chapter  3
13 Pages

‘Something of an Instructive and Interesting Tendency’

Reading, Leisure, Religion and Politics at York Friends’ Sewing Meeting
BySarah Shaw

At first glance, John Meade Falkner's passage shares much in common with the York Friends' Sewing Meeting (YFSM) minute: both involve performance, shifting dynamics between women and little mention of work being carried out. YFSM was a cross-generational grouping of middle-class Quaker women in York which ran from 1834 to 1973. During YFSM gatherings, the domestic space itself became a temporary site for philanthropic and politicised work, eliding the distinction between members' public and private lives. Reading aloud and being read to had been central to YFSM proceedings from the group's inception. The association's Rules and Regulations of 1834 stipulated that in each session members would 'employ themselves in sewing while one friend reads aloud, something of an instructive and interesting tendency', and the minute books record the titles of texts that were read during each meeting. Reading about such heroines enabled YFSM to work through Quakerism's contradictory attitudes towards female Friends.