In Daughters of Light: Quaker Women Preaching and Prophesying in the Colonies and Abroad, 1700-1775, Rebecca Larson writes:
Leaders of the Protestant Reformation had proclaimed a theoretical universal “priesthood,” with each individual interpreting the Bible on the basis of a direct relationship to God. But in practice, most Protestants deferred to a male minister as an ordained, educated professional. [...] The Quaker interpretation, however, opposed powerful gender ideology embedded in Western thought.
Historically, Christians had believed that women were barred from positions of ecclesiastical authority by divine judgment. Their assumption that women were to be excluded from the priesthood was based primarily on passages in Genesis, and the New Testament writings of Apostle Paul. [...]
George Fox focussed on the account of Creation in Genesis that describe man and woman as both having been created in the image of God. Woman’s subjection to man did not reflect the moral perfection of the Great Chain of Being. Instead, this was an unnatural relationship brought about by the fall from grace. [...] Early Friends were convinced that Apostle Paul’s injunction that women remain silent in church had been taken out of context by theologians. The Quakers noted that Apostle Paul had dismissed the hierarchical order he had emphasized in other passages when he described spiritual rebirth...
In many ways, it can be argued that Quaker practice and doctrine were more consistent with early Protestant ideals than most “mainstream” Protestant churches could manage. This description of them is even quite radical and progressive when compared to several Protestant denominations today, for example the Southern Baptist Convention. Given how long ago the Quakers were already placing women in positions in authority, the amount of social progress made by women seems inadequate.
The fact that they could insist that Paul’s injunction against women teaching and preaching is “taken out of context” is interesting given how often conservative Christians make the same argue in defense of traditional interpretations. This rejoinder can be used by just about anyone to “prove” just about anything — so long as the “context” is large enough, one can insist that the verse in question be interpreted in whatever manner they desire.