The Shakers invented a number of objects still in use, including the circular saw, brimstone match, flat broom, and the revolving oven. Although equality between the sexes was stressed, the actual day-to-day work of the communities was divided on traditional sexual lines. Men usually did most of the outside work and heavy manufacturing, and women were responsible for domestic work, cooking, and traditional female work such as cloth making and weaving.
As the number of male Shakers decreased over time, female manufactures began to be a major source of income. At its height with some eighteen active societies, over , acres of land, and thousands of members, the Shakers constituted a multistate corporation. Central authority rested with the two elders and two elderesses at the New Lebanon society, east of Albany in New York , with the head elder or elderess the official head.
Elders appointed their successors. Each Shaker society was governed by two elders and two elderesses assisted by deacons, who managed the day-to-day operation of the society, and trustees, who dealt with the outside world and were essentially the financial managers. Within the communities, the Shakers were divided into Families of about one hundred persons each, who lived and worked separately from other families and with strict sexual segregation within the families.
Despite the fairly rigid social structure, authoritarian rule was the exception; social cohesion was mostly the result of a shared commitment to Shaker values and beliefs.
Bulletin of Friends' Historical Association
All property was owned communally, and new members were required to turn over all personal property to the society upon signing the covenant. This was a major source of the large acreage owned by the Shakers, but also the cause of a number of lawsuits by former members and heirs of deceased members. These suits were nearly always decided in favor of the Shakers. Shaker religious beliefs are essentially fundamental Christianity , although there are some clearly unique beliefs that deviate from the main branches of Christianity and other sects.
The Shakers reject the Trinity ; instead they believe in a God made up of female and male elements reflected both in the supernatural and the real worlds. The requirement of celibacy is based on the belief that sin arose from Adam and Eve's sexual behavior in the Garden of Eden , although they do not feel that non-Shakers who marry and have sexual relations are sinners. The Shakers were also strong believers in active, direct communication with the deceased, but this practice apparently declined over the years. Perhaps the feature of Shaker life that has drawn the most attention was their religious services.
The services tended to be long, drawn-out events performed by the Shakers, but often with many non-Shaker observers. During the height of Shakerism in the mids, these services were ecstatic experiences for the participants, involving hand clapping, dancing, singing, stomping, shaking, jumping, shouting, having visions, and speaking in tongues. Some social scientists suggest that these services provided an emotional outlet for the Shakers who otherwise lived an austere life.
As Shakerism declined, so too did the fervor of the services. Hopple, Lee C. Richmond, Mary L. Shaker Literature: A Bibliography. Hanover, N. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. June 26, Retrieved June 26, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.
Early Years. The group was founded in England in the early s by a Quaker named Ann Lee , who concluded after several unsuccessful pregnancies that sexual intercourse was at the root of all sin.
They acquired some land near Albany, where they lived communally and practiced celibacy. They believed that Christ had returned to earth in spirit to begin the thousand years of peace and harmony known as the millennium. By there were about six thousand people living in Shaker villages. Communal Lifestyle. The Shakers were like many other Americans of the antebellum period in their desire. The society they developed, however, was quite distinctive and unusually successful. Men and women worked and ate separately, and all goods and chores were shared equally.
The children, who joined the communities either with their parents or as orphans, were raised communally. Each village was presided over by groups of elders, both male and female, who dealt with the outside world and carefully regulated both work and leisure within the community in an effort to keep people from tiring at any one task. These efforts must have succeeded, for Shaker fields and shops produced far more than was needed to sustain the community, and the surplus was sold to the outside world.
Shaker villages became widely known for their industry and inventiveness, and simple, elegant furniture based on Shaker designs is still highly valued today. The group also made advances in herbal medicine , invented many common items such as the clothespin and the flat broom, and was the first to develop an extensive business selling packaged seeds. Suspicion from Outside. While they had a prosperous and relatively harmonious relationship with the outside world in terms of business, the Shakers were also an object of intense suspicion because of their unusual beliefs and social arrangements.
They had their own printing presses, from which they issued numerous books and tracts explaining their beliefs. These publications gained them some converts but also fed the fire of anti-Shaker sentiment that occasionally erupted into mob violence. On a practical level celibacy seemed a highly unusual practice for a religious group that clearly desired to increase its numbers — leading to accusations that the Shakers abducted children for this purpose.
More important, celibacy was seen as inherently contrary to nature, God , and the sanctity of marriage. Traditional notions of the family were further threatened by the unusually prominent role of women in the church. In an age where most men and many women believed that women should remain in positions of deference, the Shakers whose first leader and visionary was a woman defied social norms by giving women equal authority in both spiritual and temporal affairs.
Even more radical was their belief that God was both male and female, and that Ann Lee had been the feminine incarnation of Jesus. To those who could accept the choices made by Shakers, the group became something of a marvel. Numerous foreign visitors, as well as such notable American tourists as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville , visited Shaker villages and wrote accounts of their remarkable industry and prosperity, the apparent contentment of their members, and the well-tended appearance of their houses and gardens.
Many were also fascinated by the distinctive character of Shaker worship. Indeed, this was probably the most important aspect of life for the Shakers themselves. Men and women participated together in highly emotional services that placed great importance on music and dancing. Hundreds of Shaker songs composed during the nineteenth century still survive. Speaking in tongues and falling into trances were also common in Shaker meetings.
Between and , in an early manifestation of the Spiritualist craze that overtook the nation after , public seances became an important part of Shaker religious life. Eventually, however, most of the mediums left the Shakers, and after Shaker membership in general began to decline rapidly. A small group of Shakers still exists today in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Stephen J. The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing was a small sect founded by working-class men and women in Manchester, England, in the late s.
These "Believers," as they called themselves, were derided as "Shakers" because their bodies shook and trembled in religious devotion. Convinced that the Day of Judgment was nigh, they expressed contempt for earthly authority and respectable churches. Ann Lee , the illiterate woman who would become the sect's revered American leader, was jailed twice for disturbing Anglican services. In a small cohort immigrated to New York and eventually clustered in the Hudson Valley, north of Albany, but they had not escaped repression. Shakers were arrested as troublemakers whose pacifism undermined the revolutionary cause.
They were whipped, beaten, and accused of witchcraft. As they began to draw American converts, "Mother Ann" Lee's prophecies and teachings set the rules and defined the goals of life within the United Society. After her death in , some believers regarded her as the second incarnation of God. Lucy Wright — —developed an institutional structure for less antagonistic relations with society. A village erected in the s on a mountainside overlooking New Lebanon, New York , became the movement's headquarters. Emissaries supervised the "gathering" of new communities in hill country regions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire , and Maine.
In the early nineteenth century the movement expanded into Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. By the mids about 4, believers lived in sixteen communal villages, usually with residential "Great Houses" surrounded by meetinghouses, barns, mills, workshops, and smaller residences for children and probationary members. A hierarchy of elders and eldresses who had completely abandoned the sinful world were in charge. The practical arrangement of life in these communities was more important than any wrangling over theology. The goals were separation from unbelievers, a simple and harmonious life, and equality of men and women.
In practice, believers gave up private property and worked for the common benefit in a rotation of tasks. Sexual relations were prohibited and men and women lived in strictly enforced separation. In the early decades believers faced hardship together. But they proved to be skilled at marketing a wide variety of products, such as seeds and herbs, diapers and cloaks, and tools and furniture. Life among the believers reached levels of comfort and security that drew admiration from utopian socialist communities.
The most prominent mid-nineteenth century Shaker leader, Elder Frederick Evans, had been a radical New York labor leader before he was converted by a series of nightly visitations by angels. He spoke for "progressive" Shakers who wished to see their movement more active in reform of society. An opposing faction feared that material success would lure "lukewarm" converts and undermine the pursuit of holy simplicity. In fact, there were too few converts and too many defectors. After peaking at about 6, in the s, membership declined steadily to about in , 40 in. Some Shaker villages became tourist sites.
Shaker songs, furniture, and recipes became American favorites.
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Popular nostalgia converted the once-persecuted Shakers into a charming sect. Brewer, Priscilla J. Shaker Communities, Shaker Lives. Stein, Stephen J. New Haven , Conn. It had its origin in England in , when Jane and James Wardley became the first leaders of a Lancashire revivalist sect. They were Quaker tailors influenced by the French prophets, an enthusiastic movement that had spread through southern France earlier in the century.
Ann Lee , year-old daughter of a Manchester blacksmith, joined this group of "shaking Quakers" in and through her strange visionary gifts became their leader. She was imprisoned in for disturbing the Sabbath and preaching a doctrine of celibacy, an idea stemming from her own experience of losing four children at or soon after their birth.
In , after visions and inspired revelations, she moved to America with a handful of followers. By the Shaker colony had grown, attracting many settlers. Men and women lived together in celibacy with common ownership of property. Between and Lee and her elders visited 36 towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut on a missionary campaign, but the Shakers were ridiculed. They had become especially unpopular for their pacifist ideas during the Revolution. Lee died in The community eventually prospered, especially under Lee's successor, Joseph Meacham, and established an enviable reputation for hard work, excellent furniture making, and community spirit.
The most characteristic behavior of the Shakers, from which their popular name derived, was an ecstatic dance. It seems clear that much of the very genuine joy and creativeness of the Shaker community arose from the intense energy of sexual sublimation. Starting in , the Watervliet community near Albany, New York , was visited by Spiritualist-type manifestations of shaking and jerking, and some Shakers were possessed by Indian spirits and spoke in tongues see Xenoglossis. Some of them became Spiritualists.
The Shaker community grew throughout the nineteenth century. The Shakers were able to gather many converts on the frontier and found other members among the many orphans to whom they provided a home. They originally had functioned informally as an orphanage in many areas, but the creation of a system of government and church-sponsored orphanages had a significant impact on the movement's development. The eventual decline of Shakerism owed partly to materialistic influences from outside and partly to the inevitable dwindling of a community that outlawed sexual activity.
Andrews, Edward Deming. New York : Oxford University Press, Desroche, Henri. The American Shakers. Amherst, Mass. Garrett, Clarke. Baltimore , Md. Holloway, Emory. Taylor, Michael Brooks. Members of the movement, who received their name from the trembling produced by religious emotion, were also known as Alethians. The movement originated in a Quaker revival in England in , and was led by James and Jane Wardley. However, the sect, then known as the Shaking Quakers, grew strong only after the appearance of Ann Lee.
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Imprisoned for her zeal, she believed herself the recipient of the mother element of the spirit of Christ. Following a vision, she and eight followers emigrated to New York state and in founded a colony at Watervliet, near Albany. Mother Ann, as she was known, gained a number of converts, who after her death began the formation of Shaker communities.
By there were 18 Shaker communities in eight states, as far west as Indiana.
After , Shakerism began to decline; by it was almost nonexistent, with a tiny community in New Gloucester, Maine, constituting the only active Shaker village in the country. One of the fundamental doctrines of the society was belief in the dual nature of the Deity. All Shaker villages ran farms, using the latest scientific methods in agriculture.
They raised most of their own food, so farming, and preserving the produce required to feed them through the winter, had to be priorities. Their livestock were fat and healthy, and their barns were commended for convenience and efficiency. When not doing farm work, Shaker brethren pursued a variety of trades and hand crafts, many documented by Isaac N.
When not doing housework, Shaker sisters did likewise, spinning, weaving, sewing, and making sale goods. Shakers ran a variety of businesses to support their communities. Many Shaker villages had their own tanneries, sold baskets, brushes, bonnets, brooms, fancy goods, and homespun fabric that was known for high quality, but were more famous for their medicinal herbs, garden seeds of the Shaker Seed Company , apple-sauce, and knitted garments Canterbury. The Shaker goal in their labor was perfection. Ann Lee's followers preserved her admonitions about work:.
Mother Ann also cautioned them against getting into debt. Shaker craftsmen were known for a style of Shaker furniture that was plain in style, durable, and functional. They were so successful that several furniture companies produced their own versions of "Shaker" chairs. Because of the quality of their craftsmanship, original Shaker furniture is costly. Shakers won respect and admiration for their productive farms and orderly communities. Their industry brought about many inventions like Babbitt metal , the rotary harrow , the circular saw , the clothespin , the Shaker peg , the flat broom , the wheel-driven washing machine , a machine for setting teeth in textile cards, a threshing machine, metal pens , a new type of fire engine, a machine for matching boards, numerous innovations in waterworks, planing machinery, a hernia truss, silk reeling machinery, small looms for weaving palm leaf, machines for processing broom corn, ball-and-socket tilters for chair legs, and a number of other useful inventions.
Shakers were the first large producers of medicinal herbs in the United States, and pioneers in the sale of seeds in paper packets. The Shakers believed in the value of hard work and kept comfortably busy. Mother Ann said: "Labor to make the way of God your own; let it be your inheritance , your treasure , your occupation, your daily calling".
The Shakers' dedication to hard work and perfection has resulted in a unique range of architecture, furniture and handicraft styles. They designed their furniture with care, believing that making something well was in itself, "an act of prayer". Before the late 19th century, they rarely fashioned items with elaborate details or extra decoration, but only made things for their intended uses. The ladder-back chair was a popular piece of furniture. Shaker craftsmen made most things out of pine or other inexpensive woods and hence their furniture was light in color and weight.
The earliest Shaker buildings late 18th - early 19th century in the northeast were timber or stone buildings built in a plain but elegant New England colonial style. For example, they had a "peg rail", a continuous wooden device like a pelmet with hooks running all along it near the lintel level. They used the pegs to hang up clothes, hats, and very light furniture pieces such as chairs when not in use.
The simple architecture of their homes, meeting houses, and barns has had a lasting influence on American architecture and design. There is a collection of furniture and utensils at Hancock Shaker Village outside of Pittsfield, Massachusetts that is famous for its elegance and practicality. At the end of the 19th century, however, Shakers adopted some aspects of Victorian decor, such as ornate carved furniture, patterned linoleum, and cabbage-rose wallpaper. Examples are on display in the Hancock Shaker Village Trustees' Office, a formerly spare, plain building "improved" with ornate additions such as fish-scale siding, bay windows, porches, and a tower.
By the middle of the 20th century, as the Shaker communities themselves were disappearing, some American collectors whose visual tastes were formed by the stark aspects of the modernist movement found themselves drawn to the spare artifacts of Shaker culture, in which " form follows function " was also clearly expressed.
Other artifacts of Shaker culture are their spirit drawings, dances, and songs, which are important genres of Shaker folk art. Doris Humphrey , an innovator in technique, choreography, and theory of dance movement, made a full theatrical art with her dance entitled Dance of The Chosen, which depicted Shaker religious fervor. The Shakers composed thousands of songs, and also created many dances; both were an important part of the Shaker worship services.
In Shaker society, a spiritual "gift" could also be a musical revelation, and they considered it important to record musical inspirations as they occurred. Scribes, many of whom had no formal musical training, used a form of music notation called the letteral system. Many of the lyrics to Shaker tunes consist of syllables and words from unknown tongues, the musical equivalent of glossolalia. It has been surmised that many of them were imitated from the sounds of Native American languages, as well as from the songs of African slaves, especially in the southernmost of the Shaker communities [ citation needed ] , but in fact the melodic material is derived from European scales and modes.
Most early Shaker music is monodic, that is to say, composed of a single melodic line with no harmonization. The tunes and scales recall the folksongs of the British Isles, but since the music was written down and carefully preserved, it is "art" music of a special kind rather than folklore. Many melodies are of extraordinary grace and beauty, and the Shaker song repertoire, though still relatively little known, is an important part of the American cultural heritage and of world religious music in general.
Shakers' earliest hymns were shared by word of mouth and letters circulated among their villages. Many Believers wrote out the lyrics in their own manuscript hymnals. In , they published Millennial Praises , a hymnal containing only lyrics. After the Civil War, the Shakers published hymnbooks with both lyrics and music in conventional four-part harmonies.
These works are less strikingly original than the earlier, monodic repertoire. The songs, hymns, and anthems were sung by the Shakers usually at the beginning of their Sunday worship. Their last hymnbook was published in at Canterbury, New Hampshire. The surviving Shakers sing songs drawn from both the earlier repertoire and the four part songbooks. They perform all of these unaccompanied, in single-line unison singing. The many recent, harmonized arrangements of older Shaker songs for choirs and instrumental groups mark a departure from traditional Shaker practice.
Many contemporary Christian denominations incorporate this tune into hymnals , under various names, including " Lord of the Dance ", adapted in by English poet and songwriter Sydney Carter. Some scholars, such as Daniel W. Patterson and Roger Lee Hall , have compiled books of Shaker songs, and groups have been formed to sing the songs and perform the dances. The most extensive recordings of the Shakers singing their own music were made between and and released on a 2-CD set with illustrated booklet, Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers.
Two widely distributed commercial recordings by The Boston Camerata , "Simple Gifts" and "The Golden Harvest" , were recorded at the Shaker community of Sabbathday Lake, Maine, with active cooperation from the surviving Shakers, whose singing can be heard at several points on both recordings. Aaron Copland 's iconic ballet score Appalachian Spring , written for Martha Graham , uses the now famous Shaker tune " Simple Gifts " as the basis of its finale. Given to Graham with the working title "Ballet for Martha", it was named by her for the scenario she had in mind, though Copland often said he was thinking of neither Appalachia nor a spring while he wrote it.
Laboring Songs, a piece composed by Dan Welcher in for large wind ensemble, is based upon traditional shaker tunes including "Turn to the Right" and "Come Life, Shaker Life". Shaker lifestyle and tradition is celebrated in Arlene Hutton 's play As It Is in Heaven , which is a re-creation of a decisive time in the history of the Shakers. Born in Louisiana and raised in Florida, Lincks was inspired to write the play after visiting the Pleasant Hills Shaker village in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, a restored community that the Shakers occupied for more than a century, before abandoning it in because of the inability of the sect to attract new converts.
Novelist John Fowles wrote in A Maggot , a postmodern historical novel culminating in the birth of Ann Lee, and describing early Shakers in England. In the Finnish choreographer Tero Saarinen and Boston Camerata music director Joel Cohen created a live performance work with dance and music entitled "Borrowed Light".
While all the music is Shaker song performed in a largely traditional manner, the dance intermingles only certain elements of Shaker practice and belief with Saarinen's original choreographic ideas, and with distinctive costumes and lighting. The lifestyle and philosophy of the Shakers and their matriarch Ann Lee are recurring themes in her work. New Lebanon, New York, Shakers began keeping school in Certified as a public school by the state of New York beginning in , the teachers operated on the Lancastrian system , which was considered advanced for its time.
Boys attended class during the winter and the girls in the summer. The first Shaker schools taught reading, spelling, oration, arithmetic and manners, but later diversified their coursework to include music, algebra, astronomy, and agricultural chemistry. Non-Shaker parents respected the Shakers' schooling so much that they often took advantage of schools that the Shaker villages provided, sending their children there for an education.
State inspectors and other outsiders visited the schools and made favorable comments on teachers and students. Turnover was high; the group reached maximum size of about 5, full members in ,  and 6, believers at the peak of the Shaker movement. The Shaker communities continued to lose members, partly through attrition, since believers did not give birth to children, and also due to economics; hand-made products by Shakers were not as competitive as mass-produced products and individuals moved to the cities for better livelihoods. There were only 12 Shaker communities left by In , after "months of prayer", Eldresses Gertrude, Emma, and Ida, leaders of the United Society of Believers in Canterbury Shaker Village , voted to close the Shaker Covenant, the document which all new members need to sign to become members of the Shakers.
Membership is closed forever. However, Shaker covenants lack a "sunset clause" and today's Shakers of Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village welcome sincere new converts to Shakerism into the society: . If someone wants to become a Shaker, and the Shakers assent, the would-be member can move into the dwelling house. If the novices, as they are called, stay a week, they sign an articles of agreement, which protects the colony from being sued for lost wages.
After a year, the Shakers will take a vote whether to allow the novice in, but it takes another four years to be granted full Shaker status in sharing in the colony's finances and administrative and worship decisions. Sister Frances Carr died on January 2, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses of Shaker, see Shaker. Mildred Barker Issachar Bates D. Further information: Early chronology of Shakers. Main article: Ann Lee. Main article: Lucy Wright. Main article: Era of Manifestations. A two-sheet religious chart intended to further Shaker education, by Jacob Skeen, Main article: Shaker communities.
See also: Shaker furniture. Other religions were pacifists who eschewed violence and war, including the Shakers. Shakers: Compendium of the Origin, History Religious and Social Ritual: Interdisciplinary Explorations. SUNY Press; Women and Redemption: A Theological History. Fortress Press; Enfield, Connecticut: Stories Carved in Stone. Dog Pond Press; January 1, Whittaker, J. Hocknell, J.
Meacham, and Lucy Wright. Appleton; The Making of the English Working Class. IICA; Associated Press. October 4, Retrieved August 30, Walkley, printer; Taunton Press; Schorsch and Ruth Wolfe. February 23, Retrieved March 23, Oxford University Press; Retrieved on March 23, Retrieved December 24, Al Jazeera. Retrieved June 19, December 17, Retrieved October 28, January 18, The Conversation. Retrieved August 28, However, the members at Sabbathday Lake stressed the autonomy of each local community.
Quietly, a few younger people became associated with the Maine community in the s through the s. The two remaining members of this community, Arnold Hadd and June Carpenter, are listed as members today. Busted Halo. Hadd and the other Shakers are not giving up. They are open to converts and average two inquiries a week. September 28, The A to Z of the Shakers. Scarecrow Press. Van Demark, ed. Clinton, N. Couper Press, V:B and May 8, Retrieved January 18, Andrews, The People Called Shakers.
Wergland, Visiting the Shakers, — Clinton, N. Stein, The Shaker Experience in America , Talcott and J. Deming, Junrs. Grant and Douglas R. Hancock, Mass. Amherst, Mass. Roger L. American Music Preservation. March 26, Retrieved February 1, Some Shaker school records are extant. Youngs et al. Design: An Illustrated Historical Overview. Koln: DuMont Buchverlag. Schenectady Gazette. Retrieved February 22, — via Google Newspapers.
January 3, Times Union. Retrieved January 3, Andrews, Edward Deming. Dover Publications, NY. Duffield, Holley Gene. Historical Dictionary of the Shakers.
Scarecrow Press, Garrett, Clarke. Origins of the Shakers. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, and Johnson, Theodore E. Volume 7. Madden; Etta M. Morgan, John H. Bristol, IN: Quill Books, Murray John E. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34 : 35— Paterwic, Stephen J.
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Scarecrow Press, Promey, Sally. Indiana University Press, Stein, Stephen J. Visiting the Shakers, —