Quaker families produced many famous descendants, including politicians, artists and several U.S. presidents.
Quaker descendants are in every walk of life and fill almost every decade of United States history. Most of all, members of the Society of Friends are noted for being peace activists.
Some of the most famous Quaker descendants grew up in families that no longer belonged to the Society of Friends, but others, such as President Richard Nixon, were raised as Quakers.
American Quakers were politicians, patriots, abolitionists, writers, actors and teachers. Some invented pulsars and antiseptics and others discovered comets and pulsars. Quakers founded railroads and universities. Their lives and accomplishments are woven into the fabric of American existence.
Eight U.S. Presidents Have Quaker Ancestry
Abraham Lincoln was descended from Quakers. His great-grandparents on the side of his mother, Nancy Hanks, were Enoch and Rebecca Flower, married in 1713, and each of their parents were married in a Quaker meeting.
U. S. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Gerald Ford were both descended from Peter Coffin, whose line produced several Quaker families. Ford is also descended from Adam Mott and Elizabeth Creel, whose family became Quakers in later generations.
President Richard Nixon was raised as a Quaker and was descended from the early Quaker Mendenhall and Milhous families.
President Herbert Hoover, son of a blacksmith, was raised as a Quaker.
Presidents John Adams, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon all descend from Thomas Perkins. The Perkins family produced many Quaker descendants.
Famous Historical Figures
Historical figures who were Quakers include William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania; frontiersman Daniel Boone; Betsy Ross, who sewed the first American flag; civil rights activists Bayard Rustin and Julian Bond; women’s rights activists Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.; Dolley Todd Madison, wife of President James Madison, and Elizabeth Haddon (1680-1762), the founder of Haddonfield, New Jersey.
Patriot Thomas Paine was raised a Quaker. This accentuated his views on the importance of a truly free nation. John Adams is said to have once remarked that “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.” Paine was involved in revolutions both in Europe and in America. His pamphlet titled “Common Sense” helped set the stage for the Revolutionary War.
Actors and Writers
Actors James Dean, Judi Dench and Ben Kingsley, as well as musicians Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez, are Quakers. Quaker writers include James Fennimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, James Michener, John Greenleaf Whittier and Jessamyn West.
- Cameron, Judy, “Famous Descendants of Quaker Families, The Second Boat, Vol. 17, No. 5 (Winter, 1998)