The Society of Friends, popularly known as the Quakers, is a religious movement that began in England in the 1640s. Led by George Fox, the denomination was noteworthy for a number of reasons, most notably for their pacifism and openness to women and non-European groups. They began coming to the American colonies in 1656, first settling in New England but then primarily in New Jersey and Pennsylvania after suffering persecution in Massachusetts. By the end of the seventeenth century, Quakers were the third largest denomination in the colonies. Their tolerant attitudes towards women, African Americans, and Native Americans, made Quakers early leaders in the women's rights, anti-slavery, and Native American rights movements. The denomination also began to splinter in the nineteenth century, eventually creating distinctions between Orthodox Quakers and other sects within the movement. The 1800s also saw the Quakers continue to spread westward with other Americans and develop pockets of Quakerism throughout the nation, especially in the Midwest.
Thomas D. Hamm, "Society of Friends," The Oxford Companion to United States History, ed. by Paul S. Boyer (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 731; A. Glenn Crothers, Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012); James Emmett Ryan, Imaginary Friends: Representing Quakers in American Culture, 1650-1950 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009); Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost, The Quakers (New York: Greenwood, 1988); Gary B. Nash, Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968).