The Shakers are a religious sect which broke from the Quakers in the eighteenth century. The Shakers redefined traditional sexuality and gender roles. They are also known for their sexual equality. It was founded by "Mother" Ann Lee, a strong reformer. It began in the 1770s and lasted through the 1800s. Apart from practicing celibacy and changing gender roles, one goal of the Shakers was to escape the chaotic life of American society. Since the Shakers practice complete celibacy, no one was born into Quakerism, they only joined from conversion and moral suasion.

Shakers earned their name by virtue of their unique rituals; as a group, the members of the congregation would perform a dance/chant in order to "shake" themselves free of sin in the presence of the divine.

Since the 1800s, the members of Shaker society have gone down in number. At the height of the Shaker society, there were 6,000 members. By the mid 19th century, there were 26 functioning, isolated communities that practiced the rituals of the Shakers. Most Shaker communities had large populations of orphans, as no one was born into Shaker society due to the cultural pact of celibacy. Other recruitments to the Shaker religion included those who joined due to religious inspiration. Due most likely to the fact that the growing American economy presented many opportunities for success, and that one of the characteristics of Shakers was that they owned no personal property so many members sought some sort of prosperity, the Shaker population sharply declined at the turn of the 20th century.

Within their own group, they were known as "The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing," although they were dubbed "The Shakers" by the outside world. Most Shakers interpreted Mother Ann to be the female incarnation of Jesus. With beliefs somewhat similar to the Quakers, Shakers believed that men and women shared an equal role in society, and all labor was communal, meaning that everyones contributions should be equivalent.


"Shaker Music & Dance-Hancock Shaker Village."

"Shakers During Worship"

"Shaker Style Home"

"The Shakers" (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001)

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