After covering the disturbing fate of the Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade, we thought we would spend the next episode focusing on a much later pacifistic sect that also embraced a form of Christian Dualism. I first became interested in the history of the Shakers when I was working as a gallery student manager at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) in Chicago. In 2015, LUMA organized one of the largest exhibitions of Shaker art and artifacts to ever be displayed in the Midwest. You can learn more about that past exhibition here.
Much like in previous episodes, we wanted our story to be guided by primary sources. While Mother Ann Lee did not produce any Shaker scriptures during her lifetime, her followers wrote several important doctrinal texts including:
Youngs, Benjamin Seth. The Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing: Containing a General Statement of All Things Pertaining to the Faith and Practice of the Church of God in This Latter-Day. 2nd ed. Albany, NY: E. and E. Hosford, 1810.
Benjamin Seth Youngs was a prominent Shaker missionary who lived through the period of Lucy Wright's leadership. He even collaborated with her in writing the first edition of The Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing. This book was imperative for helping us understand how early Shakers conceptualized Mother Ann and her relationship with Jesus Christ.
White, Anna, and Leila S. Taylor. Shakerism: Its Meaning and Message, Embracing an Historical Account, Statement of Belief and Spiritual Experience of the Church from Its Rise to the Present Day. Columbus, OH: Press of Fred J. Heer, 1905.
Shakers wrote their own histories. Therefore, we examined works by Shakers such as Anna White and Leila S. Taylor of Mount Lebanon to learn about how they viewed periods of Shaker persecution.
Noyes, John Humphrey. History of American Socialisms. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1870.
The book History of American Socialisms contains one of the most famous eyewitness accounts of Shaker life and worship in 1843. This testimony corresponded with the Shaker's Era of Manifestations when they became remarkably insular.
We also used the following secondary sources:
Brewer, Priscilla J. Shaker Communities, Shaker Lives. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986.
Carter, Catherine L., and Martha E. Geores. "Heaven On Earth: The Shakers and Their Space. "Geographies of Religions and Belief Systems 1, no. 1 (2006).
Jortner, Adam. "The Political Threat of a Female Christ: Ann Lee, Morality, and Religious Freedom in the United States, 1780-1819." Early American Studies 7, no. 1 (2009).
Thurman, Suzanne R. "O Sisters, Ain't You Happy?": Gender, Family, and Community among the Harvard and Shirley Shakers, 1781-1918. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002.
As we mention in the podcast, the two surviving members of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community in Maine also maintain a website that you can visit here. Other Shaker communities continue to survive as museums. Some that immediately come to mind include the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts, and the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. If you live on the East Coast or Midwest, we encourage you to find a museum like these near you!