In 1692 John Day, a prosperous Quaker merchant of Philadelphia, was intending to go to sea. He wrote his will, left, and was never heard from again. He left a widow Hannah. She may have mourned for John but after a time she turned her eye toward remarriage.
Three years after John disappeared, the stern Friends of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting advised Richard Sutton that he should not be too forward in getting into the affections of Hannah Day in order to marry. They told William Rakestraw the same thing. They advised Hannah not to entertain William Rakestraw, Richard Sutton nor any other person in order to marry until a certain account shall come of her husband John Day’s death.
Hannah tried again in 1699 with James Atkinson. By now it was seven years since John had left. The women’s meeting approved their proposal and brought it to the men, but the men’s meeting declared that, “There was no proof that her late husband John Day is certainly dead, although long absent, therefore it is the advice of this meeting that they cannot proceed to marry among friends.” Hannah and James went ahead and married anyway; she died as his widow.
The meeting was not just hard on women. In 6th month 1687 Philadelphia meeting heard the appeal of the carpenter Thomas Marle. He explained that his wife Eleanor had been gone from him this eight or nine years, and desired their advice relating to his marrying again, as he was willing to change his condition. The monthly meeting put him off, and sent the question up to the Quarterly meeting, who sent it to the yearly meeting. The yearly meeting said that he could not take a wife among Friends if his wife might be yet living. He moved to another meeting and married a woman named Margaret. Since Thomas apparently ended up with ten children, he certainly did change his condition. 1
- It is not clear by which wife he had the children, but some of them must certainly have been by the second wife. ↩