First edition of the first book length work on the Public Universal Friend, who founded one of the earliest homegrown Christian universalist sects in the United States.
HISTORY OF JEMIMA WILKINSON
"The [American] Revolution proved fertile ground for the growth of new religious sects because its unprecedented upheavals opened the door to extraordinary levels of spiritual ferment and social change." – Paul B. Moyer
The Public Universal Friend was born as Jemima Wilkinson in 1752 to a Quaker family. In 1776, Wilkinson contracted a dangerously high fever, experiencing the "death" of Jemima and the birth of a new spirit named the "Publick Universal Friend." The Friend adopted masculine dress typical of contemporary ministers and journeyed through New England as a prophet. According to Wisbey, "Public Friends were members of the Society of Friends who felt a concern or call to preach and were authorized to travel from meeting to meeting for that purpose." Followers referred to The Friend by both masculine and feminine pronouns; the Friend, however, was averse any gendered pronouns, "being neither man nor woman."<br />The Friend preached an apocalyptic, universalist gospel which had much in common with Quaker theology, and advocated strongly for abolition. The Friend drew a following that came to be known as the Society of Universal Friends, where "the Friend's leading female disciples exercised forms of power usually reserved for men" (Moyer). The Society became an early American religious community – before the Mormons, Christian Scientists, and Seventh-day Adventists. Indeed, this biography, which is far from positive (and resolutely uses "she" pronouns throughout), is quite reminiscent of similar biographies by nonbelievers of other American prophets like Joseph Smith. Hudson was one of the lawyers hired to undermine the Friend's estate, and this posthumous biography was an attempt to sway public opinion against the Society. It is important less for its factual accuracy than for its contemporary partisan reaction to an unusual offshoot of the First Great Awakening. A rare document about an early American queer public figure.
Read more: Wisbey, Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend; Moyer, The Public Universal Friend: Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in Revolutionary America.
Geneva, New York: Printed by S.P. Hull, 1821 [i.e. 1822]. Full title: History of Jemima Wilkinson, a preacheress of the eighteenth century; containing an authentic narrative of her life and character, and of the rise, progress, and conclusion of her ministry. 7'' x 4.5''. Modern paper spine, original printed paper boards dated 1822. New endpapers. Edges uncut. Appendix with additional biographical sources at the rear. 208, xx pages. Housed in custom cloth slipcase. Bookplate on front pastedown. A few signatures browned, original boards soiled and and rubbed, with pasteboard showing at corners.
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