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Quaker Biographies

Photo of people at General Meeting, September 1921, Adelaide South Australia

There are five parts to the biographies on this website:

  1. A search facility for finding people mentioned in the files on this website
  2. Biographical information about former Australian Quakers. This consists of over 700  files of information about people who have died and were formerly associated with Quakers in Australia.
  3. Quaker arrivals before 1862. This is a list giving additional information about nearly 600 people associated with Quakers known to have arrived in Australia prior to 1862.
  4. Audio files. These are short biographies about some prominent Quakers.
  5. Other information which may be useful.

More detail is shown in each section below.

Search the files

There are two alternative methods of searching the files

  • An advanced search  will search within all the files to find any name or word
  • The browse will list all the names for which there are files.

The advanced search is more comprehensive as it will search within files to find the names of people who may be mentioned in someone else's entry.

The search engine is provided by FreeFind

Biographical information about former Australian Quakers

The Dictionary of Australian Quaker Biography was first compiled by William Oats in 1989 with the assistance of several Friends. Material was drawn mainly from testimonies and references in The Australian Friend, The British Friend, The Friend and the Proceedings of London Yearly Meeting. The first edition contained information about Quakers who died before 1989, and was updated regularly. Previous editions were kept by the Regional Meetings; however, this process was discontinued in 2015. Now, information can be found on this website about over 1350 people who have been significantly associated with Quakers in Australia, including both former members and others who have attended Quaker Meetings for a significant period in their lives.

The information included in the online entry for each person may be very brief (the Minute of a Meeting recording their death) or more extensive. It may include a Testimony to the Grace of God in the person's life (“aspects of the Friend’s life that reveal the workings of the Spirit in the world, as an inspiration to others”. Friends may care to look at the guidelines for Testimonies here). There will also be a note if there is an entry for that person in the Biographical Index of Quakers in Australia before 1862 below.

The information is in text files on this website and the search option above can be used to access the files. The files are named using the person's Family Name at the date of death, but the search engine will bring up entries containing the maiden name or other previous names if they are mentioned in the entry. It will also indicate people who are mentioned in another person's biographical information.

Additional information may be available about the people on this website and can be requested by contacting the Quakers Australia Coordinator.

A listing of some additional material about those Friends who have died, and is held in the AYM Office, can be found here.

The Quakers Australia Coordinator may also have information about other Quakers not on this website. If you have any problems, comments or suggestions, please contact the Website coordinator.

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Quaker arrivals before 1862

Marjorie and William Oats carried out extensive research into the early Quakers in Australia for William's book A question of survival; Quakers in Australia in the nineteenth century (William Nicolle Oats, University of Queensland Press, 1985). One of the outcomes of that research was an unpublished Biographical Index of Quakers in Australia before 1862 (the "Pre-1862 Index"). All the people in that Index appear on this website with basic information and contain a reference to their presence in the Pre-1862 Index. They can be found by doing a search above. The pdf files below (based on the family name at the date of death) contain extensive additional information for most of the people. The pdf file Introduction, sources and references contains further background information about the Index.

A & B   /    C    /    D to F    /   G & H   /   I & J   /   K & L   /    /   N to P   /    /    /   T to Z

The Index covers the early years of settlement of Quaker migrants in the Australian colonies up to and including the year 1861, when London Yearly Meeting gave formal recognition to the Monthly Meetings of Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart. The index contains the names of all those who had some defined relationship with the Society of Friends by membership, attendance or connection by family, schooling or burial and who spent some time in the colonies during this period. Numbers of these returned to England or Ireland and hence were not permanent settlers.

The sources used are basically Quaker. The information does not purport to be definitive or exhaustive, but in some cases is quite extensive. Where possible, the children of this first generation of Quaker migrants were listed if they were born before 1862 but it was not possible to follow these further in any detail.

An attempt was made to cover the following range of information:

  • Name, years of birth and death.

  • Parentage, place of birth and occupation of parents.

  • Schooling - particulars of enrolment at Friends’ Schools.

  • Quaker status – membership, Meeting, etc.

  • Place and date of arrival, and occupation.

  • Marriage, children, death and other information which may be useful.

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Audio files

Short biographies of some well-known Quakers were compiled by David Purnell (Canberra Regional Meeting). They were recorded for broadcasting on the Canberra Dove Talk radio program and/or published in the Canberra Quaker Newsletter.

You can listen to the broadcasts by clicking on the names below. Their year of birth is shown and there are links to other information about the person. The text of all these talks is available here.

  James Backhouse             b. 1794  Narrative of a visit to the Australian Colonies

  Elise Boulding                   b. 1920  Active in peace research and peacebuilding and nominated for a Nobel Peace prize

  George Cadbury               b. 1839  Bournville Village Trust today

  Pierre Ceresole                  b. 1879  Founded the Service Civil International

  Adam Curle                       b. 1916  A worker, teacher and writer for peace

  Margaret Fell                    b. 1614  The “Mother” of Quakerism

  Elfrida Vipont Foulds      b. 1902  An educator and scholar, she was a prolific writer

  George Fox                       b. 1624  Journal of George Fox

  Elizabeth Fry                     b. 1780  Elizabeth Fry's first visit to Newgate Prison

  Donald Groom                  b. 1914  Donald Groom Fellowship

  Ham Sok Hon                    b. 1901  A prominent civil rights activist in Korea

  David Hodgkin                  b. 1914   Wrote A Mature Religion for today

  Florence James                  b. 1902  Co-author of Come in Spinner, later turned into an ABC TV series

  Rufus Jones                        b. 1863  Quaker Historian and William Penn Lecturer in 1918

  Muriel Langford                b. 1913  Conscientious Objector, Political lobbyist & Missionary

  Kathleen Lonsdale            b. 1903   The Scientist who discovered Lonsdaleite

  Francis Mather                   b. 1844  Friends School 1887 - 1947 and present day

  Lucretia Mott                     b. 1793  Activist, abolitionist, social reformer and Remembered in Cheltenham

  Valerie Nichols                   b. 1920  Her motto "No one is for self alone", she helped to establish WILPF in Tasmania

  William Oats                      b. 1912  Teacher, historian, author

  William Penn                     b. 1644  He became the first Hero of American Liberty

  Gerald Priestland              b. 1927  An author and broadcaster for the BBC in the UK.

  Margaret Roberts             b. 1910  Her 1937 - 1944 diary of bush walks is in the State Library of Victoria

  Caroline Stephen              b. 1834  A Quaker Influence on Modern English Literature

  Marjorie Sykes                   b. 1905  Born in the UK, she went to live in India and was involved in education

  Hendrik van der Merwe  b. 1929  A South African academic who worked for peace

  Elizabeth Gray Vining      b. 1902  Born in the USA, she taught Japan's Crown Prince

  Elizabeth Watson             b. 1914  A strong concern for social justice, including race relations and homosexuality

  Margaret Watts                b. 1892  Migrant community Advocate, Welfare worker and Peace activist

  John Woolman                 b. 1720    A Quaker preacher and early abolitionist

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Other information

There is a list here of information about those buried in the Quaker Section of the West Terrace burial ground in Adelaide. Not all of them are included in the biographical information accessible from this page.

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