Skip to main content

Friends, The (Religious) Society of

Friends, The (Religious) Society of, often called Quakers. A religious group of Christian derivation, emerging in the 17th cent. under the leadership of George Fox. His followers first called themselves ‘children of the light’, following Fox's emphasis on the inner light which takes precedence over external guidance. They came to be called ‘Friends’ from the statement of Jesus (John 15. 14), ‘You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ They were first called Quakers in 1650, when Fox commanded a magistrate to tremble at the name of the Lord—though the name occurs earlier, of those who experienced tremors in a religious ecstasy. The Friends oppose warfare (partly on grounds of the command of Christ, partly because warfare demonstrates a diseased humanity), and refuse to take oaths (since walking in the light means telling the truth). They were committed to the abolition of slavery ( John Woolman, 1720–72), women's suffrage ( Lucretia Mott, 1793–1880; Susan Anthony, 1820–1906), prison reform ( Elizabeth Fry, 1780–1845), and the care of the mentally ill.

The resistance of the Friends to 16th-cent. laws of religion led to considerable persecution. Many fled to the American colonies, where William Penn (1644–1718) founded Pennsylvania. Their spirit of personal truth was given classic expression in Robert Barclay's Theologiae Verae Christianae Apologia (1676: Apology for the True Christian Divinity, 1678). Despite Fox's Rule for the Management of Meetings (1688), which gave cohesion to the movement, there have been four subsequent divisions, especially that of the Hicksites, following Elias Hicks (1748–1830).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Friends, The (Religious) Society of." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 16 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Friends, The (Religious) Society of." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (March 16, 2019).

"Friends, The (Religious) Society of." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved March 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.