Mixed media (gouache, water colour and ink) on Felix Schoeller True Rag Etching
427 X 630 mm (original artwork is framed in one-off arched frame with bronze plaque as per image)

Prints are on Felix Schoeller True Rag Etching 310 gsm
437 x 655mm (with added white border for square format)
Edition of 15
Hand-signed, dated and numbered

Born Jemima Wilkinson in 1752, the Public Universal Friend was raised in a Quaker Household in Rhode Island, USA. Quakers believe that there are traces of God in everyone, and that all humans have unique worth. At the age of 23 Jemima fell ill with a contagious and deadly fever. They survived, but were completely transformed by the incident – telling friends and family that Jemima Wilkinson had died, and that their new embodied spirit was neither male or female. They were called the Public Universal Friend and only lived to serve God. When asked whether they were male or female, the PUF would answer “I am that I am.”

From this day onwards the Friend would wear a combination of masculine and feminine clothing, with short hair on top and long ringlets at the back. They preached publicly about their spiritual awakening and traveled through New England to preach to their growing group of followers, who would become known as the Society of Universal Friends. The Friend’s teachings included equality of all people and the pursuit of a righteous and peaceful life. They encouraged followers to free their slaves and many members of the Society of Universal Friends were Black. In the 1790s the Society of Universal Friends acquired land in Western New York and formed the town of Jerusalem. Under the leadership of the Friend, members lived outside of the confines of traditional gender roles at the time – with women often taking leadership roles typically reserved for men. And others followed the friend in denouncing defined gender expression.

Today the friend is seen as an early figure in transgender history, particularly as a pioneer of non-binary identities.