The Shakers at the Millennium

By Davies, Philip | Contemporary Review, August 2000 | Go to article overview

The Shakers at the Millennium


Davies, Philip, Contemporary Review


AS early as 1797 one US newspaper reported the Shakers as a religious community that was 'dead and dying'. The end of the Shakers has been reported since in various media and on numerous occasions, leading many to believe that Shaker dwells only in museums, theme parks and art galleries, or in the homes of wealthy celebrities who can afford to buy a piece of the heritage for themselves. The media does not always get it right. More than two hundred years after this report the small, but continuing, United Society of Shakers lives, works and witnesses its faith together in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

The Sabbathday Lake village was only three years old when that newspaper article made its morbid prediction. Established in 1794, the Maine community came on the heels of earlier Shaker villages founded from 1787 onwards, starting in Watervliet, and New Lebanon, New York, and extending to Hancock, Massachusetts, and Enfield, Connecticut by 1790.

Ann Lee, Mother to the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, as this spiritual group was earlier known, did not live to see the founding of any of these, and many later, Shaker communities. Born in 1736, the daughter of an English blacksmith, Ann was christened in Manchester's Collegiate Church in 1742, and lived most of her life in that town.

Manchester, in the north-west of England, was a hub of change through the Industrial Revolution. With a population of fewer than 20,000 at the time of Ann Lee's birth, it rapidly drew in capital, industry, and workers. It brought together people with ideas, and provided a forum in which exchange and distribution of those ideas was possible. Religion was a vital and central part of social, moral and civic life, and religious debate was bound to be vigorous in this context of rapid and accelerating development on all fronts.

The eighteenth-century town of Manchester lay at the centre of a region of towns and villages that was close knit economically and socially. There was something of an evangelical awakening going on at this time, and the people of this region were ready to participate fully in the debates. Quakers had earlier challenged the orthodox approaches of the established Church of England. Camisard influences were felt from French emigres. These may have had particular impact, but in the evangelical fervour of the times very many religious ideas were about, being articulated, and being contended. Splinter groups of many varieties formed, and Ann Lee, a woman of spirit, and apparently searching for a spiritual home, joined a group led by Jane and James Wardley.

The Wardleys were tailors from Bolton, just a few miles north of Manchester's centre, and one of many towns with a textiles-based economy that circled Manchester like planets around a sun. This group was already known as the 'Shakers', or sometimes as the 'Shaking Quakers', in response to its adherents' ecstatic movements during worship.

These Shakers were convinced of the unique and overpowering rightness of their religion. They accepted the role and guidance of visions that were received by members of the community. They took their visions, and their unorthodox practices of dancing and singing praise, to the broader Manchester community, and used them to disrupt proceedings in the churches of established congregations. Increasingly seen as an offensive sect of troublemakers, their behaviour attracted public approbation, fines, and jail sentences. Ann Lee emerged from one period in jail having received a vision that the Shakers should go to America.

Ann, her husband Abraham Standerin, and seven followers landed in New York in 1774. Standerin did not stay long with the Shaker party. He and Ann had married in January 1762. Ann bore four children by October 1766, all of whom died. This experience may in part have influenced her commitment to making celibacy a central pillar of Shaker religious practice. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Shakers at the Millennium
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.