R is for Revolutionary War, which is where hosts Leigh & Gretchen are headed in this, the very first episode dedicated to a single person from history: the Publick Universal Friend. Born Jemima Wilkinson, after suffering from Typhoid fever and experiencing a visionary death, the Publick Universal Friend, also called the Friend, arose and began preaching a message of repentance. The Friend presented as something entirely new: a genderless spirit from God who eschewed gendered pronouns and dressed and spoke in ways that purposefully blurred the lines between male and female in early American society. Their preaching may not have been as innovative as others from their time, but the Friend did something even more unique by embodying genderlessness as an aspect of resurrected life and creating a religious society marked by genderless linguistic forms. So come join us as we talk about this most special of Friends; to make things even more interesting, turns out one of our hosts is related to the Friend!
A Look at The Friend
Excerpts from the Death Book of the Society of Universal Friends.
The death book was kept by Ruth Prichard, and records the death names, last words and other relevant information, and the date when the member of the society "left Time". The following are entries, as found in Wisbey's book (see resource list); note just how many times the Friend was present at the death and/or the funeral, which is not at all unusual for the rest of the death book:
If you liked "F is For Friend Who Did Not Have Gender", you'll probably like:
- The History Detectives Episode about a document related to the Society of Universal Friends
- The Scherer Carriage House Museum at the Yates County History Center, which is entirely dedicated to Jemima Wilkinson. It has the Friend’s carriage!
If you want to learn more about the Friend, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!
- Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”
- Jemima Wilkinson: American Religious Leader
- “THE SECOND DESCENT OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE FROM GOD”: THE ASSUMPTION OF JEMIMA WILKINSON
- Quaker Plain Speech
Books and Print Articles:
- Saints, Sinners and Reformers: The Burned-Over District Re-Visited by John H. Martin: Chapter 5 Jemima Wilkinson Celibacy and the Communal Life The Re-Incarnation of the Divine in Female Form, 1758-1819
- Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend by Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr. (misgenders the Friend)
- The Public Universal Friend by Paul B. Moyer
- History of Jemima Wilkinson by David Hudson (the smear campaign “biography,” misgenders the Friend)
- Women Who Were Called by Joel Whitney Tibbetts (misgenders the friend)
- “‘Indescribable Being’: Theological Performances of Genderlessness in the Society of the Publick Universal Friend” by Scott Larson, Early American Studies Vol. 12 no 3 (2014).
- “Demogogues or Mystagogues? Gender and the Language of Prophecy in the Age of Democratic Revolutions” by Susan Juster, American Historical Review 104, no. 5 (1999).
- “The Political Threat of a Female Christ: Ann Lee, Morality, and Religious Freedom in the United States” by Adam Jortner, Early American Studies vol 7, no 1 (2009).