Feast of John Woolman (October 7)   2 comments

Above:  John Woolman

Image in the Public Domain



Quaker Abolitionist

John Woolman, born in Burlington, New Jersey, on October 19, 1720, was an itinerant Quaker preacher in the American colonies.

As a young man Woolman discovered a robin’s nest full of hatchlings and their mother.  He threw rocks at the mother robin, killing her.  Filled with remorse and realizing that the young birds could not live much longer without her, he removed the nest from the tree and killed the hatchlings quickly and out of  mercy.  This was a turning point in Woolman’s life, for thereafter he loved all living things.

As an adult Woolman opposed slavery actively, convincing many fellow Quakers to free their slaves.  He wore undyed clothing because the manufacture of dyes entailed slave labor.  Also, he paid slaves whenever a slaveholder extended him hospitality.  Woolman’s writings on slavery contributed to the increase of abolitionism among the Friends.

Being a Quaker, Woolman was a pacifist.  Hence he protested the French and Indian War, and refused to pay taxes used to support that conflict.

In 1772 Woolman traveled to England (in steerage, voluntarily, consistent with his creed of simplicity).  At London he convinced that Yearly Meeting to oppose slavery.  Shortly thereafter he died of smallpox at York.



A Prayer by John Woolman, from The Communion of Saints: Prayers of the Famous, edited by Horton Davies:

O Lord my God! The amazing horrors of darkness were gathered round me, and covered me all over, and I saw no way to go forth; I felt the depth and extent of the misery of my fellow-creatures separated from the Divine harmony, and it was heavier than I could bear, and I was crushed down under it; I lifted my hand, I stretched out my arm, but there was none to help me; I looked round about, and was amazed.  In the depths of misery, O Lord, I remembered that thou art omnipotent; that I had called thee Father; and I felt that I loved thee, and I was made quiet in my will, and I waited for deliverance from thee.  Thou had pity on me, when no person could help me; I saw that meekness under suffering was showed to us in the most affecting example of thy Son, and thou taught me to follow him, and I said, “Thy will, O Father, be done!”


Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.  Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.  Help us, like your servant John Woolman, to work for justice and peace among people and nations, to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

2 responses to “Feast of John Woolman (October 7)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Dora Greenwell (March 29) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of Anthony Benezet (January 31) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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