Founded in 1776 by English immigrant “Mother” Ann Lee, the Shakers believed that the millennium was at hand and that the time had come for people to renounce sin. Shaker communities regarded their male and female members as equals; thus, both sexes served as elders and deacons. Aspiring to live like the early Christians, the Shakers adopted communal ownership of property and a way of life emphasizing simplicity. Dress was simple and uniform. Shaker architecture and furniture were devoid of ornaments. The two most striking characteristics of the Shaker communities were their dances and abstinence from sexual relations. The Shakers believed that religious fervor should be expressed through the head, heart, and mind. Their ritual religious practices included shaking, shouting, and dancing. Viewing sexual intercourse as the basic cause of human sin, the Shakers adopted strict rules concerning celibacy. They attempted to replenish their membership by admitting volunteers and taking in orphans. Today, the Shakers have all but died out. Fewer than twenty members survived in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

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