The Shakers

By Sydney Hollasch

Origin of The Shakers

The Shakers began their religion Manchester England where their founder, Ann Lee, was from in 1758. The Shakers are a religious offshoot of Protestantism and were originally called the "Shaking Quakers" but over time the name was shortened to just the Shakers.Because of the Shakers practiced their religion differently they were persecuted in Europe, which drove Ann Lee's decision to move her and her followers to America. Ann Lee led her 8 followers to New York on August 6th, 1774 and created their own village called "Niskayuna".
At its height in the mid 1800's there were over 5,000 Shaker "brothers and sisters". Since then Shaker-ism has declined and there are now a total of 12 Shakers remaining in the United States.
The photo above is an example of what Shaker religious services looked like. Shaker services often included singing, clapping, songs, and dance.

Important Leaders

Ann Lee Ann Lee was not a very active religious person until a series of unfortunate events happened in her life and she began to have visions. Her visions paired with her leadership ability and charisma led her to be the leader of the first Shakers.

Jane Wardly was a preacher that urged that the shakers should repent because the kingdom of God was at hand and all the anti-Christ/church institutions would be swept away.

Joseph Meacham lead the shakers after Ann Lee died, and was supposed to have the spiritual gift of revelation. He introduced the idea of communalism to the Shaker community.

Lucy Wright, who lead the shakers after Meacham died, was responsible for introducing new types of dance and music to the shakers. The Shaker community also expanded westward into Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana while Wright led the Shakers.

Meeting at the Gate, Part 1 of 2: The North Union Shakers

Major Beliefs and Practices

Some of the core values of the Shakers are the second coming of Christ, celibacy, communal living, humility, simplicity, efficiency, hard work, and equality between the sexes. The Shakers followed fundamental Christian beliefs but rejected the holy trinity, which meant that they didn't believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Shakers also believed in direct communication with the deceased, but that belief declined over time.

Shaker religious services were very interesting in that there were many non-shaker observers. During the height of their popularity their services often included clapping, singing, and dancing. The dancing consisted of a lot of shaking of the body and moving your head and arms around. Once the Shakers declined, so did the fervor of the services.