Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 49 - Y for Isabel Fell, later Yeamans, afterwards Morrice

Swarthmoor Hall
Isabel Fell was the third of the eight children born to Thomas and Margaret Fell (later Fox) in about 1637. In 1652 when she was fifteen years old she was convinced of the truth of Quakerism, along with her mother and some of her siblings, when George Fox visited the family home of Swarthmoor Hall in Lancashire. The house became a centre for the new movement and Isabel was a vital part of its development. 

In 1664 Isabel married another active Quaker William Yeamans, who was a merchant in Bristol where the couple set up home. They had two sons and two daughters but William junior and Margaret died in infancy. In 1674 Isabel's husband William died and she made extended visits back to the family home at Swarthmoor with her daughter Rachel and her surviving son, also named William. She began to travel in the ministry, particularly to meetings in the North, leaving her children in the care of their grandmother and aunts, although Rachel died in 1676 at the age of ten.

Swarthmoor Hall Quaker Tapestry panel
At this time and throughout her life Isabel was much concerned with the establishment and continuance of women's meetings among Friends in the face of opposition from some Quakers. In a letter written at Swarthmoor in 1676 she says that womens meetings should be ‘constant and wait upon the lord to feel his power to administer counsel, wisdom and instruction that thereby your minds may be seasoned and fitted for the lord’s business.’  It is, she says, the work of the ‘elder and honourable women’ to be ‘teachers of good things that they may teach the young women according to the holy apostles’ exhortation and so be good examples and patterns of prudence...’ ‘Here will be work and business enough for us all that none need to be Idle in God’s vineyard, but as we have everyone received a measure of God’s spirit and grace some may be fellow helpers and workers together with our brethren in the work of the lord in these gospel days... ‘ ‘So every member of the body whereof Christ our lord is head may be serviceable and although we may be many members and some much more honourable than others yet no member though it be small is to be despised.’

In 1677 Isabel was chosen to accompany her step-father George Fox, William Penn, George Keith and Robert Barclay, the latter two accompanied by their wives, to preach Quakerism in Holland and Germany. Isabel herself preached to Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate who admired her 'curious voice and freer way of delivering herself.' In 1678 Isabel travelled in Scotland with Robert Barclay and his wife and for the next dozen years she lived in various places including London and Stockton on Tees, where she was again much involved with women's meetings.

Lincoln meeting house built by Abraham Morrice
In 1690, at the age of 53 and after sixteen years of widowhood,  Isabel married another Quaker merchant, Abraham Morrice of Lincoln, and settled there. Her son William Yeamans died at the house of one of his aunts in 1698 when he was only 29 and Isabel and Abraham both died in 1704 when she was 67 years old.

Isabel was a Quaker pioneer who, although acknowledged as knowledgeable and accomplished by others, defined the true believer as one who had transcended intellectual accomplishments. ‘So look not for [God] in the shadows and forms without the power and substance',she wrote, 'nor be satisfied with the hearing of him by the hearing of the ear, or a notional traditional knowledge.’ She called instead for a gradual spiritual regeneration, an inward response to wisdom’s gentle voice within the soul. ‘Return, return, hearken unto the voice of wisdom; for she uttereth her voice in the streets of the world, and in the midst of the concourse of the people.’


No comments: