Last updated: November 7, 2021
Audio Description, Benches/Seating, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Wheelchair Accessible
"All this may not have been in recreation, but it was strong training in patience."
Herbert Hoover grew up in a religious community that valued peace, simplicity, integrity, and service to others. The plainly furnished Friends Meetinghouse, built by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, in 1857, is the physical expression of those values. Now two blocks from its original location, the Herbert Hoover Birthplace Foundation relocated and restored this meetinghouse in 1964.
Quakers held two meetings for worship each week. Men sat to the right of the partition, women to the left. The Quakers did not have a paid minister. They did not use music, symbols, or sacraments in their worship. Instead, they practiced "silent waiting," or worshipping in silence as they sat on the rows of long wooden benches.
Moved by the Inward Light
If moved by the "inward light", a man or woman could stand and share their insights or prayers. Those known for their inspired messages, like Herbert's mother Hulda, became "recorded ministers" and sat on the facing benches with the elders.
Equality Before God
The Quakers strongly believed all people were equal before God. During monthly business meetings the partitions were closed, allowing women a chance at leadership independent of men. Hulda, active in the West Branch meeting, helped conduct revivals, founded and led a young people's prayer meeting, and took an active role in temperance campaigns that aimed to discourage alcohol consumption.
"Long Hours of Meeting"
Herbert Hoover described the meetings in his memoirs, "Those acquainted with the Quaker faith, and who know the primitive furnishings of the Quaker meeting-house, the solemnity of the long hours of meeting awaiting the spirit to move someone, will know the intense repression upon a ten-year-old boy who might not even count his toes. All this may not have been in recreation, but it was strong training in patience."
Career of Conscience
Like his mother, Herbert Hoover, learned to put his beliefs into practice, as he demonstrated during decades of leadership. The Quakers' stress on the equal worth of all persons is evident in Hoover's global humanitarian work, his dedication to public service, and his faith in the opportunities afforded by American life.
Worshipping with the Friends
The Friends Meetinghouse is the physical expression of the values of the Quaker faith practiced by Herbert Hoover’s family and the community of West Branch.
Located two blocks from its original site, the Friends Meetinghouse is the physical expression of the values of the Quaker faith practiced by Hoover’s family and the community of West Branch. Built by the Society of Friends in 1857, this single story wood frame building was relocated and restored in 1964 to reflect how it looked when Hoover attended services here as a child. Ruthie Tippin: “The first thing that you notice is how simple it is. The simplicity of the meeting room was intentional, the way it's laid out, the lack of ornamentation, the clarity of it, and that was to allow absolutely nothing to distract one from the presence of God. And that had a great impact on Herbert Hoover, and all others who worship as Friends.” Two meetings for worship were held each week, on First Day, Sunday, and Fourth Day, Wednesday. Quakers used numbers to mark their days and months because they didn’t believe in the mythological gods whose names were used in Roman calendars – like March – named for Mars, the god of war. What Quakers did believe in according to Ruthie Tippin, pastor of the West Branch Friends Church, was the concept of the Inner Light being present in every human soul. Ruthie Tippin: “Friends started out without a pastor and then, this division came between those who were satisfied and loved the sense of quiet waiting, against those who felt like there was something more to be had in a pastoral setting.” When Hoover was a child, there were no paid ministers. For 60 to 90 minutes, without benefit of music, or sacraments, the congregation would sit on the rows of long wooden benches. Find out how long you can sit still for. Just like in the 1870’s, women and girls on the left, and men and boys to the right. Now did you notice the raised benches at the front of the room? Who sat there? Ruthie Tippin: “So the elders – the ministry and oversight would sit on the facing benches, and they would sit in silence waiting – just waiting to see what God would do – what God would say – through the membership.” As the spirit moved them, people rose and spoke spontaneously. When there seemed to be no more messages, the elders rose, shook hands, and the meeting ended. Aware of how their actions might affect the world around them, the Friends tried earnestly to live lives that honored their commitments to love, integrity, equality, and peace. Those testimonies that Herbert Hoover experienced here as a child, instilled in him a drive to become a successful leader and one of the world’s great humanitarians.
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