Updated on 16 March 2021
The Valiant Sixty were a group of early Quaker activists and missionaries who traveled across Britain preaching Quakerism.
These Quaker missionaries were unusual in their time. Most other preaching was done by well-educated ordained male clergymen, but most of the Valiant Sixty were ordinary farmers and tradesmen, and several of them were women. Although the number of these missionaries is given as 60 the actual number was likely a little higher.
Early Practitioners Of Civil Disobedience
Because the Valiant Sixty came from the northern part of England they were considered backward. Many of them suffered imprisonment or corporal punishment or both, because they went against the church structure in place in England at that time. Once Quaker practices were outlawed, they technically broke the law and can therefore be seen as early practitioners of civil disobedience.
Members of the Valiant Sixty traveled not only throughout England, but to the rest of Great Britain, to Europe, to North America. One of them, Mary Fisher, went as far as Turkey and spoke with the Sultan about her Quaker beliefs.
Swarthmoor Hall, the home of Margaret Fell, became the anchor for Quakerism and remained so throughout her long life. She corresponded directly with every man and woman traveling in England and elsewhere to proclaim the Quaker message.
She coordinated their efforts and helped their families financially when they were imprisoned for their beliefs. They were always welcome at the hall.
There were actually more than 60 Quakers in the Valiant Sixty and the group included the following influential Friends:
- George Fox is often considered the founder of the Friends movement. Some historians believe that he was one among several people with similar religious ideas who eventually banded together. He outlasted some of the other leaders, and his speeches and journal were very influential.
- Edward Burrough was an early preacher and apologist for the Friends who debated John Bunyan in a series of tracts.
- Mary Fisher was a preacher and missionary who traveled to the New World and to Turkey to spread Friends beliefs.
- Francis Howgill was already a Nonconformist when he met Fox. It is possible that he influenced Fox as much as Fox influenced him. His wife Mary was also a member of the Valiant Sixty.
- Elizabeth Hooton was a former Baptist who joined the Society of Friends in its early days.
- James Nayler was a very radical member of the Society of Friends. Fox and he had a disagreement about his more radical behavior, but he was certainly one of the most influential Friends in those days.
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