Extinct Group: Shakers or United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing
  • outside world named them "shakers" because they danced and shook during religious services (as shown in this drawing)
  • spontaneous dancing in the first 10 years than it became standardized
  • dancing and shaking was necessary to rid a person of sin
  • Millennialists, believing that Christ's second coming was realized in their leader, Ann Lee


  • mother church founded in 1747 in England and in 1792 in New Lebanon, NY settlements concentrated in NY and MA
  • before 1850s: 6,000 members lived in 18 communities from MA to MS -- see map.


  • Ann Lee was born in England in where her visions and ideas were expressed among the Quakers
  • female manifestation of the spirit of God on earth
  • unschooled, yet she spoke 27 distinctive languages
sex was sinful, root of all troubles:
  • Anne Lee thought herself punished for her own sexuality because of the early deaths of all her four children
  • celibacy was required of all members; no sexual expressions
  • right-side first in all things: walking, cutting hair, harnessing horses, etc.
  • sleep straight in bed; no diagonal paths, only straight cutting of cloth or food
Christian ideals:  
  • non-violence, pacifists (never fought in the Civil War -- President Lincoln granted them exemption from the draft)
  • common ownership of property
  • many were vegetarians
gender roles:
  • equality of the sexes but separate
  • men used east doors; women used west doors
  • paths in the villages were only one-person wide so that the sexes would not touch  -- photos are from the Hancock Shaker village
  • separate eating, sleeping, and working areas
  • yet at "union" meetings men and women sat across from each other without touching to discuss religious, social, and community affairs


  • philosophy: "put your hands to work, and give your hearts to God"
  • very creative and socially helpful group to their own members and to outside people as well

This very rare Shaker Canterbury, New Hampshire, painted side chair, circa 1820-1830, sells for $9,500!


inventions to make less work, time for more leisure:

· common clothespin · threshing machine
· circular saw

· improved washing machines

· apple parer

· pea sheller

· water-repellent cloth

· round oven

· improved wood stove

· conical stoves

other characteristics: decline:
  • looked after orphans -- and a source of new members;
    only 1 or 2 in ten children remained with the Shakers
  • helped in national and local epidemics
  • black and white shakers lived together in northern communities


  • 70,000 people lived among them for nearly 200 years
  • 2004, 3 men and 2 women still members: two are in their 40s, and the newest member is in his early thirties (Thanks to Marcus R. Létourneau from
    Queen’s University in Kingston for these latest numbers.)
  • left a rich treasure of folk art, architecture, and music 
Visit the historic Hancock Shaker village in western Mass.

Read about the last Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
Read Deborah Woodworth's novel, A Simple Shaker Murder, for insights into how the Shakers lived.