Glossary of Terms

  • Birthright Friend
    Someone who was born to Quaker parents; it is assumed that they will grow up to be a Quaker and a full member of their Meeting.
  • Blister
    A plaster made out of the crushed wings of the Spanish fly, cantharides; when put on the skin, the plaster raises a blister, which was meant to draw out the excess blood causing a patient’s insanity, and also distract the patients from his or her “disordered” thoughts.
  • Business Meeting
    Also called a "Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business"; conducted out of the silence like Meeting for Worship, Business Meeting is when Quakers meet to carry out the Meeting's business; decisions that come out of Business Meeting are thought to be divinely inspired.
  • Concern
    A divinely inspired interest in some issue; an individual or a group of Quakers might feel led to work on a concern; for example, Bonsall describes the Asylum as a concern.
  • Continuing Revelation
    The idea that God is still revealing the Truth to us, and that we must listen for the voice of God and act on that Truth; this idea is at the heart of Quaker faith and practice.
  • Convinced Friend
    Someone who was not born Quaker, but becomes "convinced" of Quaker truth and therefore joins a Meeting.
  • Disowned
    See “read out of Meeting”; in this context, disowned refers to the actions of a Quaker’s Meeting, not necessarily their family.
  • Elders
    "A small group of men and women appointed to assist and also oversee the ministers" (BMC Quakers and Slavery Glossary).
  • Fatuity
    Someone is in a "state of fatuity" when they lose the use of their reason later in life; it is assumed that people do not recover from a state of fatuity; the Asylum does care for these people, despite its preference for patients who can recover.
  • First Day, Second Day, etc.
    Sunday; Monday; Early Quakers disapproved of using the "pagan" names for days of the week, so Sunday became First Day, Monday Second Day, and so on; the same process applies to months, making January First Month, etc.
  • Friend
    A Quaker; Quakers may call each other Friend ____ or refer to someone as a Friend; nineteenth century Quakers are much more likely to refer to themselves and each other as Friends than Quakers.
  • Hicksite Quakers
    Named after the controversial minister Elias Hicks, whose preaching inflamed tensions in the Religious Society of Friends; Hicksite Quakers began after the 1827 split; Hicksite Quakers tended to be rural and/or poorer than Orthodox Quakers; they put more emphasis on the importance of continuing revelation and the Inner Light; they objected to the power structure that meant a lot of people were getting disowned.
  • Idiot
    In nineteenth century medical parlance, the term idiot referred to someone who had displayed "lack of reason" since birth; idiots fell outside of the Asylum's concern.
  • Inner/Inward Light
    The Inner Light is the small part of God that Quakers believe is in each person; Quakers try to recognize the Inner Light in others, and listen to their own Inner Light (that is, continuing revelation); it is often described as speaking in a "still, small voice."
  • Leading
    A divine feeling that a Quaker gets, telling him or her to must do some action; a leading can make a Quaker take up a concern.
  • Mania
    One of the two main types of insanity described in the nineteenth century; mania described any kind of wild or crazy behavior, like fits or ranting, etc.
  • Meeting for Sufferings
    A committee of Quakers who meet to assist Quakers who suffer for their religious beliefs; for example, Quakers who were persecuted for their pacifism or anti-slavery work might ask for help from the Meeting for Sufferings; the nineteenth century Meeting for Sufferings was made up of very influential Quaker men.
  • Meeting for Worship
    A time when Quakers gather in silence to listen for that of God within them; if someone feels led to share a message out of the silence, they stand and do so; in the nineteenth century it was mostly recorded ministers who spoke.
  • Melancholy
    Melancholy was thought to be one of the two main forms of insanity; melancholy corresponds fairly well to modern-day depression.
  • Monthly Meeting
    The basic unit of Quaker religious structure; a Monthly Meeting is the Meeting a Quaker worships with on a regular basis; it is called a Monthly Meeting because it meets to take care of business once a month.
  • Orthodox Quakers
    Formed during the Hicksite-Orthodox schism in 1827; Orthodox Quakers moved more towards standard Protestantism; they were on top of the Quaker power structure, and they were uneasy with what they saw as the Hicksite Friends' dismissal of the Bible as a source of authority.
  • Out of the Silence
    Usually part of the phrase "to speak out of the silence"; this refers to what happens when people feel led to speak during Meeting for Worship and/or Business-they speak out of the silence; it comes from the fact that there should be silence before and after someone speaks.
  • Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM)
    The biggest Yearly Meeting in the United States in the nineteenth century, and the heart of American Quakerism; the Asylum was founded for the use of Quakers associated with PYM.
  • Preparatory Meeting
    A Preparatory Meeting is one that is too small or new to be a Monthly Meeting; it may become one in the future.
  • Professor
    Someone who is not technically a member of a Meeting, but believes ("professes") Quaker doctrine; a spouse/child of a Quaker, or someone who attends Quaker meetings, but hasn't yet become a full member.
  • Quarterly Meeting
    "Meetings for business held four times per year, attended by representatives of all monthly meetings in a region; an intermediary between the monthly and yearly meeting, serves as an appellate body for disciplinary matters, and considers problems too large for a local meeting to solve; holds the authority to establish or discontinue a monthly, preparative, or particular meeting for worship" (BMC Quakers and Slavery Glossary).
  • Read out of Meeting
    Being disowned from one's Meeting; could happen if someone married a non-Quaker (or married without the consent of the Meeting), or joined the military, etc.
  • Recorded Minister
    Someone who is recognized by their Meeting as having a gift for vocal ministry (that is, speaking during Meeting for Worship); in the nineteenth century, it was unusual for people who were not recorded ministers to speak often during Meeting; both men and women could be recorded as ministers.
  • "That of God in Everyone"/"That of God"
    A phrase used to describe the Inner Light, the idea that each person has something of God in them, which they can listen to for guidance.
  • Traveling Minister
    A minister who feels called, with the support of his or her Meeting, to travel to Quaker Meetings in other places and minister to them; traveling ministers often traveled in pairs, and could be away on trips for years.
  • Visiting Manager
    The Asylum's Visiting Managers were in charge of admitting and discharging patients; they inspected the Asylum once a week and the superintendent's accounts once a month; there were four of them at a time, and they served two-month terms.
  • Weighty Friend
    A Quaker who is widely thought to have spiritual wisdom and Quaker expertise.
  • Witness
    An action taken by a Quaker because of a leading or a concern; a witness is meant to demonstrate the Truth about some social/religious issue; for example, an early Quaker’s witness might have been to interrupt a sermon argue with the priest.
  • Yearly Meeting
    A Quaker organizational structure made up of many monthly and preparatory meetings; called a Yearly Meeting because it meets once a year to do business.
Word Definition
Birthright Friend
Someone who was born to Quaker parents; it is assumed that they will grow up to be a Quaker and a full member of their Meeting.
Blister
A plaster made out of the crushed wings of the Spanish fly, cantharides; when put on the skin, the plaster raises a blister, which was meant to draw out the excess blood causing a patient’s insanity, and also distract the patients from his or her “disordered” thoughts.
Business Meeting
Also called a "Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business"; conducted out of the silence like Meeting for Worship, Business Meeting is when Quakers meet to carry out the Meeting's business; decisions that come out of Business Meeting are thought to be divinely inspired.
Concern
A divinely inspired interest in some issue; an individual or a group of Quakers might feel led to work on a concern; for example, Bonsall describes the Asylum as a concern.
Continuing Revelation
The idea that God is still revealing the Truth to us, and that we must listen for the voice of God and act on that Truth; this idea is at the heart of Quaker faith and practice.
Convinced Friend
Someone who was not born Quaker, but becomes "convinced" of Quaker truth and therefore joins a Meeting.
Disowned
See “read out of Meeting”; in this context, disowned refers to the actions of a Quaker’s Meeting, not necessarily their family.
Elders
"A small group of men and women appointed to assist and also oversee the ministers" (BMC Quakers and Slavery Glossary).
Fatuity
Someone is in a "state of fatuity" when they lose the use of their reason later in life; it is assumed that people do not recover from a state of fatuity; the Asylum does care for these people, despite its preference for patients who can recover.
First Day, Second Day, etc.
Sunday; Monday; Early Quakers disapproved of using the "pagan" names for days of the week, so Sunday became First Day, Monday Second Day, and so on; the same process applies to months, making January First Month, etc.
Friend
A Quaker; Quakers may call each other Friend ____ or refer to someone as a Friend; nineteenth century Quakers are much more likely to refer to themselves and each other as Friends than Quakers.
Hicksite Quakers
Named after the controversial minister Elias Hicks, whose preaching inflamed tensions in the Religious Society of Friends; Hicksite Quakers began after the 1827 split; Hicksite Quakers tended to be rural and/or poorer than Orthodox Quakers; they put more emphasis on the importance of continuing revelation and the Inner Light; they objected to the power structure that meant a lot of people were getting disowned.
Idiot
In nineteenth century medical parlance, the term idiot referred to someone who had displayed "lack of reason" since birth; idiots fell outside of the Asylum's concern.
Inner/Inward Light
The Inner Light is the small part of God that Quakers believe is in each person; Quakers try to recognize the Inner Light in others, and listen to their own Inner Light (that is, continuing revelation); it is often described as speaking in a "still, small voice."
Leading
A divine feeling that a Quaker gets, telling him or her to must do some action; a leading can make a Quaker take up a concern.
Mania
One of the two main types of insanity described in the nineteenth century; mania described any kind of wild or crazy behavior, like fits or ranting, etc.
Meeting for Sufferings
A committee of Quakers who meet to assist Quakers who suffer for their religious beliefs; for example, Quakers who were persecuted for their pacifism or anti-slavery work might ask for help from the Meeting for Sufferings; the nineteenth century Meeting for Sufferings was made up of very influential Quaker men.
Meeting for Worship
A time when Quakers gather in silence to listen for that of God within them; if someone feels led to share a message out of the silence, they stand and do so; in the nineteenth century it was mostly recorded ministers who spoke.
Melancholy
Melancholy was thought to be one of the two main forms of insanity; melancholy corresponds fairly well to modern-day depression.
Monthly Meeting
The basic unit of Quaker religious structure; a Monthly Meeting is the Meeting a Quaker worships with on a regular basis; it is called a Monthly Meeting because it meets to take care of business once a month.
Orthodox Quakers
Formed during the Hicksite-Orthodox schism in 1827; Orthodox Quakers moved more towards standard Protestantism; they were on top of the Quaker power structure, and they were uneasy with what they saw as the Hicksite Friends' dismissal of the Bible as a source of authority.
Out of the Silence
Usually part of the phrase "to speak out of the silence"; this refers to what happens when people feel led to speak during Meeting for Worship and/or Business-they speak out of the silence; it comes from the fact that there should be silence before and after someone speaks.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM)
The biggest Yearly Meeting in the United States in the nineteenth century, and the heart of American Quakerism; the Asylum was founded for the use of Quakers associated with PYM.
Preparatory Meeting
A Preparatory Meeting is one that is too small or new to be a Monthly Meeting; it may become one in the future.
Professor
Someone who is not technically a member of a Meeting, but believes ("professes") Quaker doctrine; a spouse/child of a Quaker, or someone who attends Quaker meetings, but hasn't yet become a full member.
Quarterly Meeting
"Meetings for business held four times per year, attended by representatives of all monthly meetings in a region; an intermediary between the monthly and yearly meeting, serves as an appellate body for disciplinary matters, and considers problems too large for a local meeting to solve; holds the authority to establish or discontinue a monthly, preparative, or particular meeting for worship" (BMC Quakers and Slavery Glossary).
Read out of Meeting
Being disowned from one's Meeting; could happen if someone married a non-Quaker (or married without the consent of the Meeting), or joined the military, etc.
Recorded Minister
Someone who is recognized by their Meeting as having a gift for vocal ministry (that is, speaking during Meeting for Worship); in the nineteenth century, it was unusual for people who were not recorded ministers to speak often during Meeting; both men and women could be recorded as ministers.
"That of God in Everyone"/"That of God"
A phrase used to describe the Inner Light, the idea that each person has something of God in them, which they can listen to for guidance.
Traveling Minister
A minister who feels called, with the support of his or her Meeting, to travel to Quaker Meetings in other places and minister to them; traveling ministers often traveled in pairs, and could be away on trips for years.
Visiting Manager
The Asylum's Visiting Managers were in charge of admitting and discharging patients; they inspected the Asylum once a week and the superintendent's accounts once a month; there were four of them at a time, and they served two-month terms.
Weighty Friend
A Quaker who is widely thought to have spiritual wisdom and Quaker expertise.
Witness
An action taken by a Quaker because of a leading or a concern; a witness is meant to demonstrate the Truth about some social/religious issue; for example, an early Quaker’s witness might have been to interrupt a sermon argue with the priest.
Yearly Meeting
A Quaker organizational structure made up of many monthly and preparatory meetings; called a Yearly Meeting because it meets once a year to do business.