News / Arts & Entertainment

Once Thriving Religious Sect Leaves Its Mark

The plain and immaculately clean surroundings of what was once a thriving Shaker community in Maine exemplifies the Shakers’ vow of hard work and simplicity. (Carol M. Highsmith)
The plain and immaculately clean surroundings of what was once a thriving Shaker community in Maine exemplifies the Shakers’ vow of hard work and simplicity. (Carol M. Highsmith)
Ted Landphair

One of the swankiest suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, is Shaker Heights, and it’s not named for any kind of food shaker or for a Mister Shaker.

Nor are Shakertown, Kentucky; Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts; or Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine. 

They were all once communal settlements of an ultra-strict religious sect that got its name from its followers’ exuberant dancing. 

There are only two, possibly three, members of the Shaker religious band still alive. Nobody outside the private community where the women are cared for in Maine knows the number for sure.
 

Landphair for 10-19 Only in America-Shakertowns
Landphair for 10-19 Only in America-Shakertownsi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X



Two hundred-thirty-eight years ago, Ann Lee - the charismatic British founder of the sect - formally called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing - moved, along with eight of her followers, to the United States.

A simple, but elegant, kitchen at the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (Carol M. Highsmith)A simple, but elegant, kitchen at the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (Carol M. Highsmith)
x
A simple, but elegant, kitchen at the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (Carol M. Highsmith)
A simple, but elegant, kitchen at the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (Carol M. Highsmith)

Together, they began founding communal settlements from Maine in the Northeast to Kentucky in the mid-South. 

Onlookers called them “Shakers” as they watched these true believers twitch and clap loudly - shaking off the sins of the world as they sang and danced. 

President James Monroe, who stopped at a Shaker settlement in the 1820s, noted in his journal that, "The singers began increasing the violence of their actions as they were warmed by the Spirit." 

Shakers emphasized honesty, hard work, and simplicity. Shaker missionaries walked the countryside, seeking converts.

New members were essential, because the Shakers lived as celibate brothers and sisters.

There would be no children born to build the ranks - which helps explain why you can count the remaining Shakers on one hand.

But Shakers embraced some earthly pleasures, such as music on the Victrola phonograph, automobile travel, and a glass or two of beer. Kentucky sourmash bourbon, too, at the Shakertown settlement in South Union, Kentucky. 

Separate staircases from the landing at the Shakertown settlement in South Union, Kentucky, led to men’s and women’s quarters. Even formerly married couples slept apart in the Shaker sect. (Carol M. Highsmith)Separate staircases from the landing at the Shakertown settlement in South Union, Kentucky, led to men’s and women’s quarters. Even formerly married couples slept apart in the Shaker sect. (Carol M. Highsmith)
x
Separate staircases from the landing at the Shakertown settlement in South Union, Kentucky, led to men’s and women’s quarters. Even formerly married couples slept apart in the Shaker sect. (Carol M. Highsmith)
Separate staircases from the landing at the Shakertown settlement in South Union, Kentucky, led to men’s and women’s quarters. Even formerly married couples slept apart in the Shaker sect. (Carol M. Highsmith)

They made their living by selling high-quality garden seeds and making fruit preserves, straw hats and brooms, oval boxes, and distinctive wooden furniture whose simple designs still inspire the so-called Shaker style. 

After the U.S. Civil War of the 1860s, tens of thousands of Americans headed westward in search of fortunes and a new life, and lots of Shakers left the fold to do likewise.  It was the beginning of a steady decline of their sect. 

Some Shaker settlements became museums and still draw visitors, curious to find out what all that moving and shaking were about.
 

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Karen Croci from: Hudson, MA
October 21, 2012 8:45 PM
What makes you think there are only two Shakers? Has Brother Arnold left? I doubt it, but at last count, there were three Shakers: Eldress Frances Carr, Sister June Carpenter, and Elder Arnold Hadd.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”