Quaker Meeting House
circa 1700

Sarah Fish Tucker was an accomplished minister for the Society of Friends, but we don’t remember her story. There are many history books that praise the activities of Portsmouth farmers, business leaders and public servants. It is rare to find stories about the accomplishments of women in town. Fortunately for us, Sarah left us her story in a spiritual memoir – “The Life and Religious Experience of Sarah Tucker- A Minister of the Society of Friends.” This is an autobiography and it is available digitally through a number of book sites.

She begins the book with her Portsmouth background. “I was born at Portsmouth, Rhode-Island, the 14th day of the 2d month, 1779, of honest parents, whose names were Preserved and Sarah Fish, both of respectable family but neither of them in religious profession with any denomination at that time.”  Her father had a Quaker background and her mother tended to Baptist beliefs.  She wrote:  “My mind was early, even in my very tender years impressed with a deep sense of good and evil, and
of the reality of a future state in which mankind would be rewarded according to their deeds.”  From childhood she longed for a religious community and she hoped to serve as a minister when she grew up.

When she was sixteen the Methodist tent meetings were popular in Portsmouth and Sarah would have joined the Methodist faith if her father had not interfered.  As Preserved Fish grew older, he was returning to the Quaker faith.  Sarah began to attend Quaker meetings and officially joined them at the age of twenty-one.  She searched for ways to keep her faith and not be influenced by the lifestyle of the young men and women in the Portsmouth community.  The childhood hope to become a minister came back to her.  In 1810 she joined minister Ann Smith in a journey to, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

In May of 1813 Sarah married James Tucker, an elder in the Dartmouth Friends meeting.  They were married at her home meetinghouse in Portsmouth.   She and James had three children who lived:  Phebe, Jesse, and Samuel.  She would leave her family to “hit the road” as a “circuit rider” or traveling minister. While she was away one of her children had an accident that left him almost blind.  Whatever the trial, Sarah took it as something that would ultimately make her stronger.   In between her trips up and down the East Coast, Sarah often became very sick – even to death’s door.  If you can understand how difficult it would be for women to travel in those days, it is remarkable that she continued to make her visits to Society of Friends meetings and families.  She always enjoyed returning to her Portsmouth roots as part of her visits.  She seemed to enjoy visiting personally with the families even more than attending meetings.  This personal encouragement was one of the aims of her ministry.

A note at the end of the book by members of her Friends community says: “She was sound in doctrine ; her ministry was weighty and edifying, waiting for the openings of Divine truth, zealously engaged to arouse the lukewarm and indifferent to a deeper indwelling, and to an experimental knowledge of the regenerating power of the grace of God….

In her last days: “She imparted much tender counsel and advice to her children ; and after taking an affectionate leave of her family, she quietly departed this life, the 23d of 3d month, 1840, aged sixty-one, and having been a minister about thirty-seven years.”