International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.


[Numerical links are to the author's footnotes, use your back button to return to the same point in the text. Text links are to relevant items on the IVU website, all open in new windows]


Victorian Quakerisrm had been closed, 'tribal' in its family basis, and heavily influenced by evangeiicalism. (1) In the 1890s, however, a revolution took place with the adoption of liberal theology and the recovery of the Inner Light tradition; and the way was now open for very wide interpretations of Christianity, ones free from dogmatic obligation and resting on a mixture of individual experience and commitment to transforming activity in the world. These developments went also with the rediscovery after the Boer War and the Great War, of the central role of the peace witness. This last had a profound effect on the shaping of Quakerism in the interwar years for it both acted as an important recruitment agent, (2) and took Quakerism into a wider social milieu. The Society became much more open in these years and discarded most of the old 'machinery of isolation'. William Marwick has traced the impact on the Society in these years of the newly convinced Quakers who had been attracted by the peace issue, and who had already formed their social and political views and who found in Quakerism a rational expression of them. (3) Quakerism became associated with that range of liberal, progressive and left-wing social movements that mark the interwar period and provide vegetarianism with its background. (4) It is through these links and through its disassociation from any dogmatic statements that Quakerism became in this period peculiarly acceptable in the eyes of radicals, intellectuals and humanists, many of whom were otherwise hostile to Christianity. It also attracted a higher proportion of men than the other interwar religious groups.

There had been a vegetarian Quaker link from at least the eighteenth century, reinforced in the nineteenth by the shared temperance link, and by other connections through [anti-]vivisection and social purity. (5) The association does not become significant however, until the changes of the early twentieth century. Friends' Vegetarian Society was founded in 1902 ‘to spread a kindlier way of living amongst the Society of Friends'. (6) As with many such small groups, the society waned and flourished with the involvement of certain active individuals: Arthur Brayshaw just before the First World War and after, Lyn and Eleanor Harris and Joan Mary Fry in the twenties, Terence and Grace Lane in the forties and after. Numbers were not large and as with other vegetarian societies did not reflect the total numbers among the Friends who were vegetarian or were favourably inclined towards it. During the late twenties Eleanor Harris, co-principal of St Christopher School, Letchworth, managed to have the sentence 'Let the Law of Kindness know no limits; show a loving consideration to all God's creatures' added to the revised edition of Advices and Queries, the body of principles recommended for the serious consideration of all Quakers. (7)

The association between Quakerism and vegetarianism is largely through the shared commitment to ethical seriousness and the conscientious consideration of action. At the temperamental level, it is through a common emphasis on moderation and control, and the pursuit of frugality and of plainness of living. There is a tendency for Quakers to stress the humanitarian argument; and the central Quaker concern for the sanctity of life is often mentioned. (8) Health and medical aspects are not absent; Brayshaw, for example, argued strongly against vaccination and put forward nature-cure concepts of health; (9) however, more common is the belief that while vegetarianism may be a healthy way of life, it is the rejection of the suffering of animals and respect for the unity of life that impelis its adoption. (10)

In religious terms they stand clearly apart from the Gnostic tradition, though their doctrinal freedom and emphasis on the Inner Light - itself of course in origin influenced by the seventeenth-century Behemist tradition - give them certain shared approaches; and among the vegetarian Quakers there are some signs of closer affinities. Thus Joan Mary Fry writing of the 'Cosmic Christ' said 'All Life comes from the Life Force and this life force needs delicate material to build up the finest inward spirit; dead matter like meat cannot do this, but whole natural food could be a sacrament.’(11) Donald Groom summed up the interconnections:

Vegetarianism arises out of an attitude of mind - an attitude which accepts a unity of life, linking man with the whole creation; an attitude which looks upon the human body as one channel of expression of the Divine nature which becomes true as it is purified; an attitude which sees all life as purposeful and under a rule of law; an attitude which recognises the interplay between the material and spiritual. (12)

  1. 189. See E. Isichei, Victorian Quakers, 1970.
  2. 190. It is clear from the membership figures published annually that the Society did recruit in relation to war convincements, both male and female, peak in 1913 and the war years, and in 1939, Membership between the wars stands at figures between 19,000-20, 000.
  3. 191. William H. Marwick, Quaker Social Thought, Woodbrooke Papers No 2, 1969, p21.
  4. 192. Thus they were involved in community ideas like Jordans and the Garden City Movement (see Arthur L. Hayward, Jordans: The Making of a Community, 1969); in environmental health, through the Peckham experiment; in the relief of unemployment in the allotments scheme and at Bryn Mawr (for the allotments scheme whose moving spirit was Joan Mary Fry, a vegetarian Quaker, see her Friends Lend a Hand in Alleviating Unemployment, 1947, and account in VN, Feb 1933, p50); in Indian independence; in socialism; in progressive education; in esperanto (Brayshaw, Butler and Privat were all Quaker esperantists and vegetarians.
  5. 193. See Arthur Brayshaw, 'The Kindlier Way', Friends Quarterly Examiner, 1935, p210, for some of these earlier links.
  6. 194. See Terence Lane, Some Aspects of the History of the Friends Vegetarian Society, 1979.
  7. 195. Not at the time, however, without some opposition; wider Quaker concern over animal issues tends to emerge prominently only after the Second World War, in particular in the context of factory farming and ecology.
  8. 196. For a range of such testimonies see two anthologies, Our Lesser Brethren, n.e., and Our Approach to Vegetarianism, n.d., where Quaker vegetarians explain their beliefs.
  9. 197. See page 237. These alternative medical ideas are not reflected in the discussions of the Quaker Medical Society for the interwar years (see their news sheets).
    ARTHUR BRAYSHAW: 1871-1951, educated at Ackworth, lived in Letchworth Garden City where he worked in the office of Parker and Unwin.
  10. 198. See Trevor and Mary Jepson in Our Approach to Vegetarianism for reservations about the health argument.
  11. 199. Quoted in T. Lane, Some Aspects, p7
  12. 200. Our Approach, p1.

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