Updated on 9 February 2021
The eight-pointed red and black star was first worn by British Quaker relief workers during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1.
As part of the Friends War Victims Relief Fund, Quakers worked among the civilian population of towns and villages devastated by the war.
Quakers at the time wanted an identification to differentiate both themselves and their supplies from other groups who were carrying out similar efforts.
Until the star was adopted, the Quaker workers had used the British Union Jack as well as the Red Cross flag as symbols. This combination caused some confusion among the Prussian soldiers and made it easy for French civilians to mistake the Quakers for Red Cross workers. Neither of the relief groups desired this confusion of identity.
At the time, a red and black star was in use by the London Daily News Fund on its shipments to aid the poor in war-torn France. A decision by Quakers to use the star as their symbol was made with the newspaper’s approval. This enabled Quaker relief supplies to be given the same reduction of duty fees and ease of passage by customs authorities as those shipments made by the Daily News.
The Friends War Victim Relief Fund was revived at the outset of World War I in 1914, and again they adopted the star as their emblem. American Quakers also adopted the star symbol in 1917.
The star has been used in a variety of forms ever since, representing Quaker work for peace and the relief of suffering caused by war. When British and American Friends were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 the emblem of the dove of peace was added.
In recognition of both Quaker Peace and Social Witness and the American Friends Service Committee, who both use the star as their symbol, The Quaker Star Rose was developed in Northern Ireland, 1991.