Margaret Askew was born in 1614 at Marsh Grange, near Dalton-in-Furness. Her huge pastoral, administrative and theological skills helped lay the foundations of the Quaker movement.
She married twice, in 1632 to Thomas Fell and in 1669 to George Fox, founder of Quakerism. Thomas Fell was a judge and politician, of Swarthmoor Hall, Ulverston, Cumbria. In 1652, George Fox visited their home. Margaret Fell heard his ministry and was convinced along with most of her household. After Thomas Fell died in 1658 she ran Swarthmoor Hall as a centre of Quaker activity and haven from persecution.
Margaret Fell became a political spokesperson for the Quaker movement. She petitioned Charles II and parliament in 1660 and 1662 for freedom of conscience in religious matters. For the first time Quaker commitment to nonviolence was expressed. The testimony for peace she described has stayed at the core of Quaker religious experience, leading to war relief work and conflict transformation.
She was imprisoned from 1664 to 1668, for refusing to take an oath and for allowing Quaker worship in her home. Margaret Fell wrote Women’s Speaking Justified, a major text on women’s religious leadership. She died at Swarthmoor Hall on 23 April 1702.