Massillon Public Library’s Archivist, Dr. Barbara Wittman, has been awarded the 2016 Kenneth Carroll Prize for her publication, “Mary Bordon Rodman’s Register of Publick Friends, 1656-1804,” in the journal Quaker History, (Spring, 2015). The Register, preserved in the Rotch-Wales Archives of the Massillon Public Library, lists the names of 185 female Quaker ministers from England and Ireland who crossed the Atlantic in groups, pairs or singly to preach at Quaker Meetings for worship in New England and the colonies between 1656 and 1804.
Meeting clerks began keeping lists as part of the official yearly meeting records of individuals, both male and female, with a recognized gift for preaching. Individuals in turn often copied and gifted these lists to family as reminders of their time in the New England and the memorable people who visited there.
The Register was gifted to Mary Rodman (1729-1798) of Newport, Rhode Island, by a cousin, Philip Wanton (1719-1778). Mrs. Rodman’s daughter, Charity Rotch (1766-1824), inherited the Register from her mother and transported it with other family documents to Ohio in the process of settlement at Kendal, a predecessor of Massillon. The growing body of scholarship on the roles of Quaker women suggests that from the beginning of Quakerism in the seventeenth century, the women’s ministry evolved through stages that would produce a blueprint for later social activism for women’s rights, pacifism, abolition, temperance, public education and other justice issues.
The Register is part of a rich historical cache of personal and business papers of Thomas and Charity Rotch, founders of Kendal. In the 1960s, Mrs. Horatio Wales, the last occupant of their house, now known as Spring Hill Historic Home, discovered the papers in a wool house and allocated the collection to the care of then-Massillon Public Library Director Ethel Conrad, who restored and organized the collection in the 1980s and 1990s. The library is digitizing the collection, and the Register can be viewed on the Massillon Memory website by accessing the Rotch-Wales Papers and searching for. “Register of Publick Friends.” This important award moves the library’s valuable collection of historical papers from the periphery to the center of Quaker studies nationwide.
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