Friendly Americans: representing Quakers in the United States, 1850-1920 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Connerley, Jennifer
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, representations of Quakers-like the Quaker Oats man-were perennially popular, on oatmeal canisters and throughout popular culture. In this dissertation, I examine popular representations of Quakers-in jokes, popular magazines, novels, images, advertising and other media-from 1850 to 1920. I also consider, where possible, Friends' reactions to these depictions. During this period, popular representations of Friends typically evidence a longing for the devout distinctiveness Friends were imagined to possess-evidenced by their plain dress, plain speech, and well-known restrictions against dishonesty and oath-swearing. The traditional and visible testimonies of Friends were quickly changing during the latter half of the nineteenth century. This evolution seemed to quicken the broader population's desire to retain and refashion a plain-dressed, old-fashioned representative of a national purity, piety, and unity that never existed. The most striking features of Quakers depicted in nineteenth century literatures and images center around the following categories: plain speech, abolitionism and women's rights, pacifism and war, plain dress (in the form of the Quaker bonnet), and the (in)famous Quaker Oats man. In the first body chapter, I explore the Quaker distinctive of plain speech, which seemed to acquire new and greater significance throughout the broader culture just as iv Friends were abandoning the witness. Rinsed of doctrinal significance, this testimony became an attractive and admirable anachronism, signifying an imagined set of old-fashioned values. In the third and fourth chapters, I explore the ways in which the Quaker witnesses for reforms and pacifism were absorbed and transformed by purveyors of popular culture who occasionally valued these testimonies but often reshaped them to suit opposing purposes. In the fifth and sixth chapters, I explore the ways in which dress and appearance-for Quaker women and the Quaker Oats man-were interpreted and commodified in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By appropriating the attractive and malleable image of a religious sectarian, American authors, artists, and entrepreneurs fashioned a normative and vaguely religious referent for American superiority.
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  • In Copyright
  • Maffly-Kipp, Laurie F.
  • Open access

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