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4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and informative about a remarkable woman., 20 Aug 2012
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This book is a detailed 'labour of love' about the prominent Quaker speaker, and wife of Abraham Darby II who developed the technique of smelting malleable iron and thus started the industrial revolution. She was also the mother of Abraham Darby III who created the first iron bridge ini the world - installed at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire.
Despite the momentous events of the times, this diary focuses on Abiah; the personalities and problems (social, economic and industrial) faced by the foundry are incidental, though we hear brief mentions of this 'other' world. The book covers the day-to-day life of Abiah as a prominent and virtuous Quaker and we read of the family house, Sunniside, now demolished, and how it was a focal point for the Quaker movement in the area. Abiah had long disagreements with the local Methodist minister, John Fletcher; she often had to pay fines because she refused to pay tithes. In the youth she was reluctant to speak at Quaker Meetings as she was naturally shy, but eventually follwed this calling and in the course of her long life must have travelled thousands of miles (when young, on horseback) on journeys to spread the Quaker word. She would visit prisons and address unruly crowds, though with fears, doubts and hesitations about whether she could manage to do this.
Most of the book focuses on the diary she kept, detailing her journeys, her preachings, the people she met and her pamphlets a well as her worries and misgivings.
In 1769 she stopped writing and Rachel Labouchere continues via the diary of Deborah Darby and other Quaker records. I found this broadened the emphasis of the book and there were more mentions of events surrounding the creation of the famous iron bridge, often shown as a symbol of the industrial revolution, as well as other events of the time.
I really enjoyed this book as I am fascinated by the whole Coalbrookdale area and events of the time. Abiah is an intriguing person - shy and modest, yet uncompromising in her faith. Her life-long commitment to her religion and Quaker ideals form a background to the inventions and dedication of the ironmasters and those around them. The book is very detailed and gradually builds up a picture of the huge network of Friends that was being created, both in the UK and America, against the background of momentous events of the times (including the American War of Independence). There is little information on their everyday life, which is a shame, and the reason why I gave it 4 stars.
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Abiah Darby, 1716-94: Wife of Abraham Darby II
Abiah Darby, 1716-94: Wife of Abraham Darby II by Lady Labouchere (Hardcover - April 1988)
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