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The Public Universal Friend - Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in Revolutionary America (Hardcover)
Paul B. Moyer
Amid political innovation and social transformation, Revolutionary America was also fertile ground for religious upheaval, as self-proclaimed visionaries and prophets established new religious sects throughout the emerging nation. Among the most influential and controversial of these figures was Jemima Wilkinson. Born in 1752 and raised in a Quaker household in Cumberland, Rhode Island, Wilkinson began their ministry dramatically in 1776 when, in the midst of an illness, they announced her own death and reincarnation as the Public Universal Friend, a heaven-sent prophet who was neither female nor male. In The Public Universal Friend, Paul B. Moyer tells the story of Wilkinson and their remarkable church, the Society of Universal Friends. Wilkinson's message was a simple one: humankind stood on the brink of the Apocalypse, but salvation was available to all who accepted God's grace and the authority of his prophet: the Public Universal Friend. Wilkinson preached widely in southern New England and Pennsylvania, attracted hundreds of devoted followers, formed them into a religious sect, and, by the late 1780s, had led their converts to the backcountry of the newly formed United States, where they established a religious community near present-day Penn Yan, New York.