The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers

The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers

by Stephen J. Stein
     
 

ISBN-10: 0300051395

ISBN-13: 9780300051391

Pub. Date: 05/28/1992

Publisher: Yale University Press

The Shakers, once a radical religious sect whose members were despised and harassed by their fellow Americans, have in recent years become celebrated--and sentimentalized--for their communal way of life, the simplicity of their worship, their belief in celibacy, pacifism, and equality of the sexes, and not least their superb furniture and handicrafts. This monumental…  See more details below

Overview

The Shakers, once a radical religious sect whose members were despised and harassed by their fellow Americans, have in recent years become celebrated--and sentimentalized--for their communal way of life, the simplicity of their worship, their belief in celibacy, pacifism, and equality of the sexes, and not least their superb furniture and handicrafts. This monumental book is the first general history of the Shakers from their origins in eighteenth-century England to the present day. Drawing on written and oral testimony by Shakers over the past two centuries, Stephen J. Stein offers a full and often revisionist account of the movement: their charismatic leaders, the early years in revolutionary New York and New England, the expansion into the West, the maturation and growth of the sect before the Civil War, the decline in their fortunes after the war, the painful adjustments to society Shakers had to make during the first half of the twentieth century, the renaissance of interest after 1950, and the "forbidden topic" within contemporary Shakerism--the conflict between the two remaining villages at Canterbury, New Hampshire, and Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Stein provides many new interpretations of the Shaker experience. He reassesses the role of founder Ann Lee, emphasizes the impact of the western Shaker settlements on the course of the society's history, and describes the variety of cultural enterprises that have obscured the religious and historical dimensions of the Shakers. Throughout Stein places the Shaker experience within the wider context of American life and shows how the movement has evolved to deal with changing times. Shattering the romantic myth that has been perpetuated about the quaint and peaceful Shakers, Stein portrays a group that is factious, practical, and fully human.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300051391
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
05/28/1992
Pages:
576
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.55(d)

Related Subjects

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface
Acknowledgments
Pt. 1A New and Strange Religion: The Age of the Founders, 1747-17871
Background3
Beginnings in America10
An Apostate's View15
Ann Lee's Public Ministry: An Insider's View18
The Teachings of the First Witnesses25
The Close of the Age of the Founders32
Pt. 2The Gathering and Building of the Church: The Establishment of the United Society, 1787-182639
The Beginnings of Communitarianism41
The Ministration of Lucy Wright49
Expansion into the West57
The Origins of Shaker Theology66
The Creation of a History76
The Consolidation of the Millennial Church87
The Close of the Formative Period106
Pt. 3Too Much of the Wind, Fire, and Earthquake: The Maturation and Revitalization of the Society, 1827-1875119
A New Generation of Leaders122
The Economics of Community133
The Social Situation148
The Spiritualistic Revivals165
The Legacy of the Manifestations184
The Changing Situation200
The View from the Outside215
The Closing of the Middle Period222
Pt. 4In the Van of an Advancing Host: The Transformation of the Society, 1876-1947239
Declining Membership and Geographical Retreat242
The Feminization of the Society256
The World of Finance Capitalism272
The Impact of Modern Thought and Life286
Reconciliation with the World304
Varieties of Religious Experience320
The Issue of Decline337
Pt. 5I Almost Expect to Be Remembered as a Chair: The Rebirth of Shakerism, 1948 to the Present355
Waiting for the End358
The Beginnings of a Shaker Revival370
Controversy among the Believers384
The Selling of the Shakers394
The Ecumenical Shakers409
The Shaker Myth: A National Treasure422
Looking to the Future432
Abbreviations443
Notes445
Suggestions for Further Reading521
Index525

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