Quakers continued to face opposition both in England and in North America. By 1661 more than 3,000 Friends had been imprisoned, including Fox, who spent 8 months at the Launceston prison in 1656. In the end he spent eight different terms in various prisons during his lifetime. Quakers were always defiant, and unlike many of the other dissenting traditions of 17th century England, they refused to meet in secret. Fox instilled a strong missionary spirit in the new movement. The movement sent missionaries to places like Jerusalem, The West Indies, Germany, Austria, and Holland. Fox himself traveled to Ireland in 1669, the West Indies and North America in 1671 and 1672, and to Holland in both 1677 and 1684. The Quaker influence became particularly strong in North America when William Penn, a Quaker, founded Pennsylvania in 1681 as an experiment in religious liberty and pacifism.
Fox died on January 13, 1691. While his influence might have seemed small at the time in terms of the number of adherents to Quakerism, his ideas have lived on. The world became more familiar with Fox when his Journal was published posthumously in 1694. Through the influence of his writings and his followers, slavery never had the same pervasive existence in England as it did in North America. His pacifistic message has always been a part of the Quakers and is still a distinguishing characteristic to this day. Other than Baptists, no other group to grow out of the unsettled times of 17th century England remain as organized, and much of this is due to the work of George Fox.
The ministries' of the Society of Friends today continue the work begun by Fox. Numbers are hard to determine with the fluidity of the beliefs and practices of the Society of Friends, but there are approximately 300,000 Friends worldwide. Of those, 17,000 are in Fox's home country of England, while about 93,000 are in the United States. These followers of Fox are divided into three main groups today, the Friends General Conference, The Friends United Meeting, and the Evangelical Friends International. These groups are involved in a variety of ministries around the world with Meeting Houses on every continent. They seek to provide spiritual growth through a variety of educational and retreat centers.
They are especially devoted to social concerns. The Society of Friends seeks to alleviate poverty around the globe; they are also actively involved with orphanages. There is also a strong egalitarian emphasis by the Friends that stretches all the way back to Fox. Because of this the Society of Friends is involved in efforts to stop racism of all types. They are also involved in gender equality and supporting the rights of homosexuals. One of their key values has always been as peace activists and the Friends continue to lead all of Christianity in pacifistic efforts. While the Society of Friends is a small minority in Christianity in terms of the number of members, they continue to be an influential force with a worldwide impact.