Monday, July 17, 2017

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - W for Anna Rebecca Gilpin Whiting

Cartoon of Charles Gilpin 1875
Anna Rebecca Gilpin was born in 1829, the daughter of James and Mary Sturge Gilpin of Bristol. She was the thirteenth of fifteen children in a family of eight boys and seven girls and her eldest brother was the politician Charles Gilpin, who served as M.P. for Northampton for many years, and was known for his opposition to capital punishment. Anna was educated at Wigton and Sidcot schools, a lively girl with a bright temperament which made her a general favourite although she admitted tht she sometimes gave her teachers trouble.

After leaving school she took up First-Day School work and while engaged on this she met John Whiting (1819-1899) a draper of Leeds. They were married in 1850 and had six children, two girls and four boys. On her marriage Anna also took over the domestic management of her husband's business, so that she had several young men under her care as well as her own children.

The welfare of children was very important to her so that, although she took a leading part in many philanthropic and social concerns in Leeds, the work that was nearest to her heart was the supervision of the Headingly Orphan Homes. When she took over this work in 1865, eight children were provided for, but it was extended until, in 1885, there were four houses sheltering seventy-six children.
Building once Headingly Orphan Homes

Elizabeth Comstock
Anna Whiting shared with her brother Charles and with her husband, who had taken the pledge at the age of eighteen, an enthusiastic advocacy of the cause of temperance. In 1873 and 1875 Anna visited various parts of the country in this connection, accompanying Elizabeth Comstock, a well known Quaker temperance campaigner visiting from America.

When Anna was twenty-five she felt a call to speak in meeting but did not minister until five years later, after much encouragement. She was recorded as a minister by Brighouse Monthly Meeting in 1869 and soon afterwards suffered a severe attack of typhoid which left her unconscious for ten days. Her first ministry after her recovery was remembered as very solemn and moving.

It was perhaps her own experience that led her to give unstinted personal service in ministering to the sick and dying in those days when trained nurses were seldom available. She rarely paid such visits without taking with her some flowers to cheer the patients and brighten the sick room. Her Christianity was practical, with a warm hearted kindness which endeared her to all who knew her.

It was said of her ministry that "her messages, delivered in a clear strong voice, and simple though forcible language...often brought 'food to the hungry soul, liberty to the captive, joy to the mourner and rest to the weary and heavy laden', and on not a few occasions the whole tone of a meeting, begun perhaps in something like flatness, was felt to be changed to joy through the inspiring influence of her offerings in prayer and praise."

She was warmly interested in the work of the Society of Friends and for thirty years, with only one omission, attended London Yearly Meeting. For fourteen years she was also conspicuous at the table of the London Womens Yearly Meeting, serving as clerk in 1881 and 1882.

In 1890 the family moved to Cliff Side, where she was very happy for the few years left to her. Although not in good health, she went to London with her husband early in March 1897 and joined him and other Friends in the Meeting for Sufferings room prior to the Mission Prayer Meeting for which he had come to London. But the following day she had a heart attack and died aged sixty-eight.

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