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    Charismatic Prophetess "Public Universal Friend" worries that this may be "the Last offer of Mercy & help that any of you will ever have"

    Jemima Wilkinson Autograph Manuscript Signed "The Public Universal Freind" at the conclusion of the letter and in the first line of the letter. Two pages, 6.5" x 8", "New Milfourd" [Connecticut], December 5, 1785. Believing that Biblical prophecy was coming to pass, popular New England prophetess and preacher Jemima Wilkinson calls for a forty-day fast in this letter to her "Dear Freinds." Transcribed as written in part:

    "The Public Universal Friend to friends in Pensylvaina Sendith greeting -
    Dear Freinds; the time is now come that is written of in Joel 2d Chapter beginning at the 15th verse, that it must be put Into Immediate Execution Blow the Trumpet in Zion sanctify a fast, call a solomn Assambly gather the people sanctify the Congregation. . . . Let them say spare thy people O Lord; and give not thy Heritage to Reproach; that the Heathen should not Rule over them; then shall the Lord be Jealous for his Land and pitty his people. It is commanded by the father of Mercys that every one that are Named as freinds whose Souls, not delivered out of captivety; and standing in the glorious Liberty of the Sons of god; that they fast and pray, which is to be done as followeth - you are not Deluded to feed your bodys on the Bread & water."

    Wilkinson then specifies the amount of bread and water to be "carefully Measared" and eaten over the forty day fast, with the warning to "eat no more in any one Day than the above Mentioned allowance." She instructs her readers to humble themselves during the fast "that you May be wife unto Salvation Indeed. All of you are Left to your chance to free by act for your Selves - Either to obey the counsel Herin given you or sell your souls for a morsel of meat. the Day of your visatation is Nearly over And if your Souls are not Delivered soon there is great Danger Indeed there never will be. . . . I send my Love to you all who Choose to obey And Blessed are the who due his commandment that they May have a wright to the tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the Holy City. . . . And it seems as if this would be the Last offer of Mercy & help that any of you will ever have. Especially if you don't Obey this counsel." Wilkinson's final instruction is that "one of you take the Names of all who choose to obey among you and return them to me or to James [Parker?] or Sarah [Richards]."

    Raised as a Quaker, Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) suffered a strange fever at the age of twenty-four. When the fever lifted, she believed that she had died and been raised again with a mission from God. She changed her name to "Public Universal Friend" and began preaching and prophesying to her following. She adhered to and taught a strict doctrine of universal friendship and sexual abstinence, spending most of her time in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. In the late 1780s, however, she had great success in Connecticut, especially around New Milford, where she issued this letter. This letter has toned with separations along some folds and small holes at fold intersections.

    Also included is the earliest biography about the extraordinary life of Wilkinson, History of Jemima Wilkinson, A Preacheress of the Eighteenth Century; Containing an Authentic Narrative of Her Life and Character, and of the Rise, Progress and Conclusion of her Ministry by David Hudson (Geneva, New York: S. P. Hull, 1821, 208 pages, plus an appendix). The book is very fragile and includes some penciled notations on the front pastedown. The spine is missing and the final three pages are defective. From the Judith Kaplan Women's History Collection.

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