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Hands to Work, Hearts to God - The Shakers in America

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Scope of Project

Seventy-five years before the emancipation of the slaves and one hundred fifty years before women began voting in the United States, the Shakers were practicing social, gender, economic, and spiritual equality for all members. Yet, possibly because the Shakers were celibate and did not marry or bear children, their individual histories have been generally overlooked in the genealogical community. This project attempts to identify as many members of the Shaker denomination as possible, to record their places in their individual family trees, and to learn as much as possible about their lives.


General Note

Contributions welcome.

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  • Mother Ann Lee, also known as Ann Stanley
  • Jane and James Wardley
  • William Lee (1740–1784)
  • Nancy Lee
  • James Whittaker (1751–1787)
  • John Hocknell (1723–1799)
  • Richard Hocknell
  • James Shepherd
  • Mary Partington
  • Isaac Newton Youngs (1793 - 1865)
  • Joseph Meacham
  • Lucy Wright
  • Issachar Bates
  • Benjamin Seth Youngs
  • Hannah Cahoon
  • Polly Reed



  • Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts
  • Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield, New Hampshire
  • Mount Lebanon Shaker Village
  • Fruitlands Village at Harvard, Massachusetts
  • Pleasant Hill, Kentucky


Project Profiles

Suggested Reading

  • Andrews, Edward D. and Andrews, Faith. Work & Worship Among the Shakers. Dover Publications, NY. 1982.
  • Andrews, Edward D. The People Called Shakers. Dover Publications, NY. 1963.
  • Andrews, Edward D. The Gift to Be Simple: Songs, Dances & Rituals of the American Shakers. Dover Publications, NY. 1940.
  • Andrews, Edward Deming and Faith Andrews. Shaker Furniture: The Craftsmanship of an American Communal Sect Dover Publications. 1964.
  • Brewer, Priscilla. Shaker Communities, Shaker Lives. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986.
  • Brewer, Priscilla. "The Shakers of Mother Ann Lee," in America's Communal Utopias ed. by Donald E. Pitzer. (1997) pp. 37–56.
  • Brewer, Priscilla. ‘“Tho’ of the Weaker Sex:’ A Reassessment of Gender Equality among the Shakers.” Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society 17 (spring 1992): 609–35. JSTOR.
  • Burns, Deborah E. Shaker Cities of Peace, Love, and Union: A History of the Hancock Bishopric. U. Press of New England, 1993. 246 pp.
  • Campbell, D'Ann. "Women's Life in Utopia: The Shaker Experiment in Sexual Equality Reappraised, 1810–1860." New England Quarterly 51 (March, 1978): pp. 23–38. in JSTOR
  • Davenport, Guy. "Shaker Light," in The Hunter Gracchus: And Other Papers on Literature and Art. New York: Counterpoint, 1996. 52–59.
  • Deignan, Kathleen. Christ Spirit: The Eschatology of Shaker Christianity. Scarecrow Press / American Theological Library Association, 1992
  • Duffield, Holley Gene. Historical Dictionary of the Shakers. Scarecrow Press, 2000
  • De Wolfe, Elizabeth. Shaking the Faith: Women, Family, and Mary Marshall Dyer's Anti-Shaker Campaign, 1815–1867 (Palgrave 2002).
  • Emlen, Robert P. “The Shaker Dance Prints.” Imprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collectors Society. Volume 17.2 (Autumn 1992): 14–26.
  • Foster, Lawrence. Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons (1991).
  • Francis, Richard. Ann the Word: The Story of Ann Lee Female Messiah Mother of the Shakers, The Woman Clothed with the Sun. The Fourth Estate, London 2000. The most comprehensive study on Mother Ann's life and work.
  • Garrett, Clarke. Origins of the Shakers. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987 and 1998.
  • Goodwillie, Christian. Shaker Songs: A Celebration of Peace, Harmony, and Simplicity. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal, 2002. See also Millennial Praises.
  • Gopnik, Adam. "Shining Tree of Life: What the Shakers did." New Yorker, Feb. 13 & 20, 2006. pp 162–168.
  • Gordon, Beverly. Shaker Textile Arts. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1980.
  • Gordon, Beverly. “Fossilized Fashion: ‘Old Fashioned’ Dress as a Symbol of a Separate, Work-Oriented Identity.” Dress. Volume 13 (1987): 49–60.
  • Grant, Jerry V. & Douglas R. Allen. Shaker Furniture Makers. Pittsfield, Mass.: Hancock Shaker Village, 1989.
  • Gutek, Gerald and Gutek, Patricia. Visiting Utopian Communities: A Guide to the Shakers, Moravians, and Others. U. of South Carolina Press, 1998. 230 pp.
  • Hall, Roger L. A Guide to Shaker Music—With Music Supplement 2006.
  • Hall, Roger L. The Story of Simple Gifts: Joseph Brackett's Shaker Dance Song 2006.
  • Humez, Jean. Mother’s First-Born Daughters: Early Shaker writings on women and religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
  • Humez, Jean. “If I had to Study the Female Trait: Philemon Stewart, ‘Petticoat Government’ Issues and Later Nineteenth-Century Shakerism.” Shaker Quarterly. Volume 22, no. 4 (winter 1994):122–52.
  • Humez, Jean. “The Problem of Female Leadership in Early Shakerism.” Shaker Design: Out of this World. ed. Jean M. Burks. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008. pp. 93–119.
  • Humez, Jean. “Weary of Petticoat Government”: The Specter of Female Rule in Early Nineteenth-Century Shaker Politics.” Communal Societies. Volume 11 (1991): 1–17.
  • Johnson, Theodore E., ed. “The Millennial Laws of 1821.” Shaker Quarterly. Volume 7.2 (1967): 35–58.
  • McKinstry, E. Richard. The Edward Deming Andrews Memorial Shaker Collection. New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1987.
  • Mercadante, Linda A. Gender, Doctrine & God: The Shakers and Contemporary Theology. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1990.
  • Millennial Praises: A Shaker Hymnal. Christian Goodwillie and Jane Crosthwaite, eds. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009.
  • Murray, John E. “The White Plague in Utopia: Tuberculosis in nineteenth-century Shaker communes.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine: 1994, volume 68: 278–306; erratum, 510.
  • Paterwic, Stephen. “From Individual to Community: Becoming a Shaker at New Lebanon, 1780–1947.” Communal Societies, Volume 11 (1991): 18–33.
  • Paterwic, Stephen J. Historical Dictionary of the Shakers. Scarecrow Press, 2008.
  • Paterwic, Stephen J. “Mysteries of the Tyringham Shakers Unmasked: A New Examination of People, Facts, and Figures.” Historical Journal of Massachusetts. (Winter 2003).
  • Patterson, Daniel W. The Shaker Spiritual 2000.
  • Plummer, Henry. Stillness and Light: The Silent Eloquence of Shaker Architecture (2009)
  • Promey, Sally. Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism. Indiana University Press, 1993.
  • Pushkar-Pasewicz, Margaret. “Kitchen Sisters and Disagreeable Boys: Debates over Meatless Diets in Nineteenth-Century Shaker Communities.” in Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias. Etta M. Madden and Martha L. Finch, eds. University of Nebraska Press, 2006. pp. 109–24.
  • Rebecca Jackson. Gifts of Power: The Writings of Rebecca Jackson, Black Visionary, Shaker Eldress. ed by Jean McMahon Humez; (1981).
  • Rieman, Timothy D. & Muller, Charles R. The Shaker Chair"; Line Drawings by Stephen Metzger, (The Canal Press, 1984) "This is the definitive work ."
  • Rotundo, Barbara. “Crossing the Dark River: Shaker Funerals and Cemeteries.” Communal Societies. Volume 7 (1987): 36–46.
  • Sasson, Diane. The Shaker Spiritual Narrative. Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 1983.
  • Sasson, Diane. “Individual Experience, Community Control, and Gender: The Harvard Shaker Community During the Era of Manifestations,” Communal Societies 13 (1993): 45–70.
  • Skees, Suzanne. God Among the Shakers. New York: Hyperion, 1998.
  • Sprigg, June. Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village. New York: Random House, 1998.
  • Sprigg, June and Larkin, David. Shaker: Life, Work, & Art. 1987.
  • Stein, Stephen. The Shaker Experience in America. Yale University, Press, 1992. The standard scholarly study and best oveview.
  • Stein, Stephen. “Shaker Gift and Shaker Order: A Study of Religious Tension in Nineteenth-Century America.” Communal Societies. Volume 10 (1990): 102–13.
  • Stiles, Lauren A. “‘Rather Than Ever Milk Again’: Shaker Sisters’ Refusal to Milk at Mount Lebanon and Watervliet—1873–1877.” American Communal Societies Quarterly. Volume 3.1 (2009):13–25.
  • Thurman, Suzanne. ‘“Dearly Loved Mother Eunice”: Gender, Motherhood, and Shaker Spirituality.” Church History. Volume 66.4 (1997): 750–61.
  • Thurman, Suzanne. “‘No idle hands are seen’: The Social Construction of Work in Shaker Society.” Communal Societies. Volume 18 (1998): 36–52.
  • Thurman, Suzanne R. "O Sisters Ain't You Happy?": Gender, Family, and Community among the Harvard and Shirley Shakers, 1781–1918. Syracuse University Press, 2002. 262 pp.
  • Wenger, Tisa J.. “Female Christ and Feminist Foremother: The Many Lives of Ann Lee.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Vol. 18, No. 2 (2002):5–32.
  • Wergland, Glendyne R. One Shaker Life: Isaac Newton Youngs, 1793–1865. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.
  • Wergland, Glendyne R. Sisters in the Faith: Shaker Women, 1780–1890. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.
  • Wergland, Glendyne R. Visiting the Shakers, 1778–1849. Clinton, N.Y.: Richard W. Couper Press, 2007.
  • Wergland, Glendyne R. Visiting the Shakers, 1850–1899. Clinton, N.Y.: Richard W. Couper Press, 2010.
  • Wertkin, Gerard C. The Four Seasons of Shaker Life: An Intimate Portrait of the Community at Sabbathday Lake. Photographs by Ann Chwasky. Simon & Schuster, 1986. 189 pp.

Further Reading

  • Albert, Susan Wittig. "Wormwod". New York: The Berkeley Publishing Group, 2009.
  • Beale, Galen and Boswell, Mary Rose. "The Earth Shall Blossom: Shaker Herbs and Gardening". The Countryman Press, 1991.
  • Clark, Thomas D. and Ham, F. Gerald. "Pleasant Hill and Its Shakers". Pleasant Hill Press, 1968, 1983.
  • Giles, Janice Holt. "The Believers: A Novel of Shaker Life". The University Press of Kentucky, 1957.
  • Miller, Amy Bess. "Shaker Medicinal Herbs: A Compendium of History, Lore, and Uses." Storey Books, 1998.
  • Neal, Julia. "The Kentucky Shakers". The University Press of Kentucky, 1982.
  • Sprigg, June. "Simple Gifts: A Memoir of a Shaker Village". Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.