The Public Universal Friend: Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in Revolutionary America (Hardback)Paul B. Moyer (author)
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Amid political innovation and social transformation, Revolutionary America was also fertile ground for religious upheaval, as self-proclaimed visionaries and prophets established new religious sects throughout the emerging nation. Among the most influential and controversial of these figures was Jemima Wilkinson. Born in 1752 and raised in a Quaker household in Cumberland, Rhode Island, Wilkinson began her ministry dramatically in 1776 when, in the midst of an illness, she announced her own death and reincarnation as the Public Universal Friend, a heaven-sent prophet who was neither female nor male. In The Public Universal Friend, Paul B. Moyer tells the story of Wilkinson and her remarkable church, the Society of Universal Friends.Wilkinson's message was a simple one: humankind stood on the brink of the Apocalypse, but salvation was available to all who accepted God's grace and the authority of his prophet: the Public Universal Friend. Wilkinson preached widely in southern New England and Pennsylvania, attracted hundreds of devoted followers, formed them into a religious sect, and, by the late 1780s, had led her converts to the backcountry of the newly formed United States, where they established a religious community near present-day Penn Yan, New York. Even this remote spot did not provide a safe haven for Wilkinson and her followers as they awaited the Millennium. Disputes from within and without dogged the sect, and many disciples drifted away or turned against the Friend. After Wilkinson's "second" and final death in 1819, the Society rapidly fell into decline and, by the mid-nineteenth century, ceased to exist. The prophet's ministry spanned the American Revolution and shaped the nation's religious landscape during the unquiet interlude between the first and second Great Awakenings.The life of the Public Universal Friend and the Friend's church offer important insights about changes to religious life, gender, and society during this formative period. The Public Universal Friend is an elegantly written and comprehensive history of an important and too little known figure in the spiritual landscape of early America.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 280
Weight: 794 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 30 mm
"Finally we have a full-scale scholarly study of one of the most unusual and quietly seismic religious figures in American history: prophetess Jemima Wilkinson, the Public Universal Friend. Paul B. Moyer dramatically captures the revolutionary atmosphere of Wilkinson's New England in 1776, a place percolating with radical ideas, among them: that a woman could serve as a religious leader. In tracking Wilkinson's career, Moyer rescues from the margins of history an esoteric figure as influential, in her own way, as Thomas Paine."-- Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and One Simple Idea
"In The Public Universal Friend, Paul B. Moyer considers Jemima Wilkinson as the entry point to important historical and historiographical issues even while he contributes to our understanding of religion and gender in the era of the American Revolution. Moyer uses to good effect the fortuitous conjunction of American independence and Wilkinson's rebirth in 1776. This is an impressive book."-- Erik R. Seeman, University at Buffalo, author of Death in the New World: Cross-Cultural Encounters, 1492-1800
"Paul B. Moyer deftly tells the compelling story of Jemima Wilkinson, a Rhode Island girl who grew up to become the Public Universal Friend. As a divine messenger, Wilkinson defied the constraints of gender and emerged as an international celebrity in the age of revolutions. With careful research and clear analysis, Moyer recovers an extraordinary, although long neglected, cultural figure of the early American republic."-- Alan Taylor, author of The Internal Enemy
"Paul B. Moyer's microhistory of the revolutionary-era prophet Jemima Wilkinson narrates the fate of Wilkinson's Society of Universal Friends in the western frontier of New York following her relocation there in the 1790s. This tangled story of property, law, and communitarianism has never been told so thoroughly or so incisively before. Moyer's detailed demographic, psychological, and cultural reconstruction of the prophet's followers constitutes a major contribution to our knowledge of how millenarian movements are born and evolve over time."-- Susan Juster, University of Michigan, author of Disorderly Women
"This is very thorough book. It has drama in terms of stories of sexual intrigue, attempted murder and legal battles over land, and as much detail on Wilkinson and her ideas as the evidence probably supports... [F]or anyone interested in Quakerism and revival offshoots or in this period of American religious history, the book is essential."-- Pink Dandelion, Centre for Research in Quaker Studies (University of Birmingham and University of Lancaster), Woodbrooke, England * Quaker Studies *
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