A hat performs a variety of roles. It can help keep you warm on a chilly day. On a sunny day it can shade your face. A hat can accessorize an outfit and add pizzazz to a fashion ensemble.

For Quaker William Penn, a hat became a social statement. Quakers believe that all are created equal and have the “light of Christ” within. In 1670 England, Penn was in court for speaking to an unlawful assembly. The “unlawful” assembly was a Quaker meeting.

There are several versions of what happened that day in court.  We do know for sure that Penn would not remove his hat. Men were expected to doff their hats as a sign of respect to their superiors. The judge ordered Penn to remove his hat. Penn, as a good Quaker, refused to do so. He was held in contempt of court and imprisoned.

It is ironic that Penn himself could have demanded that hats be removed in his presence given his standing in the social hierarchy of the time in England. His sense of social justice and equality overrode his vanity. Next time you visit Penn Treaty Park take a look at the statue of William Penn. His hat is firmly in place.

Gail Sweet