Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Travers, Rebecca

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TRAVERS, REBECCA (1609–1688), quakeress, born in 1609, was daughter of a baptist named Booth, and from the age of six devoutly studied the Bible. At an early age she married William Travers, a tobacconist at the Three Feathers, Watling Street, London. In 1654 curiosity led her to hear a dispute between James Naylor [q. v.] and the baptists. Soon afterwards she met Naylor privately, became a sound quaker, and his good friend. Her stability and discretion contrasted with the extravagances of the handful of quaker women who contributed to Naylor's fall. Rebecca Travers visited him in prison, and, upon his release in September 1659, lodged him for a time at her house.

A fearless and powerful preacher, she attended at St. John the Evangelist's church in the same year and questioned the priest upon his doctrine. He hurried away, leaving her to be jostled and abused. Gough says she was three times in Newgate in 1664, but these imprisonments are not recorded in Besse's ‘Sufferings.’ She early took a prominent part among the quaker women, being specially trusted with the care of the sick, poor, and prisoners. She visited the prisons at Ipswich and elsewhere. In 1671, a year before the representative yearly meeting, the ‘six weeks' meeting’ was established as a court of appeal. It was composed of ‘ancient Friends’—i.e. in experience and quaker standing, not age—and Rebecca Travers was one of its first members. It still exists, as does also the ‘box meeting’ for the relief of poor Friends, which was first started at her house. Rebecca Travers died on 15 June 1688, aged 79. A son, Matthew, and at least one daughter survived. She was author of ten small works, including a volume of religious verse, and prefaces to two of Naylor's books; also (this is not given in Smith's ‘Catalogue’) of ‘The Work of God in a Dying Maid,’ London, 1677, 12mo (two editions); reprinted Dublin, 1796, 12mo; London, 1854, 24mo. It is the account of the conversion to quakerism and subsequent death of Susan Whitrow, a modish young lady of fifteen.

[Neal's Hist. of Puritans, v. 277; Gough's Hist. of Quakers, iii. 219–23; Barclay's Letters of Early Friends, p. 129; Sewel's Hist. of the Rise, ii. 352; Smith's Cat. ii. 820; Whitehead's Christian Progress, pp. 292, 294; Beck and Ball's London Friends' Meetings, pp. 92, 129, 351; Besse's Sufferings, i. 484; Whitehead's Impartial Relation of Naylor, p. xxi; Registers at Devonshire House, E.C.; Swarthmore MSS., where are three original letters.]

C. F. S.