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John Woolman Manuscripts Collection

Identifier: SFHL-MSS-068


John Woolman (1720-1772) was one of the most influential ministers in the history of the Religious Society of Friends. He was particularly active in opposing slavery and encouraging Quakers to disavow the practice. His journal, published posthumously, is still considered an important document in the fields of religion, history, and literature. The Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College holds several versions of Woolman's manuscript journal, letters written by Woolman, and other assorted documents.


  • 1720 - 1939


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is available for research use. Due to the age, fragility, and rarity of these materials, access is through microfilm or photocopy where available, and special staff supervision or assistance may be required to view the original materials.

Copyright and Rights Information

The Friends Historical Library believes that all documents in this collection are in the Public Domain in the United States.

Biographical / Historical

John Woolman (1720-1772) was born to Quaker parents in New Jersey and spent his life travelling and preaching against slavery and war. In 1754 he wrote "Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes," an anti-slavery tract which was published by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and distributed to every yearly meeting in America. Woolman kept a journal for over a decade, published in 1774, soon after his death. Woolman's journal is still considered an important document in the fields of religion, history, and literature.


.5 Linear Feet



Custodial History

In a letter to the President of Swarthmore College, the donor stated her wishes that the Woolman Journals already loaned to the College be made a permanent gift. She mentioned that a cousin, Samuel Comfort, had deposited a copy of the journals at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, but she preferred that the originals be the property of a Hicksite organization. A descendant of John and Sarah Ellis Woolman, she was a granddaughter of Samuel and Rebecca Moon Comfort and daughter of James and Rebecca Comfort Lawrence. Two of her sons attended Swarthmore College.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Elizabeth Comfort Lawrence Dudley, 1913.

Existence and Location of Copies

Some documents have been photocopied or microfilm. Access is through surrogates where available, to preserve the longevity of the original material.

Related Materials

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: John Woolman Papers, 0737.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA