In 1652, George Fox, preacher, climbed up Pendle Hill, a hill in Lancashire, a county in northern England. The climb was difficult but Fox continued because he felt God had called him to complete it. Once he had reached the top he claims he saw a vision from God that showed ‘what places held great people.’ He descended. A few days later, Fox preached at Firbank Fell, another hill in another county in northwest England, proclaiming that a church was unnecessary to the worship of God. And so the Quakers began.
The mid-1600s was a difficult time in England. The 1640s were marked by a damaging civil war that resulted in the public execution of the King Charles I. Two years later, the King’s son, creatively also called Charles, was banished. In place of the monarchy was a harsh theocracy headed by Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan. The build-up, fighting, and eventual establishment of Cromwell’s government was what dominated George Fox’s childhood. He had been born in Lancashire in 1624. He apparently was a pretty serious child who isolated himself from other children because he thought that their pranks and other activities (read: fun) were ungodly. Though his parents saw his piety and considered sending him to become a minister they eventually apprenticed him to a shoemaker. This is something no-frills-obsessed Fox would later claim was a good thing—no one really needed formal training to be a priest anyway.
When Fox was nineteen he began travelling to help answer his nagging spiritual questions and to preach. It was like the original finding-yourself road trip. Fox was appealing to many people because of his obviously common background and the fact that his often eccentric manners and lack of interest in outward appearance and social conventions (he wore the same outfit everyday which frequently smelled and he refused to cut his hair unlike other religious people of his time) appealed to other people looking to break away from the hierarchal structure that governed England.
The Quakers were a part of a wave a new sects of Christianity that formed when all the major existing Protestant groups in England began to feud. The early Quakers were pretty vocal and actively tried to seek and convert new members. This led to frequent run-ins with the law. Fox and his wife, Margaret Fell (considered the Mother of Quakerism which is kind of a vague title if you think about it) were both imprisoned several times throughout their careers due to the government’s dislike of his beliefs.
But what were those beliefs? Go to Quaker Beliefs section to find out.