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A Chaste Faith: Shaker Communities of New England and New York

 

The Shakers were a unique and very successful communal experiment when they first began to establish their villages in America in the late 1700s. For more than two hundred years they have produced magnificently crafted works to meet their functional needs for everyday life. These images share the spirit and beautry of some of that artistic craftsmanship. But these creations were only visual testament to a spiritual commitment that guided their creativity and every other aspect of the Beliiever's life on earth.


Mother Ann, the founding leader, and her believers were so violently persecuted for their preachings that Ann was left frail and died in 1784. During the ten short years that Mother Ann Lee lived in America, she and her followers founded a religious sect that grew by the mid-nineteenth century to almost 5000 members and was formally called The United Society of Believers. They organized nineteen principle communities from Maine to Kentucky. 


The Shakers embrace the ideas of celibacy, gender equality, pacifism and confession of sin. Their theology believes in the dual sexuality of the Creator. Shakers believe that individuals themselves can commune directly with God, each person finding God within himself or herself. They seek to experience ‘heaven on earth’ as they work and live under the communitarian social order of each established village. Mother Ann, a charismatic speaker and ardent believer, is thought by the group to be the second coming, a female manifestation, of Christ.