The shakers were a sect of Quakers originally found in England. They split away from the main Quaker body due to dissatisfaction with the lack of frenetic expression. The term "shaker" comes from their wild and raucous worship ceremonies. One of the most important characteristics of the sect is their belief in gender equality. They believed that both genders are equal and that God was both male and female. One of the most important members of the group was Mother Ann Lee. Lee was thought of as the second coming of Christ due to the fact she could supposedly communicate with god. She was seen as the incarnation of gods female side as Jesus was seen as the male side. She also introduced the practice of celibacy to the shakers, claiming god had told her that emotional and sexual relationships with the opposite gender were sinful.

This picture shows how the shakers believed shakers thought of both genders as separate but equal.

This picture shows how their prayer ceremonies were very large, elaborate, and physically involved

Primary Source

"There is not one passage in the sacred volume, that ever escaped from his holy lips; that in any way gives permission, or tolerates a life of fleshly indulgence, or the carnal gratifications of nature. And nothing of that nature, was ever tolerated, by any of his apostles, only in the line of a permission, or an indulgence, for the time being, because of their great weakness in those respects; and this was done by the Apostle, in order, if possible, to content them that still greater sins might be avoided."

This comes from a shaker minister who is preaching about the celibacy of the community and how "carnal nature" is frowned upon (sin). People are only allowed to procreate if god says so, and only temporarily. The shakers believed that mans carnal nature made him impure and so in order to make him pure he must become celibate.

What To Know

Founding - the Shakers were founded in England in the 18th century when some members were dissatisfied with the lack of frenetic expression in prayer.

Worship - Shakers had very frenzied and chaotic prayer ceremonies. Later on they became more ordered but still very loud.

Dualism and Gender Roles - Shakers believed that god had both a masculine and feminine side. They believed that Jesus was the male coming of Christ and that there would be female coming as well. In their society men and women were equal and leadership was always headed by one man and one woman.

Celibacy - They believed that the only path to purity was complete celibacy

Ann Lee - most significant member. Was believed to be the female coming of Christ. She introduced celibacy and took the sect to America.

Communities - Shakers lived in small, self sufficient villages. They grew their own food and used only the most up to date farming methods. They also practiced a variety of trades which combined with frugal spending lead to economic success.

Education - Shaker education was far ahead of its time, many non shakers would leave their kids with the villages so they could have better education.

Modern Day - Today there is only one village left, located in Maine, with just three members.

Significance - Shakers are most significant for their role in gender equality. Their stance on women's rights was far ahead of its time.

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