Shakers almost gone

The Naples Daily News recently interviewed Sister Mildred 91, one of the last Shakers.

This peaceful and simple sect is now almost extinct. Shakerism peaked in the 1840s, but has very few surviving members today. This is largely due to the communal society’s requirement that its members be celibate. Shakers only gain new members through conversion. It seems that increasingly fewer people were and/or are willing to embrace the group’s demanding and austere lifestyle.

The Shakers were founded in 1758 by Mother Ann Lee, who they regarded as the “second incarnation of Christ.” They immigrated to the English colonies under her leadership in 1774 and were one of many unusual groups that came to America seeking religious tolerance and freedom.

President Thomas Jefferson found Shaker writings fascinating, though Charles Dickens later said they were “grim.” However the utopian group may ultimately be best remembered for its legacy of simple furniture and folk art, widely appreciated for its craftsmanship.


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