The Shakers

Life of the Diligent Shaker

The Shakers, or the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearance, represent one of the most successful utopian communities in American history.

Founded in England in 1770 by Ann Lee

Their last remaining community currently numbers less than ten members, the Shakers have maintained a utopian presence in the United States for over two hundred years.

Lee had become dissatisfied with the Anglican church , and this dissatisfaction was coupled with the fact that Lee and her husband had had four children, all of whom died in infancy. Following the death of her fourth child, Lee claimed to have had a vision from God in which it was explained to her that sex ual intercourse was the root of all sin, and that to truly serve God, one must be celibate.

Lee's Visions

According to Lee's visions, the Shakers were to live by four basic tenets. First, they must live communally. Second, they must be celibate. Third, they must regularly confess their sins. And fourth, they must separate themselves from the outside world . They believed that if they rigorously followed these tenets, they would be able to achieve perfection.
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Round Barn and Poultry House, Shaker village, Hancock, MA.

The Shakers were celibate, they did not marry or bear children, yet theirs is the most enduring religious experiment in American history. Seventy-five years before the emancipation of the slaves and one hundred fifty years before women began voting in America, the Shakers were practicing social, sexual, economic, and spiritual equality for all members.
The Shakers were ordinary people who chose to give up their families, property, and worldly ties in order “to know, by daily experience, the peaceable nature of Christ’s kingdom.”