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The Shakers are a small religious sect that was founded in Manchester, England, in 1747. Their name came from the derogatory term, "Shaking Quakers," which they were initially called because of their tendency to shake their bodies spastically while praying. The Shakers' first leader, Ann Lee, was known as Mother Ann, and claimed to have visions of God. She was imprisoned in England for her controversial religious views; upon her release, she led a small group of eight fellow Shakers to the United States.
This group settled in a small town in upstate New York. They believed in celibacy, and attempted to raise new generations of children by adopting orphans into their community. The Shaker movement soon grew, with new communes appearing throughout New England, as well as in Kentucky and Ohio.
The Shaker communities were known for their devout Christianity, their plain clothes, and their work ethic. Many people in the community became adept at building furniture, which is highly valued today for its excellent craftsmanship. As excellent farmers, they were also responsible for many agricultural inventions, such as the clothespin and the circular saw. They were also well-known for their collection of medicinal herbs.
Today, there is only one remaining community of Shakers, located on Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine. The community has only a handful of members, and they are no longer permitted to adopt children as a religious group. They lead a quiet life, full of work and prayer. There is a Shaker Museum on the premises which is open to visitors, and visitors can also sit in on Sunday services. On the first Sunday of August, the Shakers celebrate Mother Ann Day, in honor of the group's founder. Some believe that once the group's membership has dwindled to only five members, there will be a revival.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the Shakers and what are they known for?
The Shakers, formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, are a religious sect that originated in the 18th century in England. They are known for their celibate and communal lifestyle, pacifism, and their model of equality of the sexes, which was radical for its time. The Shakers are also famous for their simple, yet high-quality craftsmanship in furniture and architecture, as well as their contributions to agricultural innovation and music.
What are the core beliefs of the Shaker religion?
The Shaker religion is centered around the idea of simplicity and perfection in everyday life. Core beliefs include celibacy, communal living, confession of sin, and separation from the world. They also believe in gender equality and pacifism. The Shakers practice a form of worship that includes singing, dancing, and shaking, which is how they got their name. They believe in the second coming of Christ and strive to live a life of humility and simplicity in preparation for this event.
How did the Shaker community sustain itself economically?
The Shaker community sustained itself through a variety of industries, including agriculture, medicinal herbs, seed production, and the crafting of furniture and household items. Their products were known for their quality and innovation, which allowed them to trade successfully with the outside world. The Shakers were also early adopters of new agricultural techniques and were known for their seed businesses, which helped to support their communities financially.
What is the current status of the Shaker community?
As of the early 21st century, the Shaker community has dwindled significantly due to their practice of celibacy and the lack of new converts. The last remaining Shaker community is at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine, which still practices the Shaker religion and maintains a museum to preserve their history. According to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, there are only a few Shakers left as of 2021.
How has Shaker design influenced modern aesthetics?
Shaker design has had a profound influence on modern aesthetics, particularly in the realms of furniture and architecture. The emphasis on functionality, clean lines, and fine craftsmanship resonates with contemporary minimalist design philosophies. Shaker furniture is celebrated for its simplicity, durability, and timeless elegance, qualities that have been embraced by modern designers looking to create spaces that reflect clarity and purpose.