Quakers believed in the equality of all people, including women. They promoted education for women and encouraged them to participate in business and government. In 1776, Mary Dyer became the first woman to sign a petition calling for American independence from Britain.
In 1787, Esther DeBerdt Reed became the first woman to publish a newspaper in the United States. She was also an editor for several other papers and magazines.
In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued that Quakers were instrumental in securing women’s rights: “It was not until the Friends had passed away from our shores that our general government began to move toward its present condition of infamy.”
In 1849, Lucretia Mott became the first woman to speak at a public meeting of Quakers. She spoke at an anti-slavery meeting in Philadelphia with Sojourner Truth as her companion speaker. This event helped lead to the abolitionist movement.
Quakers were instrumental in establishing many schools for girls and young women. They created the first system of public education in America at Swarthmore College in 1869.
In politics, women were not allowed to vote or hold office until 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed by Congress after years of struggle by suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and Lucretia Mott (1793–1880).