Friends in Quaker history have strong foundations and beliefs centered around faith. Many Friends also inspired and had a significant impact on important movements in world history and even influenced game design. But there are also lesser-known Quakers who touched others through their contributions to art, science, and sociology.
Some stories follow:
Clive Sansom (1910-1981) was an English born poet and an educator who lived in Tasmania. He and his wife, Ruth, were both supervisors with the Tasmanian Education Department, in charge of its Speech Centre. As a poet, Sansom was best known for his performance poetry and his verses for children. He also wrote several plays.
Clive and Ruth were interested in the Religious Society of Friends and attended a few meetings. Their marriage was held at the Friends Meeting House in Winchmore Hill, and eventually, they joined Winchmore Meeting. Clive contributed poems and articles to Friends’ journals and studied religious topics. During the war, Clive was led to become a conscientious objector.
Clive’s impact on the literary world came through poetry. His poetry collection, The Witnesses, is based on the life of Jesus of Nazareth from the viewpoint of those who knew him during his time on earth. The collection won a joint poetry prize at the Festival of Britain in 1950 and has been performed all over the world.
Ursula Franklin (1921-2016) was a Canadian physicist, pacifist, and feminist. Born in Germany, she received her Ph.D. in experimental physics at the Technical University of Berlin in 1948. She later joined the University of Toronto’s Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science, becoming a full professor in 1973. She was an expert in the structure of metals and alloys, she pioneered the development of archaeometry, which applies modern techniques of materials analysis to archaeology.
As a Quaker, Ursula was involved in work for peace and justice, and issues related to women. In her faith, she found a resoluteness and a belief structure that did not contradict her beliefs, inequality, or peace. She was recognized for her contributions to science and her humanitarian work and received the Pearson Peace Medal in 2002.
Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012) was an American sociologist. He was born and raised in Seattle. In 1941, while attending the University of Washington, he was introduced to Quakerism and became a Quaker. He started working with AFSC the same year, helping Japanese families manage their affairs before internment. He spent many years in prison for violating exclusion and curfew orders on Japanese-Americans—but he also appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court. Much of Hirabayashi’s professional work focused on minorities and their integration into American Society, as well as on Middle Eastern social change.
After the war, Hirabayashi continued his education at the University of Washington, and received a Ph.D. in sociology. He initially taught in Beirut, Lebanon, and Cairo, Egypt. In 1959, he joined the faculty at the University of Alberta, where he served as the chair of sociology from 1970 to 1975 and retired in 1983.
In 2012, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, the highest civilian honor.
Lizzie Magie (1866-1948) was an American game designer and writer born in Illinois. Her father, James K Magie, was active in abolitionist circles and a supporter of Abraham Lincoln. While not a documented Quaker, Quaker ideals and community influenced Lizzie, and she lived among Quakers for a time in a free-thinking community called Arden. Her monopoly-like game, called The Landlord’s Game, was a hit in Quaker schools and communities throughout the US, and they ended up having a small influence on its design. The New York Times writes: Quakers who had established a community in Atlantic City embraced the game and added their neighborhood properties to the board.
Developed in her free time, this board game was an expression of Lizzie’s firmly held political beliefs.
Magie filed for a patent for her Landlord’s Game of economic theory in 1903, almost three decades before Monopoly hit the markets. She was in her 30s at the time, and women made up less than 1 percent of patent submissions.
Since few professions were open to Lizzie, she embarked on a career as a stenographer and a secretary. She patented her first invention in her 20s when she developed a gadget that allowed paper to pass through a typewriter roller with greater ease. In addition to her professional work, she also wrote poetry and short stories and performed comedy routines.
Though some Quakers have claimed Magie might have have been a Friend, it’s more likely that she, like many other independent thinkers, was just Quaker leaning. She did spend some summers at the Arden, Delaware Utopian community co-founded by the Quaker Architect William Lightfoot Price. We include her in this story because we all secretly wanted to know how Atlantic City Boardwalk ended up on the Monopoly game board.