Friday, February 28, 2014

The Shakers
By: Mary Daugherty
            In the late 18th century, a woman named Ann Lee began having religious visions that resulted in her believing that all evil was caused by sex. There were only a few shakers who actually came over to the Americas, but once they arrived, they were able to spread their beliefs throughout parts of New York as well as the old Northwest. The shakers continued to grow in numbers until they reached around 6,000 followers right before the civil war.1
            The shakers had very conservative beliefs. An example would be the fact that shakers did not believe in procreation. This means that, unless they choose to adopt, shakers could not have any children.1 I think that it is interesting that, at a time with so many different views on sex, such a large number of people would be so opposed to it. The people in shaker communities even made sure that men and women were kept separate.
            I think that this religion came along due to fact that people were getting farther and farther away from the conservative lifestyle that people were supposed to be having at this time. Prostitution was at an all time high at the time when this religion came a long and sex before marriage was not as big of a deal as it used to be. Originally sex was thought to be only for procreation, but at the end of the 18th century and into the early19th century, there were more and more people that were just having sex for pleasure. The first great awakening occurred in the early 18th century and resulted in the separation of church and state. The great awakening was a religious revival, which caused a lot of people to start looking for a new religion to believe in. It is not too surprising that, with all of the changes from the conservative views of sex, many people wanted to go back to these views.

The shakers were vary opposed to the fact that sex was becoming more acceptable, so they formed the extreme view. Shakers were very strongly opposed to masturbation, homosexuality, and violence.1 Although the shakers were originally looked down upon due to their strange religious views, these communities eventually gained a lot of respect as their popularity grew. The Shakers experienced another religious revival in the mid-1800’s as more and more young shaker women began having visions of sacred spirits.1 Following the civil war, the United States became more and more industrialized, and eventually the shaker community grew smaller and smaller, although there are small shaker communities that still exist today.[1]

[1] United States. National Park Service. "Shaker Historic Trail." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

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