Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I was happy to hear all the interesting and little known facts about the shakers that we didn't have time to lean in AP US last year.  One thing I did remember learning, before Mrs. Gold's lecture last night, was about the equality of the sexes in the Shaker community, and how it was unheard of in the 18th century when Mother Ann Lee created it.  After going over the facts, however, equality seems essential for that community to work.  For example, it was created and originally led by a woman, and as time went on, women continually outnumbered men.  It made sense for Mother Ann Lee to preach dualism and equality under the eyes of God.  The community, arguably, became more of a safe house for women of the time under the guise of a religious community.  They had autonomy and leadership roles that they would not be able to find in normal society of the 18t century.  In the Shaker community, women were given responsibilities of their choosing, a vocational and religious education, and a sisterhood.  Celibacy may have seemed like a small price to pay for such opportunities.

In some respects, the Shakers seemed incredibly ahead of their time.  They welcomed technology, and valued innovation in their community, as well as a focus on personal health and hygiene.  The Shakers also encapsulated the American dream in a way as well.  The members of the community took great pride in their work, and became quite economically successful from trades such as furniture making and  seed distribution.  They were hard working and efficient: qualities that American society has always highly valued.

Of course, the Shakers don't lead a lifestyle that is for everybody:  they are celibate, heavily religious, must live a life of simplicity, and work solely to help the community, with no personal credit.  On top of that, they lacked traditional family values.  There was no intimacy between husband and wife, mother to daughter, father to son.  The community as a whole considered itself a family, and so all confessions had to be pubic, even if that meant voicing reasons why you hate you bunk mate or the crush you have on one of the cooks.  It remains as unique as it was when it was created, but the Shaker community does not look as if it will die out any time soon.

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