The Quakers, Forging America’s Identity with Susan Sachs Goldman

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Quakers, also known as “the Society of Friends”, have been part of American history for over 300 years and America’s whole national character and moral fabric has been affected by their commitment to peace and social equality. They arrived in the mid-1600s and from the start worked for responsible relations with Native Americans. They denounced slavery and were early advocates for women’s rights. Unlike the Puritans they were tolerant of all religious beliefs. Even though they are Christian, they have no priesthood or official pastors. Their primary belief is that “truth” is discovered by going within. In this fascinating dialogue you’ll learn about how this relatively small group of people has formed the foundation of America’s most revered and closely held beliefs. Susan Sachs Goldman points out, “Quakers are guided by a spiritual imperative to work for peace and justice. They recognize there can be no peace without justice and equality.” She goes on to say, “There are many traits that Quakers embody that I think Americans like to consider as their fundamental characteristics such as: democracy, egalitarianism, religious tolerance, and a kind of a positivism, a can do attitude.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Susan Sachs Goldman is a widely recognized lecturer on Quakers and the history of Quaker social reform efforts. She has served on the Board of the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, where her three children attended school. Her respect for Quakers grew out of her appreciation for the quality of the education her three children received, as well as an admiration for the world view demonstrated by the Quakers who served with her over her 11 years on the Board. She holds a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College and a master's degree in American history from Brandeis University.

She’s the author of:

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is the process of problem solving that Quakers espouse that sets them apart for other religions
  • How, from their early history, Quakers encouraged women to speak in public and treated as equal to men
  • How were Quakers persecuted for not taking sides in such conflicts as the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam war
  • How Quakers helped to reform mental institutions and prisons
  • How Quakers helped form the Settlement Movement in the late 1800s to be of help with the enormous influx of immigrants arriving from Europe
  • Why Jane Adams was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize
  • How President Kennedy was influenced by the Quakers to form the Peace Corps
  • How the Quakers formed the Peace Testimony based on the “Golden Rule”
  • How Quakers are working today to lobby against gun violence, for the rights of Native Americans, and to alleviate the effects of climate change

Host: Justine Willis Toms       Interview Date: 3/28/2013       Program Number: 3467