A MEMOIR OF ELIZABETH HOOTON
Site Editor's Preface
It is sad that we have no Journal of record for Elizabeth Hooton, for her ministry was certainly inspiring and full of power. But the Memoir of her life is a testimony to her many years of courageous ministry - the Quakers' first woman minister- and one of the Quakers' greatest ministers of both genders. In Christ Jesus, there is no male or female, for all are sons of God; to this great son of God, one of the Lord's giant worthies, do we pay homage and tribute.
There were apparently many miracles that accompanied her testimony and ministry, but we have no definitive record, other than George Fox's very unusual comment in the below testimony for Elizabeth: "in the meetings at her house, the Lord by his power wrought many miracles."
Her bravery and courage are unparalleled, several times being imprisoned in England. But leaving her husband, home, and children she responded to the call of God to go the New England, where Quakers had been brutally killed and punished in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She then repeatedly returned to Boston and Cambridge under the call of God to witness against the brutality of the Puritan government, each time to be viciously lashed with flesh tearing whips, sent to prison, and several times carried into the winter wilderness, abandoned, and left to die. Yet she never hesitated to return, again and again. Until she finally attended the funeral of her chief persecutor, Massachusetts Governor John Endicott. Truly the Lord was with her to sustain her courage with his mighty power. She is an example of obedience for all of us to admire, following in the bloody footsteps of her Lord and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Indeed, if you are like me, as you read this short memoir of her life, your heart will be heavy, and you will be in awe that someone could be so brave; for until we witness with our own eyes the power of God over all heaven and earth, we will have doubts that we could ever be so courageous.
Elizabeth Hooton's life is a strong chapter in glorious record of the Early Quakers' faithfulness, courage, love, and obedience.
- George Fox’s Testimony for Elizabeth Hooton
She was a serious, upright-hearted woman to the Lord and received his Truth several years before we were called Quakers. She was moved of the Lord to go to New England, taking her daughter with her, to desire the persecuting priests and magistrates to take away the laws for imprisoning, spoiling of goods, whipping, branding with hot irons and cutting off the ears of Friends and putting them to death. Instead of heeding her pleas, they whipped her and her daughter very cruelly and put them out of their jurisdiction. She was moved of the Lord to return to Massachusetts, where the magistrates of Boston then passed sentence of death upon her and about 27 or 28 more, keeping them close prisoners. We obtained an order from King Charles the Second and hired a ship to carry it over that they might have a trial before the king, upon which they set them at liberty though they did not take away the persecuting laws.
Many prisons this poor Elizabeth Hooton was cast into only for serving and worshipping God and declaring the Truth, and about the year 1671 she traveled with me and others to Barbados and to Jamaica. Being a weak ancient woman and zealous for the Lord and his Truth, she died in the Lord; and is blessed, and at rest from her labors, and her works follow her.
She was convinced at Skegby in Nottinghamshire and held meetings at her house where the Lord by his power wrought many miracles, ... confirming people of the Truth which she there received about 1646, and fulfilled her ministry and finished her testimony about 1672.
She was a godly woman and had a great care laid upon her for people to walk in the Truth that did profess it, and from her receiving the Truth she never turned her back on it, but was fervent and faithful for it until death.
A MEMOIR TO ELIZABETH HOOTON
Elizabeth Hooton,(1600-672), was one of the first people to be convinced of the truth by George Fox, and the first woman to become a Quaker minister in 1650. She was the wife of a Samuel Hooton, who occupied a respectable position in society. She was not only the first female Quaker minister, but the second minister of the Society, and counted as one of the valiant sixty, a group of evangelists following George Fox to be sent by the Lord all over England. In his Journal, George Fox describes her as a very tender woman, when he visited her in 1647. She was a middle-aged, married woman when she met Fox in 1647 in Skegby, Nottinghamshire, and was already a nonconformist—specifically, a Baptist. She died while traveling in the Ministry with George Fox and others in Jamaica in 1672.
The love that I bear to the souls of all men makes me
She and her husband, Samuel, lived close to Mansfield where they raised six children. Her husband was an elder in their local assembly.
In 1647, she formed one of a company of serious persons, who occasionally met together; and at this date George Fox mentions her as "being a very tender woman.” For three years subsequently, little is known of her life ; "the meetings and discussions," however, that she had with George Fox, appear to have been the means of convincing her of the spiritual views of Friends. In his History, Sewel says that in 1650, "from a true experience of the Lord's work in man, she felt herself moved publicly to preach the way of salvation to others." George Fox had previously been the only one who publicly preached; she was, therefore, not only the first of her sex, but the second individual who appeared in this character in the early Quakers. The preaching of women at this period was not considered unusual. Several were known to be similarly engaged among several religious sects then in England. Elizabeth was very courageous, going into local churches alone to warn the members and reprove the ministers as false prophets. Elizabeth Hooton had not long followed her Lord in this high vocation, before her sincerity and faithfulness were tested by persecution in prison.
In 1651 she was imprisoned at Derby on complaint of having reproved a priest, and in the following year, while traveling in Yorkshire, was imprisoned for exhorting a congregation at Rotheram at the close of the service and taken to York Castle, where, with her friend Mary Fisher, she was confined for sixteen months.
In 1654, while on a gospel mission in Lincolnshire, she was imprisoned for five months at Beckingham, "for declaring the truth in the place of public worship." In the following year, she suffered three months imprisonment in the same county, "for exhorting the people to repentance." In the course of her early travels in the work of the ministry, she was also subjected to other kinds of suffering.
On the 2nd of the month called April (1660),* Elizabeth Hooton, passing quietly on the Road, was met by one Jackson, Priest of Selston, who abused her, beat her with many blows, knocked her down, and afterward put her into the water; although she does not appear even to have spoken to him.
She worked tirelessly to build the movement, preaching, writing, and traveling; even in her sixties she made the arduous journeys to New England and the Caribbean colonies several times, preaching to the unconvinced and strengthening the convinced.
The extreme cruelties to which Friends in New England had been exposed, excited deep sympathy among their fellow-members at home. In this feeling, Elizabeth Hooton largely shared; and, though conscious that suffering was almost sure to await her, she left her home in 1661, under a religious call from God to go to this persecuting province. This call by God to leave her home, husband, and children must have been very perplexing, despite seeing the good to result from it. We have records of male Quakers, who after receiving the call to leave family and home, resisted and delayed their decision, due to the impact on their lives. We don't know if Elizabeth delayed her decision, only that she responded. This transatlantic visit, and another which quickly followed it, occupied her for several years. The nine public lashings she received in Massachusetts exceeds all other numbers that the author of this work has seen. She was stripped to the waist, and with her hands tied to a post, publicly whipped with a three-corded whip, having three knots at the end, to tear the most flesh possible with each lash. On her third visit to New England, her daughter, who traveled with her, was also whipped in the same manner.
As a gospel minister, she appears to have stood high in the estimation of her friends; and although far advanced in age, when George Fox visited the West India islands and America in 1671, she was among those who accompanied him in this important and lengthy journey.
The Puritan (Congregationalists) leaders in America demonstrated deep hatred and envy to the Quakers, who first arrived in 1656. Because the Quakers insisted that a believer’s heart must be thoroughly cleansed to be able to walk sin free, even with the inclination of sin removed, the puritans were incensed; for the puritans believed they were God’s chosen people, saved by grace with nothing further required except diligent church attendance. Any different opinion on how to please God had to be from the devil. The New England puritans, themselves having fled from England to escape persecution, became even worse persecutors that what they fled to escape.
In the year 1661, Elizabeth Hooton felt the leading of God to visit New England. Along with her friend, Joan Brocksoppe, they felt the necessity to witness Truth to the Puritans that were so wickedly persecuting Quakers to their death. These persecutions took place in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They recognized that they might have to die for their testimony while demonstrating their love for the souls of the Puritans, whom they hoped would repent from their horrible persecutions. She was 63 years old when she started this journey, which took great courage on their part because four Quakers had already been executed in Massachusetts. So they knew they faced the possibility of death; yet God wanted strong witnesses to go up against the evil of the Puritan persecutors. The authorities had passed an act against the cursed Quakers, which made it possible to banish any Quakers from the colony and to execute them if they returned. In 1659, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson had been hung in Boston. Mary Dyer was hung in1660 and William Leddra in 1661.
Because the New England Puritans had made a law that any ship that brought a Quaker to New England would be fined ₤100, and then would have to transport them back to England, they could not find a ship willing to take them to Boston. So they took a ship going to Virginia. When they arrived in Virginia, they could not find a ship willing to transport them to Boston. So, except for a small leg of the journey by boat, they traveled overland, which was very dangerous.
After a long and hard journey, they arrived in Boston; but there they couldn't soon find a home in which to stay, because anyone who provided housing or food to the Quakers was subject to a large fine. Yet at length a woman received them. The next day they went to the prison to visit their friends; but the jailer refused to allow their visits and arrested them, taking them to the Massachusetts Governor Endicott, who, with much scurrilous language, called them ' witches.' He asked Elizabeth ' Why she had come?' To which she answered: 'To do the will of Him that sent me.' And he demanded: ' What was that ?' She replied: ' To warn you of shedding any more innocent blood.' To which he returned 'that he would hang more [Quakers] yet ;' but she told him 'he was in the hands of the Lord, who could take him away first.' After imprisonment, they were carried two days' journey into the wilderness, among wolves and bears and amidst many dangers; they were left there to die, but they kept walking until they arrived at Rhode Island. From this colony they went on a visit to the West Indies; but believing that it was required of them to revisit New England, and testify against the spirit of persecution, they soon after returned to Boston. The authorities, however, being bent on their expulsion, caused them to be arrested and conveyed back to the ship in which they had come. In this they returned to Virginia, and soon after to their native land.
The following letter, written by Joane Brocksoppe to Margaret Fell, after her first banishment from Boston, is still preserved among the Swarthmore Original Manuscripts.
When Elizabeth arrived home in England, her cattle were seized for her not paying tithes. She was ordered by the Lord to go to London to make an appeal to the King and his council. She stated her appeal was not so much to address her own property, as to use the injustice of her cattle being taken to address the powers regard the Quakers' suffering persecution, not only in England, but also in New England. She had been told by the Lord on her sea voyage back to England, that she was to go to the king, whether he would hear her or not, at the risk of her life.
So in 1662, she went and spoke very strongly in the court of the King, at Whitehall, and to many soldiers against oppression of Quakers.
She tracked the King to his tennis courts, confronting him at his coach, pleading for justice. She tracked him on his walks in the park, again confronting him, but never kneeling. She stood outside the court, waiting for him to pass by in his coach, and then pleaded for justice. She entered the court, through the aroused sympathies of the soldiers, and preached to the King and his council with the power of God risen in her; at which point they expelled her, forbidding her to preach there. So the next morning she went in sackcloth and ashes to Westminster Hall, speaking against the lawyers' injustices, which was greatly noticed and which affected many.
She wrote to the king very eloquently, reminding him of her persecution in New England, her siding with the King’s Commissioners, admonishing the puritans to not fight their laws preventing discrimination, and pleading against the oppressive imprisonments and seizures of goods for not paying tithes. She also related the cruel persecutions that she had undergone in Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Hooton had not been long home, before the duty of returning to New England, more particularly to Massachusetts, revived with increased weight and clearness. In making a third attempt to visit this persecuting colony, she deemed it advisable, in order to prevent banishment, to obtain if possible, a license from the king to settle in any of the colonies of Britain, and "to buy a house for herself to live in, Friends to meet in, and ground to bury their dead in." She was in very sufficient circumstances, and the king, on being informed of her repeated expulsions from Massachusetts, readily granted the license. Some say the king was happy to grant her wish in order to get rid of her convicting presence. Thus authorized, she set sail in a ship bound for Boston, accompanied by her daughter Elizabeth. The captain of the vessel was not ignorant that those who should land Friends in that colony were liable to a heavy fine; but as his passenger was fortified with a royal permit, he felt secure against such an imposition. On their arrival at Boston, the authorities attempted to enforce a fine of one hundred pounds upon the captain, and they were only deterred from seizing his goods for the amount of the license in question.
Desirous of speedily accomplishing the object for which she came, Elizabeth Hooton made efforts to obtain a dwelling for herself and for the security of her friends. The rulers, who had previously expelled every English Quaker preacher that had ventured within their limits, resolved that Elizabeth Hooton should not settle among them; and, in contempt of the royal order, peremptorily refused to recognize her right to purchase land in the territory. After repeated but ineffectual solicitations to the authorities at Boston on this subject, she proceeded on her gospel mission to the northern parts of Massachusetts, in the course of which she was subjected to much cruel suffering. At Hampton she was imprisoned for testifying against the rapacity of a priest in seizing the goods of a Friend. At Dover, during very cold weather, she was placed in the stocks, and imprisoned for four days. Passing through Cambridge on her return, she felt called to exhort the inhabitants to repentance, an act of dedication for which she suffered still greater severities. At the instance of the magistracy, she was arrested, and for two days and two nights confined in a "noisome dungeon," without food, and without anything to lie down or even to sit upon. It may be difficult to estimate the actual amount of physical hardship endured by one under such painful circumstances, but it will be readily imagined, that with the damp floor of a pestilential dungeon as the only resting-place of an aged female for forty-eight hours, in cold weather and without sustenance, her sufferings must have been exceedingly great. While in this distressed condition, a Friend, touched with sympathy for her, brought her a little milk; but for this act of Christian kindness, the authorities of Cambridge arbitrarily fined him five pounds, and committed him to prison. On the third day of her imprisonment, Elizabeth Hooton being brought before the Court, was sentenced to be whipped through three towns and expelled the colony. Elizabeth was then stripped to the waste and whipped through Cambridge, Watertown and Dedham, with a three-corded whip having three knots at the end, which tore at the flesh; at Cambridge she was tied to the whipping-post, and received ten lashes; at Watertown she was beaten with ten strokes from willow rods ; and at Dedham ten lashes more "laid on with exceeding cruelty while tied to the rear of a cart." She and her daughter were also forced to walk through deep snow for eighty miles, traveling between the three towns, while tied behind a cart.
Miserably torn and bruised by these severities, the aged sufferer was now placed on horseback and carried into the wilderness, where she was left towards night in a defenseless condition to die in the cold of winter. According to all human probability, her life would be sacrificed under such aggravated circumstances, and this, it seems, her inhuman persecutors had in view; they hoped as they said, on leaving her in the forest wild, never to see her more. However, their wicked design was frustrated. She was remarkably cared for by her divine Master, and through "dismal deserts," and "deep waters," she was favored at length to reach the town of Rehoboth, from where she proceeded to her friends on Rhode Island, praising and magnifying Him who had so signally supported her under these grievous cruelties, and who had counted her worthy to suffer for his great Name.
Elizabeth Hooton, on her banishment from Cambridge, had not been permitted to take away her clothes and some other articles; after staying, therefore, in Rhode Island, until she was refreshed, she returned, in company with her daughter, to claim her property. Having obtained her objective, and being on the way back to Rhode Island with her daughter and with Sarah Coleman, an aged Friend of Scituate, (Pembroke), who happened to meet them in the woods, they were arrested and taken again to Cambridge, where they were all three immediately imprisoned. The authorities, in unison with their previous conduct, ordered the prisoners, (she and her daughter also), to be whipped in three towns, and to be sent out of their jurisdiction; on the following morning, therefore, they received the usual number of ten stripes at Cambridge, and the same number in each of two other towns lying in the direction of Rhode Island.
Notwithstanding the cruelties to which Elizabeth Hooton had thus been repeatedly exposed, for entering Massachusetts, when she believed it was required of her by her Divine Master, she did not hesitate again to visit that colony. Before the close of the year in which she had been twice so cruelly expelled from its limits, she proceeded a third time to Boston, to preach, as it is expressed, "repentance to the people ;" but her message was received with scorn, and her warnings were unheeded. Here, as at Cambridge, she was committed to prison, and received the usual sentence of "vagabond Quakers." Pursuant to the cruel order, she suffered at the whipping-post in Boston, and at the cart's tail in the towns of Roxbury and Dedham, and was afterwards during the night, in her lacerated state, carried into the wilderness and left to die; she was however, enabled, though with great difficulty, to reach Rhode Island on the following day.
Soon again she was impressed with the belief that it was required of her to return to Boston, and without "conferring with flesh and blood" this persecuted minister of Christ was faithful to the divine call. This act of dedication, however, was again followed with severe suffering. She was whipped from the prison in Boston, "to the end of the town," and afterwards in other towns and out of the jurisdiction ; the threat being added, that "if ever she came there again, they would either put her to death, or brand her on the shoulder."*
Thus was this devoted woman, who was of reputable character and substance, and perfectly peaceable and inoffensive, for her faithful endeavors to perform her gospel mission, cruelly persecuted with three imprisonments, nine severe whippings, and two perilous exposures in the wilderness to perish by wild beasts, or by cold and starvation. But though her afflictions thus abounded, yet her inward consolations did much more abundantly flow; under the precious enjoyment of which, she declared her willingness to endure much more, for the propagation of righteousness, and for her love for the souls of her fellow-creatures.
It does not appear how long Elizabeth Hooton remained in New England on the occasion of this visit; the grievous sufferings, however, to which she had been subjected, did not cause her to shrink from again visiting that land, when religious duty called her. At the time of Endicott's death,* in the First Month, 1665, we find her again at Boston; and as she was imprisoned for attending the funeral of this notorious bigot, the probability is that she attempted to exhort the company against persecution, and to call their attention to the judgment of the Most High upon the deceased, as evidenced in the miserable condition in which he died.*
Twice afterwards she was imprisoned at Boston, once at Braintree, and once at Salem ; at the latter place her horse was also taken away, which obliged her, in order to get to Rhode Island, to travel seventy miles on foot. Through all her trials and afflictions in this country, she was greatly comforted with the presence of her Savior, in the precious enjoyment of which, she felt willing to endure much more for his sake, and for that of her fellow-creatures. "Yes," she observed, "the love that I bear to the souls of men, makes me willing to undergo whatever can be inflicted on me."
She again she made her way back to England, where she resumed her work as an itinerant preacher, but in 1665 she was committed to Lincoln jail for three months on a charge of disturbing a congregation.
George Fox, the Quaker leader, called for volunteers for Christian service in the West Indies. Immediately Elizabeth stepped forward, feeling 71 years young. She arrived in Barbados, where for several weeks she preached and exhorted as part of the Quaker mission; but when they next went to Jamaica, she died one week after landing.
On that day, January 8, 1672, James Lancaster, a Quaker, found Elizabeth Hooton weak and struggling to breathe. This was somewhat surprising, for just the day before, this Quaker giant had been to town, exhorting members of the Society of Friends. James made his way upstairs and looked in on Elizabeth. "She was very swollen and I said, 'Let her have air.' They opened the windows and opened her bodice; and then her breath came and she looked up and saw me, but could not speak. I said, 'Let us put her to bed lest she get cold, and we did and she looked upon me and I her. My life (of Christ within) rose toward her and also her life answered mine with great joy between us.
"And she said, 'It is well, James, you have come;' and fastened her arms about me and said, 'Blessed be the Lord God that made us partakers of those heavenly mercies...' and more words to the like effect; and embraced me with a kiss and laid herself down and turned her self on her side and so her breath went weaker and weaker until it was gone from her and so she passed away as though she had been asleep; and none knew of her departure but as her breath was gone..."
With such peace, Elizabeth Hooton greeted death while on a mission of encouragement to Jamaica.