Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries

Quakerism began in 1647 when the 23 year old George Fox, born in Northern England, reached a low point in his search for true spirituality. The word “quakers” was originally an insult but its usage spread. The Religious Society of Friends did not emerge as the formal name of the group until the early 19th century.

They walk a line between faith and activism standing on the shoulders of iconic quakers who fought to make the world a better place.

Through non-violent struggles of key Quaker pioneers in abolition, suffrage, civil rights, economic and ecological justice, the film explores how Quaker values have become a driving force in American democracy, yet somehow out of the spotlight.

Film Website: External Website Link quakersthefilm.com

Production Credits
  • Janet Gardner — Producer/Director
  • Richard Nurse — Narrator and Co-Producer
  • Janet Gardner, Richard Nurse, Elena Mannes — Writers
  • Kevin Cloutier — Director of Photography
  • Doug Johnson — Sound Editor and Mixer
  • Stuart Wareing — Sound Recordist (UK)
  • Jack Mehlbaum — Sound Recordist (USA)
  • Laura Israel, Chelsea A. Smith, Michael Grenadier — Editors
  • John Vondracek — Graphic Design & Animation
  • Cynthia Edwards, Veronique Gauvin, Sopheap Theam — Associate Producers

Consultants

  • Max Carter, Director, Friends Center and Quaker Studies, Guilford College (ret.)
  • Ben Pink Dandelion, Hon. Professor in Quaker Studies, U. of Birmingham, UK
  • Thomas D. Hamm, Prof. of History,
    Curator, Quaker Collection, Earlham College
  • Candace McCoy, Prof. of Criminal Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Andrew R. Murphy, Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University
  • Delia Pitts, Rutgers University (ret.)
“Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries” was made possible by:

  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
  • New Jersey Historical Commission
  • Millennium Pharmaceuticals
  • International Flavors & Fragrances Foundation
  • Melanie Cendana & Keith Yeager
  • Wen Chyi Shyu & James E. Hook
  • Christopher & Edith Morren Family Fund
  • John Spears
  • Obadiah Brown’s Benevolent Fund
  • Tyson Memorial Fund
  • John Pemberton Fund
  • Isabel & Matthew Zisk
  • Libbie Counselman
  • Peter Janney
  • Thomas H. & Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund
  • D’Olier Foundation
  • Philip Gilbert

Photo Gallery

Click on photos to enlarge and view captions

Quotes

Elinor Smallman in The Friend magazine reported, "Richard Seebohm, of Oxford Meeting, told Eye that he felt the film ‘gives a sympathetic and well-documented history, albeit with a very American slant’…the documentary deftly handles nuanced aspects of Quakerism while remaining concise."
Karie Firoozmand in Friends Journal wrote, "In a time when many Friends are feeling the need for personal action amidst great fear and turmoil, Gardner draws a clear line from the earliest Friends to today, and gives us examples of how speaking truth to power looks when we see it in our own time."

Reviews

The Eye: Quiet Revolutionaries
The Friend (UK)
July 10, 2020

by Elinor Smallman

A film focused on Friends made its UK debut at the end of June.

Quakers: the Quiet Revolutionaries aired on the PBS America channel on Freeview on 25 June.

The documentary tackles common misconceptions early on, including the infamous confusion around porridge, then charts Quaker history from its roots up to the present day, with a focus on the United States.

A wide range of Quaker voices are featured, with interviews of a number of Friends, and an exploration of the influence, ministry and activism of figures such as George Fox, Margaret Fell, John Woolman, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Bayard Rustin and George Lakey, along with many others.

Footage of Meeting for Worship tends to focus on unprogrammed silent worship, but the film-makers also include contributions from evangelical programmed Friends.

The founding of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the significance of two Quaker presidents are highlighted in modern history, as is activism like the Quaker-led protests against the PNC Bank for financing mountaintop removal coal mining.

The film doesn't shy away from poor Quaker behaviour though. For example, it describes the role that Friends played in the introduction of solitary confinement as a form of imprisonment in the US, and the continuation of racial segregation in Quaker schools until it was made illegal in 1954.

Richard Seebohm, of Oxford Meeting, told Eye that he felt the film 'gives a sympathetic and well-documented history, albeit with a very American slant'.

He added: 'The AFSC gets a mention, but not the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which lobbies Washington. New to me is Friends Fiduciary, which combines investment management for Quakers with a very public stance on corporate behaviour. Other omissions in what is a very wide coverage include the Quaker business method.'

Overall the documentary deftly handles nuanced aspects of Quakerism while remaining concise, so Eye wasn't surprised to learn that the director and producer, Janet Paxton Gardner, is a Friend from Princeton Meeting and has served on a number of peace and social concern committees. She founded The Gardner Group in 1990 to direct and produce documentaries, 'committed to giving history a human face'.

For Friends who would like to see the film, a DVD is expected this summer and those who are interested can sign up to the mailing list on quakersthefilm.com to be notified when it becomes available.

+ Read full review
External Website Link “Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries”
New Hope Film Festival
June 30, 2018

Awards

  • NEW HOPE FILM FESTIVAL (2018) – Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary
  • FLICKERS’ RHODE ISLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (2018) – Flickers’ International Humanitarian Award Grand Prize
    Given annually to films or filmmakers who inspire social change and community outreach and strive to better the world in which we live.
  • LOUDOUN INTERNATIONAL FILM EXTRAVAGANZA (LIFE) 2019 – Audience Choice Award
  • NEW JERSEY FILM FESTIVAL SPRING 2019 – Honorable Mention

Purchase and Streaming Options

The video may be purchased from External Website Link the DVD page on the “Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries” Website.