On January 14, David and Louise Turpin – the parents of 13 children, ages 2 to 29 – were arrested in Perris (Riverside County), California, and later charged with multiple counts of false imprisonment, child abuse, and torture. The children had been starved, beaten, chained to their beds, and permitted to bathe only once a year; they had been home-schooled (minimally), forced to memorize long passages of the Bible, and denied medical or dental care.
David Turpin’s parents told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked” by the allegations because their son and daughter-in-law are “a good Christian family.” “God called on them” to have as many children as they did, the elder Turpins said.
Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (2010). Kathryn Joyce is freelance journalist. Read an excerpt here.
Quiverfull takes its name from a line in Psalm 127: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man / so are children of one’s youth. / Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; / they shall not be put to shame …” As a religious practice, it appears to have first been named in a 1990 book A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, in which the authors, a married couple, advocate for a husband’s authority and a wife’s submissiveness in marriage and a couple’s requirement to abandon all birth control. “Women’s attempts to control their own bodies—the Lord’s temple—are [perceived as] the province of prostitutes,” wrote journalist Kathryn Joyce in 2010. The movement has been described as “radically pro-life”; it exists mostly in the United States but also has adherents in the U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
The Quiverfull movement emerged from the fringes around 2008, when the “reality” television show 17 Kids and Counting (later 18 Kids, then 19 Kids) first aired on the TLC cable channel. The Arkansas family at the center of the show, the Duggars, called themselves “independent Baptists” and denied belonging to the Quiverfull movement, but their denial spurred curious inquiries. Their show was canceled in 2015 after it was revealed that the eldest Duggar son, Josh, had molested several girls, including some of his sisters, when he was a teenager.
I first became aware of Quiverfull around 2012, when I traveled down an Internet rabbit hole to a strangely compelling blog called “Permission to Live: A Young Mom’s Musings.” When I first discovered the blog, its author, Melissa, was married to “the love of my life” and the mother of four children under age 5. She’d been raised in a Quiverfull Protestant family, the oldest of 11 children; she married after a brief “parent-directed courtship.” Then the marriage took an unexpected turn: Melissa’s husband confessed to having seen “bad things” on the internet and eventually told Melissa that he believed he’d been born in the wrong body. With Melissa’s permission, he began living as a woman. And then Melissa came to realize she was sexually attracted to women. Despite all this, the couple stayed together, rejected Quiverfull, and started attending a Unitarian church.
It turns out I’d missed another big exit-from-Quiverfull story that had appeared in 2011. California-born Vyckie Garrison had married at 16, moved to Nebraska, given birth to seven children, and started a “pro-life, pro-family newsletter,” The Nebraska Family Times. Meanwhile, her husband was beating her and one of her children attempted suicide. She eventually divorced her husband and started a blog called “No Longer Quivering,” in which a contributor recently wrote about the Turpin family. Garrison now identifies as an atheist. In a 2011 interview, she warned that “as the Christian homeschool movement flourishes, the peddlers of Quiverfull principles … are enabled to exert more and more influence on right wing political thought and policy.” According to a report released earlier this month, the overall number of homeschooled students in the U.S. – Christian and other – increased by 15 percent between 2010 and 2016.
UPDATE: I neglected to mention Mr. Quiverful, a character in Anthony Trollope’s 1857 novel Barchester Towers. Mr. Quiverful , who has 14 children, is appointed the warden of Hiram’s Hospital.
Disclaimer: Early in my name-development career, almost 20 years ago, I named a startup link-aggregation company QUIVER. It was an apt metaphor, suggesting both “collection” (as of arrows) and “to vibrate energetically.” The company was eventually folded into a larger company; given what I now know about Quiverfull, I’d probably choose a different name today.