Margaret (Askew) Fox

Margaret (Askew) Fox (abt. 1614 - 1702)

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Margaret Fox formerly Askew aka Fell
Born about in Dalton in Furness, Lancashire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
Wife of — married 1632 [location unknown]
Wife of — married 27 Oct 1669 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Swarthmoor, Lancashire, Englandmap
Profile last modified 14 Oct 2019 | Created 14 Dec 2016 | Last significant change: 14 Oct 2019
13:01: Michael Cayley added Mary (Fell) Lower (1647-1719) as child for Margaret (Askew) Fox (abt.1614-1702). [Thank Michael for this]
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Margaret (Askew) Fox was a Friend (Quaker).
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Please note that this biography is work in progress, and bear with incompleteness and untidiness. Thank you! Michael Cayley 11:08, 28 September 2019 (UTC)



Birth and Parentage

Margaret was born in 1614 at Marsh Grange near Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire.[1][2] She was the elder daughter of John Askew. Her mother may have been Margaret Pyper whom a John Askew married at Dalton-in-Furness[1][2] on 8 February 1612/3 (1613 in modern reckoning).[3] Her father was prosperous: he was able to leave her and her sister some £3000 each; her share included the estate of Marsh Grange.[1]

Marriage to Thomas Fell, and children by him

Margaret married Thomas Fell of Swarthmoor Hall, Ulverston, Lancashire in 1632.[2][4] They had nine children:

  • Margaret, who married John Rous on 29 January 1661/2 (1662 in modern reckoning).[5] She was probably born in about 1633.[6]
  • Bridget, born in about 1635, who married John Draper of Headlam, County Durham[6]
  • Isabel, born in about 1637, who married twice, her husbands being William Yeamans of Bristol and Abraham Morrice of Lincoln[6]
  • George, born in about 1638, who married Hannah (née Cooke) Potter and who died in 1670[6]
  • Sarah, born in 1642, who married William Meade and who died in 1714[6]
  • Mary, born in 1647, who married Thomas Lower and who died in 1720[6]

Margaret Askew died in 1702. At the age of seventeen, she married the barrister Thomas Fell (c. 1598–1658) and together they had nine children. In 1652, upon his return home, Thomas Fell was greeted by neighbors who warned him that his wife had been bewitched by a travelling preacher. This preacher was George Fox (1624–91), a charismatic religious dissenter and first-generation leader of the Society of Friends (Quakers). From that day forward, Margaret Fell was a convert to Quakerism. Thomas Fell was supportive of his wife's conversion, and the Fell family home of Swarthmoor Hall became a popular meeting place for Friends. Though Margaret Fell eventually suffered imprisonment for her beliefs, she remained a woman of considerable wealth and social status throughout her life. Together with Fox and William Penn (1644–1718), Fell is now regarded as one of the founders of Quakerism.

Marriage to George Fox

Margaret married George Fox on 27 October 1669 at Bristol, Gloucestershire.[7]

Together they were active organizers of the separate Quaker women's meetings, first officially begun in 1671.

(The following is taken from Wikipedia.)

She married Thomas Fell, a barrister, in 1632, and became the lady of Swarthmoor Hall. In 1641, Thomas became a Justice of the Peace for Lancashire, and in 1645 a member of the Long Parliament.[1] He ceased to be a member from 1647 to 1649, disapproving of Oliver Cromwell's assumption of authority.

In late June 1652, George Fox visited Swarthmoor Hall. Margaret Fell met him, and later wrote that he "opened us a book that we had never read in, nor indeed had never heard that it was our duty to read in it (to wit) the Light of Christ in our consciences, our minds never being turned towards it before."[3] A day or two later it was lecture day at the parish church, she invited Fox to attend with them; he came in after the singing and asked for liberty to speak. Over the next weeks she and many of her household became convinced.[4] Over the next six years, Swarthmoor Hall became a centre of Quaker activity; she served as an unofficial secretary for the new movement, receiving and forwarding letters from roving missionaries, and occasionally passing along admonitions to them from Fox, Richard Hubberthorne, James Nayler, and others. She wrote many epistles herself and collected and disbursed funds for those on missions. After her husband's death in 1658, she retained control of Swarthmoor Hall, which remained a meeting place and haven from persecution, though sometimes, in the 1660s, raided by government forces.

Because she was one of the few founding members of the Religious Society of Friends who was an established member of the gentry, Margaret Fell was frequently called upon to intercede in cases of persecution or arrest of leaders such as Fox. After the Stuart Restoration, she travelled from Lancashire to London to petition King Charles II and his parliament in 1660 and 1662 for freedom of conscience in religious matters. A submission signed by George Fox and other prominent (male) Quakers was only made subsequently in November 1660. While the structure and phraseology of these submissions were quite different, the import was similar, arguing that, although Friends wished to see the world changed, they would use persuasion rather than violence towards what they regarded as a "heavenly" (i.e. spiritual) end.

In 1664 Margaret Fell was arrested for failing to take an oath and for allowing Quaker Meetings to be held in her home. She defended herself by saying that "as long as the Lord blessed her with a home, she would worship him in it". She spent six months in Lancaster Gaol, whereafter she was sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of her property. She remained in prison until 1668, during which time she wrote religious pamphlets and epistles. Perhaps her most famous work is "Women's Speaking Justified", a scripture-based argument for women's ministry, and one of the major texts on women's religious leadership in the 17th century.[5] In this short pamphlet, Fell bases her argument for equality of the sexes on one of the basic premises of Quakerism, namely spiritual equality. Her belief was that God created all human beings, therefore both men and women were capable of not only possessing the Inner Light but also the ability to be a prophet.

Having been released by order of the King and council, she married George Fox in 1669.

On returning to Lancashire after her marriage, she was again imprisoned for about a year in Lancaster for breaking the Conventicle Act. Shortly after her release, George Fox departed on a religious mission to America, and he too was imprisoned again on his return in 1673. Margaret again travelled to London to intercede on his behalf, and he was eventually freed in 1675. After this, they spent about a year together at Swarthmoor, collaborating on defending the recently created organisational structure of separate women's meetings for discipline against their anti-Fox opponents.

George Fox spent most of the rest of his life thereafter abroad or in London until his death in 1691, while Margaret Fell spent most of the rest of her life at Swarthmoor. Surviving both husbands by a number of years, she continued to take an active part in the affairs of the Society including the changes in the 1690s following partial legal tolerance of Quakers, when she was well into her eighties. In the last decade of her life, she firmly opposed the effort of her fellow believers in Lancashire to maintain certain traditional Quaker standards of conduct (for example, in matters of dress). She died aged 87.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 'Isabel Ross. Margaret Fell, Mother of Quakerism, 2nd edition, William Sessions, 1984, p. 5
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for 'Fell [née Askew], Margaret', 2004, revised online 2008, available online via some libraries
  3. England Marriages, 1538–1973, Note that this transcript gives the marriage year as 1612: it was in 1612/3.
  4. Isabel Ross, Margaret Fell, p. 6
  5. England & Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage, and Death Registers, 1578-1837, records of Swarthmoor Monthly Meeting, Lancashire, and accompanying image: "29 11 (eleventh month, ie January) John Rous, late of the Island of Barbados& Margaret Fell of Swarthmoor Hall Did take Each other in Marriage in the presence of Divers Witnesses"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Ross, Margaret Fell, genealogical table inside end-cover
  7. England & Wales, Society Of Friends (Quaker) Marriages 1578-1841, BRISTOL AND SOMERSET: Monthly Meeting of Bristol: Marriages (also includes an index from 1659 relating to entries in RG 6/1423, former ref 1509), RG6/1417, FindMyPast
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for 'Fell [née Askew], Margaret (1614–1702)', 2004, revised online 2008, available online via some libraries
  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Vol. 18, entry for 'Fell, Margaret', Wikisource
  • Braithwaite, William C. The Beginnings of Quakerism, 2nd edition, William Sessions, 1981
  • Braithwaite, William C. The Second period of Quakerism, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press 1961 (subsequently distributed by William Sessions)
  • Fox, George (ed. Norman Penney). The Journal of George Fox, J M Dent and Sons, 1924
  • Ingle, H Larry. First Among Friends. George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism, OUP, 1994
  • Ross, Isabel. Margaret Fell, Mother of Quakerism, 2nd edition, William Sessions, 1984
  • Vipont, Elfrida. George Fox and the Valiant Sixty, Hamish Hamilton, 1975
  • Margeret in entry for Margeret Fell, "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : 6 December 2014), Margeret in entry for Margeret Fell, 19 Nov 1633; citing ST BARTHOLOMEW THE GREAT,LONDON,LONDON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 374,431, 374,432, 374,436.
  • Wikipedia: Margaret Fell

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On 25 Aug 2019 at 16:41 GMT Michael Cayley wrote:

On behalf of the Quakers Project, I have added myself as a profile manager and put the Project on the trusted list. I plan to do some work on this profile in due course.

Margaret is 22 degrees from Cheryl Hess, 28 degrees from John Lennon and 9 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.