Some Remarkable Quaker Women

by Alberta Kisling


Deborah Standing

While I didn’t know my Great Grandmother, many stories have been passed along.  To leave her home in civilized England and travel with her husband and five sons to a strange, new pioneer land surely took enormous courage!  There was no electricity, no running water, mud roads—a very primitive life.  Each Standing reunion we do a choral reading written by Martha Foster that describes her and her husband going to meeting with a horse and buggy with five sons dressed in white shirts and bow ties.  She was blessed with a kind, considerate husband who helped around the house.   For example, pumping the water from the well and carrying it into the house to heat it for doing the laundry.  Her husband Charles was a gifted Quaker minister.  The Standings wanted a good education for their children and supported the Bear Creek School and later, Scattergood School.  Several brothers married Nicholson sisters and both families had many artists, writers, and poets.

Eva Delitha Heald Stanley

Eva contracted tuberculosis as a young bride.  Ellis, her husband, took her to several doctors in Cedar Rapids and they all said there was no cure and she would die.  In the little Quaker village in Whittier, Iowa, there was a homeopathic doctor.  Dr. Ross came by horse and buggy several times a day and her remedies cured Grandma Eva.  Grandma studied the different remedies and relied on homeopathic medicine the rest of her life.  She taught her children and Grandchildren how to use the remedies, also.  She and Grandpa had five daughters—Lorene, Irma, Hazel, Wilma and Clyda.  She always helped milk the cows, raised lots of chickens, had a big garden, and canned a lot of food.  She was known for her beautiful flowers, her good cooking, and her friendly hospitality.  Grandpa didn’t believe in commercial fertilizer.  He built up his soil with manure and rock phosphate.  Grandpa ground the wheat they raised and Grandma baked her own bread.  She also sold extra to neighbors and to the Health Store in Cedar Rapids.

She and Grandpa got up very early to chore, followed by a big breakfast.  The breakfast dishes were left on the table and they retired to the parlor for Bible Reading every day.

There were few nursing homes in her day, and she took care of a number of elderly relatives in their final days.


Amy Lorene Stanley Standing

The oldest daughter of Ellis and Eva Stanley, she was raised on their farm near Whittier, Iowa.  As the oldest of five girls she was the outdoor girl.  She loved working outside, helping chore, working in the garden—fixing things.  She wasn’t fond of cooking and inside jobs.  She attended Scattergood School where she met her future husband, Albert Standing, and graduated from Olney Boarding School.  She attended teacher training at William Penn College and taught school at Whittier.  After their marriage she and Albert farmed at Whittier and Earlham.  They had a hard life during the depression with little money and three children, Wilden, Alberta, and Ellis.  She was very frugal, recycled whatever could be used.  She thought of herself as shy—worked very hard for people who needed help.  She could be depended upon, served on many committees but was the worker not the chair who received recognition.



Leanore Goodenow

Leanore was Director of Scattergood School, where I was a student for four years.  She was the person who had the most influence on my life.  Scattergood gave regular written reports instead of letter grades.  While at public school I easily received A’s; at Scattergood the reports were not so good.  She always expected more.  I learned to work harder, set higher goals, and make better use of my time.  We were heavily scheduled and free time was spent “volunteering” at work needed at the school.  To this day I feel guilty if I’m wasting time.

Leanore came to Iowa Yearly Meeting when Scattergood had been closed for years.  She started it up with a small staff and student body.  She was a strong director, frugal, attending to details, excellent at fund raising, and she rebuilt the School—students, staff, and Instruction, Art, Main, and Science Buildings, and Boys Dorm.  Her influence on the many students who attended, the faculty, the Committee, and the Yearly Meeting are immeasurable.  Burt and I both served on the Committee as did our son Jeff.  Our children all attended the school.  It continues to be a very important part of the Yearly Meeting.


Some Quaker Mothers of our Organizations

Patricia Newkirk

When she came to William Penn House things really starting looking nice—paint happened, bookcases appeared, things just looked spiffy.  She was there with a friendly smile and howdy!  Never mind that Byron was down below chopping up the old piano and laying carpet half the night.  We sure miss Patricia.

Olive Wilson

Olive was the Clerk of Everything—Mapleside Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting, Scattergood School, FCNL—and many other organizations I don’t know about.  She edited “Iowa Peace Links”.  She wrote her Congressmen endlessly, had letters to the editor printed often—worked and worked and worked some more for peace and justice.   Besides that she and Warren raised three children, farmed, and worked for their meeting, community, and projects dear to the hearts.  She was an amazing example.



Kathy Guthrie

When I was on Field Committee for FCNL Kathy was the staff person responsible for Field Committee.  She worked for FCNL for many years in many capacities.  She knew everyone, kept informed on what was happening, worked smoothly behind the scenes, could suggest people from all over the U.S. who might be able to fill a certain position.  She was the one who welcomed you and made you feel a part of the group.


Dear Birdie, I can’t tell you how honored I was to be included in the absolutely wonderful group of Quaker women.  To be listed in the same area as Olive Wilson—well, I don’t deserve it, but as I said, I’m extremely honored.  I was inspired to add a Quaker mother to your list.  I could think of several, Alison Oldham, for one, but decided to go with the first Quaker in my life–my mother’s favorite aunt (and mine as well).

With warm regards,



Bessie Benson Gormong

My great aunt, Bessie Benson Gormong, was my introduction to what it was like to be a Quaker.  She grew up in rural southern Indiana, 9th in a family of 11 children.  She was the only girl to go to college, was a dairy farmer’s wife and partner in running the farm. They were both very involved in Western Yearly Meeting, Bloomingdale Quarter, and she in USFW.  They were no doubt the backbones of a tiny country Quaker church, Benson Chapel.  Bessie named her daughter for Susan B Anthony, took us to see Lincoln’s home in Springfield, and read and thought about and discussed current events.  When I recall how racist and narrow minded my grandmother (her sister) and grandfather were, I think it’s a true miracle that she had such a world view.  For a woman born in 1908, she not only was really a believer in equal rights for races, but for accepting differences in sexual orientation. I have always felt that being a Quaker means standing on the shoulders of giants. One of those sets of shoulders is my beloved aunt.

Kathy Guthrie


2 thoughts on “Some Remarkable Quaker Women

  1. I enjoyed your tributes. I had heard of a few of them when I was at Scattergood School and did know Olive Wilson who supported Scattergood wholeheartedly while I was there. Alice Schaefer


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