Quakers Australia

Australian Quaker Biographies

There are three parts to the biographies on this website:

  1. Biographical information about former Australian Quakers. This consists of over 700  files of information about people who have died and were formerly associated with Quakers in Australia.
  2. Quaker arrivals before 1862. This is a list giving additional information about nearly 600 people associated with Quakers known to have arrived in Australia prior to 1862.
  3. Audio files. These are short biographies about some prominent Quakers.

More detail is shown in each section below.


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Biographical information about former Australian Quakers

The Dictionary of Australian Quaker Biography was first compiled by William Oats in 1989 with the assistance of several Friends. Material was drawn mainly from testimonies and references in The Australian Friend, The British Friend, The Friend and the Proceedings of London Yearly MeetingThe first edition contained information about Australian Quakers who died before 1989 and has since been updated each year. 

There is now information about over 1,350 people on this website who have been significantly associated with Quakers in Australia, including both former members and others who have attended Quaker Meetings for a significant period in their lives.

The information included for each person may be very brief (the Minute of a Meeting recording their death) or more extensive. It may include a Testimony to the Grace of God in the person's life (“aspects of the Friend’s life that reveal the workings of the Spirit in the world, as an inspiration to others”) as well as newsletter articles about or by them and other biographical information, including photographs in some cases. There will also be a note if there is an entry for that person in the Biographical Index of Quakers in Australia before 1862 below.

The information is in text files on this website and the search option above can be used to access the files. The files are named using the person's Family Name at the date of death, but the search engine will bring up entries containing the maiden name or other previous names. It will also indicate people who are mentioned in another person's biographical information.

Additional information may be available about the people on this website and can be requested by contacting the Australia Yearly Meeting Secretary who may also have information about other Quakers not on this website. If you have any problems, comments or suggestions, please contact the Biographies coordinator.

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Quaker arrivals before 1862

Marjorie and William Oats carried out extensive research into the early Quakers in Australia for William's book A question of survival; Quakers in Australia in the nineteenth century (William Nicolle Oats, University of Queensland Press, 1985). One of the outcomes of that research was an unpublished Biographical Index of Quakers in Australia before 1862 (the "Pre-1862 Index"). All the people in that Index appear on this website with basic information and contain a reference to their presence in the Pre-1862 Index. They can be found by doing a search above. The pdf files below (based on the family name at the date of death) may contain additional information for that person. The pdf file Introduction, sources and references contains further background information about the Index.

A to B C D to F G to H I to J K to L M N to P R S T to Z

The Index covers the early years of settlement of Quaker migrants in the Australian colonies up to and including the year 1861, when London Yearly Meeting gave formal recognition to the Monthly Meetings of Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart. The index contains the names of all those who had some defined relationship with the Society of Friends by membership, attendance or connection by family, schooling or burial and who spent some time in the colonies during this period. Numbers of these returned to England or Ireland and hence were not permanent settlers.

The sources used are basically Quaker. The information does not purport to be definitive or exhaustive, but in some cases is quite extensive. Where possible, the children of this first generation of Quaker migrants were listed if they were born before 1862 but it was not possible to follow these further in any detail.

An attempt was made to cover the following range of information:

  • Name, years of birth and death.
  • Parentage, place of birth and occupation of parents.
  • Schooling - particulars of enrolment at Friends’ Schools.
  • Quaker status – membership, Meeting, etc.
  • Place and date of arrival, and occupation.
  • Marriage, children, death and other information which may be useful.

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Audio files

Short biographies of some well-known Quakers were compiled by David Purnell (Canberra Regional Meeting). They were recorded for broadcasting on the Canberra Dove Talk radio program and/or published in the Canberra Quaker Newsletter.

You can listen to the broadcasts by clicking on the names below. Their year of birth is shown and the final column contains links to other information about the person. The text of all these talks is available here.

  James Backhouse   1794 
  Narrative of a visit to the Australian Colonies
  Elise Boulding   1920   Active in peace research and peacebuilding and nominated for a Nobel Peace prize
  George Cadbury   1839   Bourneville: England and Bourneville Village Trust today
  Pierre Ceresole   1879   Founded the Service Civil International
  Adam Curle   1916     A worker, teacher and writer for peace
  Margaret Fell   1614   The “Mother” of Quakerism
  Elfrida Vipont Foulds   1902   An educator and scholar, she was a prolific writer
  George Fox   1624   Journal of George Fox
  Elizabeth Fry   1780   Elizabeth Fry's first visit to Newgate Prison
  Donald Groom   1914   Donald Groom Fellowship
  Ham Sok Hon   1901   A prominent civil rights activist in Korea
  David Hodgkin   1914   A Mature Religion for today
  Florence James   1902   Co-author of "Come in Spinner", later turned into an ABC TV series
  Rufus Jones   1863   Quaker Historian and William Penn Lecturer in 1918
  Muriel Langford   1913   Conscientious Objector, Political lobbyist & Missionary
  Kathleen Lonsdale   1903   The Scientist who discovered Lonsdaleite
  Francis Mather   1844   Friends School 1887 - 1947 and present day
  Lucretia Mott   1793   Activist, abolitionist, social reformer and Remembered in Cheltenham
  Valerie Nichols
  1920   Her motto "No one is for self alone", she helped to establish WILPF in Tasmania
  William Oats   1912   Teacher, historian, author
  William Penn   1644   He became the first Hero of American Liberty
  Gerald Priestland   1927   An author and broadcaster for the BBC in the UK.
  Margaret Roberts   1910   Her 1937 - 1944 diary of bush walks is in the State Library of Victoria
  Caroline Stephen   1834   A Quaker Influence on Modern English Literature
  Marjorie Sykes   1905   Born in the UK, she went to live in India and was involved in education
  Hendrik van der Merwe   1929   A South African academic who worked for peace
  Elizabeth Gray Vining   1902   Born in the USA, she taught Japan's Crown Prince
  Elizabeth Watson   1914   A strong concern for social justice, including race relations and homosexuality
  Margaret Watts   1892   Migrant community Advocate, Welfare worker and Peace activist
  John Woolman   1720   A Quaker preacher and early abolitionist.

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