her chances of a respectable marriage at risk as 'no gentleman was of this way.' But his threats proved groundless when William Springett returned from his studies in Cambridge with many of the same convictions as Mary.
Mary and William were married, without the use of a ring, in 1642, when she was about 18 and he was 20. Together they espoused a kind of Puritanism which put a premium on spontaneity and on using one's own words in prayer 'from the heart'. They therefore stood firm against premeditated prayers which had been written down by others and were then repeated by rote. They went to extreme lengths, tearing from their Bible those passages, such as the ;singing psalms' and the Lord's Prayer, which offended them.
|Memorial to William Springett in Ringmer church|
Mary was helped by her mother-in-law Katherine Springett and the two women lived together until 1647 when Katherine also died. Her son John had died in infancy so Mary and her daughter were left more isolated than ever. Although their worldly needs were taken care of Mary's account of the next seven years is one of drifting in spiritual despair, trying to distract herself with her old pastimes but failing to find any satisfaction.
|Gulielma Springett Penn|
In 1654, on a visit to London, Mary met Isaac Penington, the son of the Lord Mayor. He was also searching for a spiritual home and understood something of what she had been going through. They were married in the same year when she was twenty nine and he was thirty eight and continued their spiritual quest together. They encountered Quakers and were reluctantly drawn to them, in spite of misgivings about a movement led by mainly lower class and ill-educated people. Mary had deep misgivings about the Quaker testimony to equality which would require her to 'take up the cross to the language, fashions, customs, titles, honour, and esteem in the world' and struggled for some time to fully leave the security of her upper-class position and regard everyone as her equal. In the end, however, she acknowledged that the Quakers had what she was looking for and in 1658 Mary and Isaac were convinced.
|Bury Farm, Amersham|
|William Penn as a young man|
In 1672 Mary's daughter Gulielma married William Penn and in 1679 when Isaac died Mary moved in with her daughter and son in law at Worminghurst in Sussex. She was not in good health so she drew up her will, put together the writings which make up her spiritual autobiography and died in 1682 at the age of fifty-seven. Her spiritual autobiography was passed down in her family but was not published until 1911 [reprinted by Friends Historical Society 1992]. Although this was probably done more because of her famous husband and son in law than for her own sake, these remain Mary's words and Mary's life.