Friday, March 29, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 13 - G for the three Sarah Grubbs

One of the problems of researching Quakers of the past is their habit of marrying within other Quaker families and of using only a small stock of first names. This often leads to a situation where contemporaries are given, or acquire on marriage, the same name. For the sake of clarity therefore this week I am going to try to distinguish between the three Sarah Grubbs. Sarah Pim Grubb (1746 – 1832), Sarah Tuke Grubb (1756-1790) and Sarah Lynes Grubb (1773 – 1840) were connected both by time and place.

Sarah Pim was born in 1746 at Mountrath in Ireland, the eldest of the fifteen children  of John and Sarah Pim. Her father was a rich Dublin wool merchant and she was related through both her parents to most of the prominent Quaker families in Ireland. In 1771 the family moved to Tottenham in Middlesex where they  mixed in fashionable Quaker society in and around London. Writing to friends in Ireland Sarah noted that the English Quakers loved finery whereas the Irish retained the ‘plain’ dress but entertained lavishly. 

River Suir at Clonmel
Sarah moved back to Ireland in 1778 when she married John Grubb (1737-1784)  a flour miller of Anner Mills, Clonmel, co. Tipperary and entered the circle of wealthy Quaker families who controlled Clonmel's milling industry in its golden age. Although some in this circle lived, as the visiting American Quaker William Savery said, ‘like princes of the earth’  the Grubbs chose to live plainly and their comfortable home, Anner Mills, for years provided hospitality to numerous travelling Quaker ministers. 

Main Street Clonmel
Their happy marriage was ended prematurely with John Grubb's death from overwork in 1784. At this point  Sarah chose to take her husband's place and run the mills herself, with the support of her brother Joshua, a prominent Dublin banker and her sister Elizabeth Pim. She entrusted the care of her five small daughters to Sarah Lynes who came from London in 1787 and of whom I shall say more later. Sarah Pim Grubb found that business, and contact with the country people, raised her spirits. She made a success of the business through strict integrity, and a policy of always using cash when buying in, and selling at low rates rather than giving credit. 

Possessed of great clearness of mind and a powerful character, Sarah Pim Grubb was also a person of warm human sympathy and benevolence. She did what she could to alleviate widespread local misery caused by poverty and drunkenness, and she was quick to sen aid to those afflicted by the 1798 rising. She was much concerned with education and helped to fund Newtown School in Waterford. This combination of success in business and social concern won her the nickname the Queen of the South. She died, leaving a fortune of over £100,000, at Anner Mills in 1832 and was buried in the Quaker burial ground at Clonmel.

Sarah Lynes was born in 1773 in Wapping, London and attended the Friends school in Clerkenwell. From here, at the age of fourteen, she went to Ireland, as I have said, to look after the children of Sarah Pim Grubb of Anner Mills, Clonmel. While in this household she experienced the stirrings of a call to the ministry and first spoke in meeting, with great reluctance, when she was seventeen. Four years later, in 1794, she was recorded a minister by Co. Tipperary MM and began to travel in the ministry in Ireland, encouraged and supported by her employer. In 1797 she returned to London, started a school with her sister and continued her extensive travels. She spoke whenever she felt called, often in the open air and in all weathers one result of which was an increasing deafness.

A Quaker Wedding by Percy Bigland, 1896
It was thus as an experienced and seasoned minister that, in 1804, she married John Grubb of Clonmel, the nephew of her old employer. This became evident during the ceremony in Isleworth meeting house. As one of her friends, Elizabeth Dudley, wrote, ‘Sally like a notable woman, went into the [ministers] gallery after the ceremony and was largely engaged to the people, many not Friends being present; she then took her seat beside John again...’ The marriage was a happy one as John had nothing but admiration for his Sally’s gifts and supported her throughout the nearly forty years they had together. They went to live in Ireland for fifteen years but then Sarah felt that God was calling her back to England so they and their four children returned.

In her family circle Sarah was characterised as ‘highly humourous’ but this side of her was seldom shown in her public minister’s role. Hers was a prophetic gift and she was often moved to warn against what she saw as the dangers to the Society of Friends in a very trenchant and outspoken manner. As a Quietist she saw herself as acting only as a mouthpiece for God’s word, not speaking in her own words or will. The targets of her strictures  were mainly the Evangelical party led by J.J. Gurney, who she saw as too much given over to worldliness and money-making to be proper leaders for Quakers. She also feared that their greater emphasis on education  for ministry and on Bible study would lead them to depend more on their own intellect than on patient waiting for the Inward Light.

Over the years, in the private reports of Friends, we hear Sarah’s words ringing out in Yearly Meeting after Yearly Meeting. In 1807 she ‘was led particularly to address those who were as the great men in the world, querying in a very emphatic manner whether they were not more solicitous to have their heads stored with knowledge and their purses with money than they were to have their hearts replenished with heavenly treasure.’ 

Joseph John Gurney
By 1836 the Evangelical party had become dominant in the Society of Friends in Britain and the Quietist, traditional cause seemed all but lost. Sarah was not silent however and YM in 1838 saw her, two years before her death, ill but still determined to repeat her message of warning one last time. John Southall describes her as ‘altered in appearance, she is much, very much thinner, but her eye has its wonted brightness, her manner is lively and her voice good, her address was perhaps even more than usually plain spoken, though it was not such as ought to have given offence to a single human being.’ Doubtless some were offended, but Sarah Lynes Grubb was only being true to that call to the ministry which she had heard fifty years before. As she said at that last YM, ‘You may perhaps be thinking it is only a poor insignificant woman who is teling you what she thinks, and you will not receive it, but it is not the instrument but the power from which the words proceed that ought to be looked up to.’

Between Sarah Pim and Sarah Lynes comes Sarah Tuke. She was born in 1756 in York, the second of the five children of William Tuke (1732-1822) and his first wife Elizabeth Hoyland. When Sarah was four years old her mother died but when she was nine Esther Maud Tuke became her stepmother. She and her siblings always gratefully acknowledged Esther’s tenderness and care for them and the fact that she treated them no differently from her own three children. 

Sarah struggled when young with her natural vivacity of disposition but when she was sixteen she helped her step-mother to care for John Woolman, the American Quaker minister, in his last illness and his example of resignation and faith made a great impression on her mind. She long remembered his words to her, 'My child, thou seems very kind to me, a poor creature. The Lord will reward you for it.' Sarah first appeared in the ministry, after much hesitation and agonising, in 1779 at the age of twenty three and at once embarked upon extensive travels in the ministry which continued for the rest of her life. At first she accompanied her step-mother into Westmoreland and Cumberland and in the same year went with another relation to Cheshire and Lancashire.

In 1782 Sarah married Robert Grubb [1743-1797] of Clonmel, who had lived for some time in York, and they settled at the village of Foston ten miles away, but almost at once Sarah left on a visit to Scotland with Mary Proud of Hull which she found 'a painful exercising time.' On her return Sarah settled into a domestic life which involved frequent travel, sometimes with her husband, but also with female companions. In 1786 Sarah accompanied Rebecca Jones of Philadelphia on a visit to Wales  “rendered arduous by the ruggedness of the country and the road being partly over the tops of very high mountains.” Next year Sarah went, again with Rebecca, to Ireland, but she also found time to act as Clerk of the Womens Yearly Meeting in London in both 1786 and 1787. During this time Sarah began to feel called to leave the security of York and her beloved family and in 1787 she and Robert moved to Ireland and settled near Clonmel. In 1788 they went with other Friends, including George and Sarah Dillwyn of America, to Holland, Germany and France.

Although she had no children of her own, Sarah had decided views on education. She believed that children needed both discipline and respect and should be taught useful skills. In York in 1784 she had helped her step-mother to establish a school for girls and when they moved to Ireland she and Robert founded Suir Island girls’ school at their home on the same principles.

There was little time for Sarah to rest. In 1790 she and Robert, together with the Dillwyns, went again to travel in the ministry on the continent, in France, Holland, Pyrmont and Germany. When Sarah returned she was physically exhausted and ill but, pausing only to visit her family in York for a few days, she went straight to Dublin for the Ireland Half-Yearly Meeting to report on her travels to Friends. Returning home still weak and unwell she stayed only two weeks before travelling to Cork to attend Quarterly Meeting. Here she collapsed and after ten days illness died on 8th December 1790 at the age of thirty four. After her untimely death several of her writings, on religion and education as well as her journal, were published.  

How did their contemporaries distinguish between the three Sarahs? They did not add their original surnames as I have but instead used a different convention. If two women had the same first name and one had a second name they were known by that, so Priscilla Hannah Gurney (1757-1828) was so called to distinguish her from another Priscilla Gurney who was also a minister. If either woman was married however then her distinguishing second name became that of her husband, so Sarah Tuke became Sarah R Grubb or Sally Robert and Sarah Lynes was called Sarah J Grubb or Sally John. In the same way Elizabeth Fry is sometimes referred to as Elizabeth J Fry to distinguish her from another contemporary Elizabeth Fry. Occasionally a Quaker man would also change his name to distinguish himself from a namesake. When Elizabeth Fry's brother Joseph Gurney began working for the family bank at the age of seventeen he added John to his name to distinguish himself from his uncle Joseph, a senior partner, becoming known as J.J. Gurney.

The three Sarah Grubbs had much in common as well as their names. A dedication to the Quaker ministry, an interest in education and residence in Ireland, in particular Clonmel, also linked them together.


Unknown said...

Fascinating, I'm finding these Quaker women ministers (of whom I previously knew nothing) really inspiring. Thanks Gill

Raymond Foster said...

Your comments about the challenges facing the family historian researching Quaker ancestors many of whom seem to have possessed the same names, struck a chord with me. I have family links with the Newsoms of Cork and it is only because I have a few clues from family records that I have been able to arrive at a some degree of reliability. So many Newsom men seem to have been given the first name of Samuel and they all seemed to be alive in Cork at the same oeriod! The Quaker records are wonderful though and the fact that my Gx3 grandfather Samuel Newsom annoyingly chose to marry a non-Quaker and was disowned as a result has meant that just as I was starting to achieve some clarification another obstacle has been placed in my path! But your guidance re the naming conventions among Quaker women is greatly appreciated and will be helpful. Raymond