John Woolman (October 19, 1720 – October 7, 1772) was a North American merchant, tailor, journalist, and itinerant Quaker preacher, and an early abolitionist in the colonial era. Based in Mount Holly,...

Woolman published numerous essays, especially against slavery. He kept a journal throughout his life; it was published posthumously, entitled The Journal of John Woolman (1774). Included in Volume I of the Harvard Classics since...

John Woolman was born in 1720 into a family belonging to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)....

During his youth, he happened upon a robin's nest that held hatchlings. Woolman began throwing rocks at the mother robin to see if he could hit her. After killing the mother bird, he was filled with remorse,...

Woolman married Sarah Ellis Abbott, a fellow Quaker, in a ceremony at the Chesterfield Friends Meeting. They had a daughter Mary. His choice to lead a "life of simplicity" meant sacrifices for his family,...

As a young man, Woolman began work as a clerk for a merchant. When he was 23, his employer asked him...

By the age of 26, he had become an independent and successful tradesman. He refused to write the part of a will that included disposing of a slave and, in that case, convinced the...

Woolman was committed to the Friends' Testimony of Simplicity. While in his 20s, he decided that the retail trade...

He addressed issues of economic injustice and oppression in his Journal and other writings, and knew international trade had local effects. Despite supporting himself as a tailor, Woolman refused to use or...

Woolman decided to minister to Friends and others in remote areas on the frontier. In 1746, he went on his first ministry trip with Isaac Andrews. They traveled about 1,500 miles round-trip in...

In 1754 Woolman published Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes. He continued to refuse to draw up wills that bequeathed ownership of slaves to heirs. Over time, and working on a...

Woolman worked within the Friends' tradition of seeking the guidance of the Spirit of Christ and patiently waiting to achieve unity in the Spirit....

He lived out the Friends' Peace Testimony by protesting the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the North American front of the Seven Years' War between Great Britain and...

Woolman's final journey was to England in 1772. During the voyage he stayed in steerage and spent time with the...

In his lifetime, Woolman did not succeed in eradicating slavery even within the Society of Friends in colonial America. However, his personal efforts helped change Quaker viewpoints during the period of the Great Awakening....


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