Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Beginnings, 1957-59

In the early 1950s Dr. Anna Bidder, Cambridge University professor, hosted gatherings of Young Friends in her home where conversations sometimes touched on concerns about sexuality, particularly homosexuality. The Wolfenden Report to Parliament in 1957 raised questions about attitudes toward homosexuality in the public forum. That year Bidder invited other prominent Quakers, largely social scientists and education professionals, to join her in a study of "Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex." 

Dr. Anna Bidder was a zoology professor at Cambridge and a leader in the Jesus Lane Friends Meeting. Bidder hosted "at homes" for Cambridge Young Friends in her kitchen every Sunday evening during the academic term. This was among  several activities in the programme of the Cambridge Young Friends group of the period. Keith Wedmore recalls discussions about sex and homosexuality and his awareness of suicides among homosexual students during the years of his participation (1953-55). 

In the face of increasing arrests and prosecutions of LGBT persons in post-War Britain, the government set up a Departmental Committee under Sir John Wolfenden. Its September 1957 report to Parliament recommended that "homosexual behavior between adults in private be no longer a criminal offence." The report created much furor and did not become law until 1967.

In 1957, Dr. Anna Bidder invited select Quakers to join in her in a study group on “Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex.” The group grew to eleven persons, mostly psychologists, psychiatrists and educators. They met in the Library at the University Women's Club in London and operated a travel pool to share costs.

The Quaker Group on Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex continued meeting almost every month in 1958 and after. The agenda included Meeting for Worship, listening to invited presenters and discussion among the group members. Minutes from each meeting show the progress of the group's expectations and purpose.

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