Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Mount Holly Township, New Jersey

In Abolitionism, United and Divided

Quaker abolitionist John Woolson wrote this letter to his wife, Mary, from London in 1772. Both were active in the Quaker community in Mount Holly, New Jersey, and the surrounding region. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

John and Mary Woolson, who married in 1749, were among Mount Holly’s early Quaker abolitionists. On July 31, 1772, John wrote this letter to Mary while on ministerial travels in England. In the view of American Studies scholar Geoffrey Plank, the letter demonstrates the challenges of maintaining the Quakers’ emphasis on a good family life while also serving the abolitionist cause.

My dear wife though I feel in a good degree resigned in being absent from you my heart is often tenderly abjected toward you, and even to weeping this morning while I am about to write.

The numerous difficulties attending us in this life are often before me, and I often remember thee with tender desires, that the Holy Spirit may be thy leader and my leader through life, and that at last we may enter into rest.

My journey hath been through inward watchfulness, I see but a little way at a time, but the Lord hath been gracious to me, and way opens for my visit to these parts.

Thy loving husband,

John Woolman

about 160 miles northward from London

While on the London trip, John Woolman died of smallpox in 1772. Sarah Woolman lived until 1787 and was buried in the Friends Burying Ground in Burlington.

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