Sole survivor? A Dutch broadside by an early 18th century woman Friend

A few weeks ago we were enthralled to discover that the Library holds what is possibly the sole surviving copy of an early 18th century broadside by a little known woman Friend, Margaret Langdale (1684?-1742). It’s an undated exhortation in Dutch to the inhabitants of various towns in Friesland and North Holland, with no printer’s name or place of printing, signed simply “En uwe waare Vrindin[1] / M. LANGDALE”.

Though it appears in Joseph Smith’s Descriptive catalogue of Friends’ books (1867), we couldn’t find the broadside recorded in any other library catalogue.

Langdale. Aan de Inwoonderen (1717)

Langdale, Margaret. Aan de Inwoonderen van de Steden Leeuwaarden, Harlingen, en Workum in Friesland, en Medenblik in Noord-Holland. Published about 1717 (Library reference: Vol. D/48)

As far as we know, this is the only published writing of Margaret Langdale. Who was she, and what was her connection with the people of Leeuwarden, Harlingen, Workum and Medemblik?

From the Library’s Dictionary of Quaker biography and the Digest registers of births, marriages and burials, we learned that Margaret Langdale was born Margaret Burton around 1684, married Josiah Langdale, of Bridlington Yorkshire, around 1710, and had several children, at least one of whom died in infancy. In 1723 they left England to settle in Pennsylvania, with their two surviving children, Mary and John, but Josiah Langdale died on the voyage. In America, Margaret Langdale remarried, to Samuel Preston of Philadelphia, in 1724, and lived on in America to her death in 1742.

Some Langdale burials

Some Langdale burial entries in the Yorks Quarterly Meeting Digest registers – Margaret and Josiah’s son(s) Josiah and (possibly) Thomas. Note Thomas’s burial in John Richardson’s orchard.

Beside these simple birth, marriage and death facts, we learned that Margaret Burton/Langdale/Preston was a travelling minister. That is, she felt called to travel to disseminate Quaker beliefs and nurture Friends in distant meetings. A large proportion of Quaker travelling ministers from the earliest days were women, often working in pairs, enduring considerable hardship to take their message to meetings around the country and overseas. At a time when women were discouraged from speaking in public this was bravery indeed.[2]

During Josiah’s second visit to America from 1715 to 1716, Margaret Langdale undertook a religious visit to Ireland (and her concern for Irish Friends is one of the subjects of a manuscript letter of hers in the Library – Portfolio 36/94)[3]. Among other visits at this time, she journeyed to the continent around 1717 (sources differ).  She continued her travelling ministry once she was in America, visiting widely – in the short period between 1724 and 1729 alone she visited Long Island, Rhode Island, Nantucket, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina[4]. Philadelphia Monthly Meeting’s testimony to Samuel Preston, included a paragraph related to Margaret’s ministry which describes her “excellent gift in the ministry” (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, A collection of memorials (1787), p. 127).

Margararet Langdale testimony of Philadelphia MM

Testimony of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, appended to a memorial of Samuel Burton. In: A collection of memorials (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1787), p. 127

We can narrow down the printing date of the broadside Aan die Inwoonderen to the period 1710 to 1723, while Langdale was her married name. It seems fairly likely that it was written during or after a visit to Friesland and North Holland – probably around 1717 when she travelled to “Germany”. In the text she addresses the inhabitants (and also the “Vermaaner” – the Mennonite preachers) of the areas, exhorting them all to live upright lives, avoiding frivolity, strong drink, tobacco, and any worldly preaching, singing and praying not inspired directly by God’s spirit.

So we succeeded in identifying “M. Langdale”, and discovered that she had indeed travelled to Friesland and North Holland in the ministry, but tantalising questions remain. Who translated it into Dutch? Who printed the broadside? Did Margaret Langdale take copies with her to distribute? Or did Dutch Friends publish it either during or after her visit? Making works like this known through our online catalogue is a first step in helping researchers make links and find answers to such questions!

Over the weekend of Yearly Meeting we had the chance to show the broadside to visiting Dutch Friends, and to Gil Skidmore, the editor of Josiah Langdale 1673-1723: a Quaker spiritual autobiography (1999) – Josiah Langdale’s manuscript account of his spiritual journey to Quakerism (Library reference MS Box 10/10). We also reported it for inclusion in the Netherlands Short Title Catalogue, which records Dutch publications 1540-1800.

Dutch Friends in the Library

Dutch Friends in the Library during Yearly Meeting. Photograph by Trish Carn, courtesy of The Friend

Work on adding to our online catalogue is progressing fast: it now includes practically everything we hold published in the 17th and 18th centuries, most from the 1960s onwards, all our printed peace, anti-slavery and temperance material, and much more. The current phase of the project focuses on adding the remaining 19th and early 20th century books and pamphlets (over 7,600 existing collection items were added to our catalogue last year alone). We’ve been able to provide fuller, more consistent information through collaboration with other organisations, like the English Short Title Catalogue, Haverford and Swarthmore Quaker college libraries in Pennsylvania, Netherlands Short Title Catalogue and Copac.

Users can now search our holdings from anywhere in the world – and though we loved our card catalogue, we’re delighted there’s no longer such a need for you to come in to the Library and riffle through its drawers simply to find out whether or not we hold what you want.

M. Langdale catalogue card

The old catalogue entry for M. Langdale’s broadside – cut and pasted from Smith’s “Descriptive Catalogue”, with gradual accretions

[1] Note the feminine form “Vrindin” indicating that M. Langdale was a woman Friend

[2] You can read an excellent overview of the travelling ministry in Sylvia Stevens’ chapter in the Handbook of Quaker studies, edited by Angell and Dandelion (2013), and about 18th century women travelling ministers in Rebecca Larson’s book, Daughters of Light: Quaker women preaching and prophesying in the colonies and abroad, 1700-1775 (1999).

[3] Thomas Wight and John Rutty, A history of the rise and progress (1751), p.357

[4] Larson, Daughters of Light, p.93-4 and L. S. Hinchman, Early settlers of Nantucket, 2nd ed. (1901), p.319


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1 Response to Sole survivor? A Dutch broadside by an early 18th century woman Friend

  1. Pingback: Women’s History Month | Quaker Strongrooms

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