Shakers

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.

founder: 

  • 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

work:

  • 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.

Optional
:
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.


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