The Ground in Which We Were Planted
(Idaho Farm 1920's Wiki-commons)
You do not grow coconuts on the tundra.
The place and time from which we spring has great influence on who we will become. Charlotte was born on February 1 1925. near Riverside which was outside Greenleaf in the Treasure Valley of Idaho.
She was a child of pioneers. That is how her generation thought of themselves, and this in itself should not be underestimated. Their people were Quakers, come out from Kansas and Nebraska. They came intentionally. They wanted to up set up Quaker communities. They sought fertile fields both physically and spiritually. They found them.
The land was good, the water was adequate. They irrigated and grew wheat, alfalfa, corn, and clover. They built schools and churches. Hard work and good stewardship paid dividends. Their homes were simple, but comfortable. Homes had books. No one worked on Sundays, and you would have had to go a long ways to find someone to sell you a drink. But it would not have been hard to find a bed or a meal. People were hospitable and trusting.
Everyone worked hard. Quaker children did chores like all farm children with the interesting distinction of a certain gender neutrality, boys did dishes and girls worked in the barn. All the children studied and all were expected to finish High School and most expected to go to college. Pioneer parents liked to send their kids "back east." William Penn College in Iowa was a favorite among Friends.
The pioneer children came to understand that there was a depression going on in the outside world, but they did not feel much of it personally. Their parents may have not had much cash, but there was plenty of food, and adequate clothing. If children had toys it was mostly because they made them. How else would it be?
When in the early thirties there came a wave of Okies and Arkies, the pioneer children had their first experience of poverty. Homes with dirt floors and children with shoes that had the toes cut out to accommodate growth. The now elderly pioneer children that I have spoken to, admit that at first they felt a bit of superior. But they were also raised to be tender of conscience, and some of them developed a strong sense of social awareness. It was a social conscience dedicated to getting people an equal chance, leveling the playing field. Because if you did that - then surely hard work and good stewardship would supply the rest. A man might be poor because he was a drunkard, but not a drunkard because he was poor.
The well nourished, hard working, educated pioneer children believed these things. Because they had no experiential reason not to. They grew strong, and they grew straight and they were hopeful.
By Way of Introduction
Or, How I Met Charlotte Macy
I met Charlotte Macy kinda like Paul met Jesus - out of season.
I was preaching at Scotts Mills Friends Church in the late winter early spring of 1996. It was a small church in a small town. I knew the regulars. We were mid-way through the first hymn when an old man came in and sat in the back pew and took off a weather beaten cap. A sour looking fellow. He did not sing. No one else paid him much mind. He stared hard at me while I tried to preach the Gospel. It was a wee bit intimidating. At the end of the service, as I walked towards the back, I asked one of the elders, “Who’s this gent?” “Old man Fink - lives up hill from the parsonage - haven’t seen him in here in years.”
I greeted Fink the elder, and introduced myself.
He stated his business: “I don’t come to church. Most likely you won’t see me again. But I heard that they had a gal preacher down here, and last time they did that it was Charlotte Macy. She was worth listening to. You favor her a bit - keep at it.”
And he walked out, and did not come back, and did not make himself available for any pastoral calls. I was curious. I consulted the records. Charlotte had been dead for almost 20 years, and had been pastor of Scotts Mills 20 years before that. What kind of woman got an old man out of the house and into a pew after 40 years? I got busy and forgot about it. But it didn’t forget about me. Within six months her name had come up again - in Silverton. And then again - at the beach. Then Again - at George Fox University.
So I stopped in at the library at Fox to see what they had on her. Precious little. But by asking around I found her kin and friends. Northwest Yearly Meeting is fairly lousy with Macys. And everyone had a story of her. And every single story was superlative. And the stories rang bells down in my soul. And when I would sit alone in the meeting room at Scotts Mills she started to be a real presence and inspiration to me.
And then one night very near the millennium I had a vivid dream. The kind you don’t forget. I was sitting on a lawn, and a little girl about four walked up to me. And for some reason I knew she was a little Macy. And she said to me “Tell me about Aunt Charlotte - I need to know about Charlotte Macy” And I said “Honey, I never met her, you need to go ask the old folks about her.” And the girl said “I can’t - they’re all dead - I’m asking you!” And I woke up with a start and a bit of a commission. From a woman long dead and a little girl not yet born.
So I started to take notes, and peruse old Yearly Meeting minutes, and gather papers, and do interviews - with as many of Charlotte’s friends and relative as would sit with me. And now I know a lot about Charlotte. And I think I know why old man Fink and some others have said that I favor her. It is not our history or the content of our theologies. I am under no illusions about that. Charlotte Macy would have had no truck with my post-modern take on Christianity. She was a Quaker, sure but she was capital a ‘E’ Evangelical. She was steeped in the Holiness Movement. She took her Bible seriously and literally. She believed in saving souls from a very real and imminent hell.
But when I listen to the stories about her. I like to listen to the woman behind the doctrine. The spirit from which the theology sprang. The character that could not be squelched even by death. There I find something remarkable. And that spirit, that character, that woman, is what I hope to describe to you. She has something to teach the 21st century. She especially has something to teach young women, or any person marginalized. She beat all the odds. And there is yet an echo of the blueprint of how she did it. And that needs to be elucidated and remembered.
For the ones yet to come.
This is Charlotte Louise Macy
She was a recorded minister in Northwest Yearly Meeting from 1952 until her death in January 1977. She was acknowledged as one of the best preachers of her day, but there are no recordings or written sermons. She was Dean of Women at William Penn College. She literally, physically built Silverton Friends Church. She had a graduate degree from Asbury Seminary, a rarefied attainment in NWYM. She developed the Twin Rocks Camp into a year round conference center. She clerked the Yearly Meeting Board of Evangelism and the Board of George Fox College. At her memorial they said that she was a person who knew how to put handles on a Dream.
And if you Google her, you will find almost no evidence of her life.
We shall now fix that.
If you are interested, please stay tuned to this blog. I will be posting weekly about Charlotte until I have exhausted the material I have. I do not know if this will end up being a long essay or a short book or just a series of posts.
If you knew Charlotte or have older relatives who might have known her, please direct them to this blog. If you knew her and I have not already interviewed you, I would like to do so. If any of this jogs brief memories, please write them in the comments section, and I will add them to my materials. All of the materials that I have will eventually end up in the GFU archives. If you knew her please give me feedback on my attempts to catch her spirit. If you have found this and are planning on reading, please sign in to the comments so I know you are there.
I thank you for your attention.
It is being reported to me that some are having trouble posting a comment. You click on the "# Comments" below and you should see the comments and a box to leave a comment in. If this does not work for you, please put your comment in an e-mail to me at
peggysengerparsons AT gmail.com and I will post it the blog. thank you -
And Now For Something Completely Different
I am now going to hijack my own blog.
For the near future this blog is going to be dedicated to a writing project that I have been slow cooking for a long time, which needs to come to a boil.
I have been collecting material about a woman named Charlotte Macy for a decade now. Charlotte received what her eulogizers called a battlefield promotion in 1977. (by which they meant that she died too young)
I do not know if this project will end up as a long essay or a short book. Some of that depends on what kind of a reaction I get. I am going to write about Charlotte in short vignettes. I am hoping that people who knew her will read and give me feedback on whether I am hitting the notes right. I hope to provoke memories.
I promise to keep this project on task for the duration. The blog will be all Charlotte all the time till I am finished. I will keep it heresy free - so that you may recommend it to you older Quaker relatives and friends. If you know anyone active in NWYM from 1948-1977 please send send them a link of the next post. If you know a Quaker from Greenleaf Idaho, 1925-1948 they also may be interested.
Cute baby pictures and smart-Alec remarks will appear with the heresy over on Facebook.
Please make comments here, so that they are preserved.
Obsessive copy editors ( you know who you are) will please sit on their hands. Egregious errors may be noted, (Thank you) but this is not yet the time for the detail work.
Here we go...