04 March 2022
Did your 17th-century female ancestor campaign for religious tolerance in England? A new release from FindMyPast reveals a snapshot of 7,000 women in 1659.
Over 7,000 women signed this anti-tithe petition in 1659, delivered to Parliament. Organized by the Society of Friends, or 'Quakers' not all signatories were followers of the faith, but all disagreed with the taxes imposed by the Church of England.
Background to the petition
The year 1659 was a relatively chaotic one across England. The Protectorate collapsed in April and the Rump Parliament was re-established in early May. Quaker, or members of the Society of Friends, responses to the political and social changes were not uniform. During that year, two anti-tithe petitions were delivered to Parliament by Quakers, likely driven by the indications that the Rump might abolish tithes. One of which was transcribed from the original in the early 1900s. This petition voices an unfavourable opinion of taxes applied by the Church of England and is signed by over 7,700 individuals.
This index is created from that transcription, which was made available to FindMyPast within the content of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The collection includes the following introduction:
“These several papers was sent to the Parliament the twentieth day of the fifth Moneth [sic], 1659, Being above seven thousand of the names of the Hand-Maids and Daughters of the Lord And such as feels the oppression of Tithes, in the names of many more of the said Handmaids and Daughters of the Lord, who witness against the oppression of Tithes and other things as followeth. London Printed for Mary Westwood, and are to be sold at the Black-spread Eagle at the West end of Pauls, 1659.”
While most academics agree the petition was the action of the Quakers, it is highly likely that women of other faiths signed the petition, thus, a careful researcher will not assume that a name on this list automatically implies membership in the Society of Friends. It is, however, a rare opportunity to put a women from the mid-1600s’ into a particular place and time, as the petition does include location information.
Explore the petition with a FindMyPast subscription here.
(Image copyright Rijks Museum)