Monday, March 31, 2014

The Shaker Community

The Shaker Community
By Ryan Carpenter

The Shaker community is one of the Utopian Communities that was formed after the Second Great Awakening.  These Communities varied greatly in their beliefs, but they all wanted to create an ideal society in which to live [1].  The Shaker Community was founded in 1770 by Ann Lee in England and it was originally called The United Society of Believers.  Prior to founding the community, Lee was a part of the Shaking Quakers which were known to dance and speak in tongues. Lee had four children which all died as infants and after the fourth one died, she had a vision which said that all sexual intercourse was evil.  She also began to believe that all things including God had a male and female part and her following thought of her as the second appearance of Christ. [2].  After losing four babies, it's not hard to understand how she might start to think all sex is wrong while suffering from her losses.  However, it is surprising how fast others seemed to start following her beliefs once she created the Shakers.

In 1774, Mother Ann and 8 followers went to New York from Liverpool where they kept a low profile for a few years, but it didn't stay that way.  Many people became curious about the Shakers and tried to learn more about them.  This brought more followers to the community, but it also brought persecution which led to the deaths of three leaders of the community including Mother Ann. Despite the persecution, the Shakers managed to expand to 18 different locations in the North East.

Location map of Sabbathday Lake Shaker CommunityOne of these locations is Sabbathday Lake.  Sabbathday was one of the smaller and poorer of the locations and was even nicknamed "The least of Mother's children in the east."  Through the struggle of paying off debts and trying to live, Sabathday Lake managed to survive and is the only active Shaker Community today. You can even go visit the community through [3].  I found it really surprising that the Shakers managed to survive this long considering celibacy is one of their main beliefs.

One possible reason Sabbathday managed to survive longest could be because you only need a few members to maintain it.  Having celibacy as a core principle means that they can't grow the group on their own and they will get very few new members.  With a large community, this could cause a large decrease in members as some of them begin to die which leads to a community the remaining members can't maintain.  With only a few members in the community, you don't need many new followers to counteract the older followers dying.

[1] National Parks Service, "Utopias in America." Accessed March 31, 2014.

[2] Hogan, Kathleen. American Studies, "The Shakers." Accessed March 31, 2014.

[3] Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, "About the Community." Accessed March 31, 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment