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Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195049763
ISBN-10: 0195049764
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Editorial Reviews


"This book represents recent social and intellectual history at its best. Like a finely cut gem, its carefully coordinated facets glitter and shine....[Levy's] analysis is subtle and complex, blending intellectual, social, economic, and demographic sources....All students of "American republicanism" as well as Quakerism should read and study this book; they will be well rewarded."--History: Review of New Books

"Levy's study of the origins and fortunes of the domestic family could hardly be more timely and welcome....Levy's data are consistently impressive....A wonderfully provocative history....Necessary reading for any history of Quakerism, the family, and women in Anglo-American culture."--William and Mary Quarterly

"An important book for both family historians and family sociologists because it seeks to revise the historical argument regarding the origins of the modern American family....A major contribution to family literature. Levy's exhaustive historical research in tracing a cohort of Quaker families from England to the Delaware family through several generations provides new evidence to refute old arguments, which will be debated for some time."--Contemporary Sociology

"A solid social history of the transplantation of Welsh and Cheshire Quakers from northwestern Britain to the Radnor and Chester Meeting Tracts just west of Philadelphia....Well-researched and, on the whole, judiciously interpreted."--Reviews in American History

"Stimulating."--Journal of American Studies

About the Author

Barry Levy is at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 12, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195049764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195049763
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,129,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barry Levy attended Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.d) and specializes in interpreting American culture with empirical vigor and psychological imagination. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he is a professor. His major works are Quakers and the American Family and Town Born. He is married to the political activist Jackie Wolf and has two sons.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First rate social history.
In spite of the mid-eighteenth-century crisis and subsequent decline of Quakerism in Pennsylvania after the American Revolution, the importance of domesticity in the lives of the Pennsylvania Quakers was fundamental to all other aspects of Quaker society, and has had a far-reaching impact on American family life well beyond the colonial era. Quakers (as opposed to New England Puritan emphasis on patriarchy, or the importance of public order and display for the Anglicans) intentionally created the model for the "modern" American family ideal of domesticity for the new republic. While this child-centered, economically and morally self-sufficient model thrived in Pennsylvania from 1681 until the 1750s, its influence extended well beyond the eastern seaboard colonies and the eighteenth century. It became the model for the later and larger national expansion of the American republic.
Quaker domesticity shaped Pennsylvania's tendencies towards pluralism and republicanism. But it is ironic that the universalization of the Quaker family model coincided with the decline of Quakerism and the rise of a secular republican ideology lauded by various Enlightenment philosophes. "While the separation of church and state was the dominant trend in Anglo-American society, the Quakers actually increased the conflation of Quaker church and Pennsylvania state during the eighteenth century" (p. 155). While political Whigs held Quakers and their pacifism in contempt during the American Revolution, the fall of Quaker political hegemony in Pennsylvania led to a correlation between the private virtue embodied in their form of family life, and the non-authoritarian public virtue of republican political ideology.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Cloudburst on May 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Exploring, in detail, the evolution of Quaker cohorts from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century, Levy produces a thorough and novel study of early Anglo-American culture in eastern Pennsylvania. His premise seeks to unravel traditional arguments, which advance the belief that New England served as the primary model, and the origin, for the modern American household. Levy convincingly argues that domestic systems developed through the Quaker families, and not New Englanders, who emigrated from northwestern England. There practices, he contends, shaped the modern American familial landscape and solidified the domestic household. The study, according to Levy, "of Quaker Farmers in the Delaware Valley is chiefly the study of the origins of an influential form of domesticity in American life." (21)

The opening chapters detail the subtle, but important, distinctions between Puritans and Quakers. The former, according to Levy, focused on patriarchy and institutions while the latter emphasized the importance of women in the household, child rearing, and "sanctifying human relations and domestic arraignments in households and meetings."(50) Levy continues to develop the aforementioned arguments throughout his work, and weaves a cohesive, but sometimes dense, narrative that adequately ties Quaker family practices to those adopted by American households today.

Most interesting is Levy's discussion of land in the Quaker community, which focused on the distribution of land to Quakers children, especially their sons. According to the author, about "three hundred acres would seem to ensure to their children's households protection from `the world' and enough peace to enjoy and exemplify the `Truth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kim Burdick on July 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Quakers and the American Family" is a useful study of the early Quaker settlers of Chester County, Pennsylvania and the nearby Welsh Tract.

Levy looks carefully at the role of early Pennsylvania Quaker women as religious and social ministers both at home and in the community, and also examines the Quaker norm of buying land for each offspring. It is his hypothesis that their focus on the family was the precursor of the later, much-touted, nineteenth century cult of domesticity.

The first third of the book is dense with British statistics describing the cultural and economic heritage of Pennsylvania's Quakers. Some of the conclusions Levy makes about the differences between Pennsylvania Quaker and New England Puritan families can, and probably will be, be contested.

The first generation Quakers had vivid memories of the dangers of poverty and prejudice. Levy tells us that in response to previous bad experiences, New World Quakers created a family-centered religious community that encouraged land purchases, social and economic clout, and a gracious lifestyle.

His study of the second and third generations shows that this same upward mobility eventually led to the tightening up of religious restrictions, purging of meeting members and fewer young people following the Quaker faith.

If social and cultural history, southeastern Pennsylvania, colonial Quaker or women's history is your bag, "Quakers and the American family" is a good place to begin.

Kim Burdick
Stanton, Delaware
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