Minimalists in History: The Shakers – An Update: Only Two Remain

the Shakers Sabbathday Lake barns

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS ME,3-SAB,2-2

“The Shakers were a religious group that fled to the American colonies in 1774 to escape persecution in England, and to establish a utopian society.”

– Shaker Heritage Society of Albany, New York

There are now only two Shakers in the world.

The sect began in 1747 as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Its members were derisively called “Shaking Quakers” because of their dancing and shaking during worship. This was later shortened to “Shakers.”

Ann Lee became leader of the group in 1770, adopting the title of “Mother.” In 1774, Mother Ann brought a small group of followers to New York. While the Society soon faded away in England, it prospered in America.

At its peak, several thousand Shakers lived in ten states: Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and Georgia.

The Shakers’ central beliefs were celibacy, communal living, confession of sin and separation from the outside world. They believed in pacifism as well as sexual and racial equality. Believers valued self-sufficiency, hard work and simplicity.

The only way for the faith to grow, given the celibacy requirement, was conversion. Shakers allowed families to join so long as the parents became celibate. Men and women lived apart, and the community raised their children.

The Shakers also cared for orphans. When they reached adulthood, they could either join the community or return to “the world.”

“Sister Frances’ death at the village, which was announced by the Shakers, leaves two surviving Shakers: Brother Arnold Hadd, 60, and Sister June Carpenter, 78.”

– New York Times

Sister Frances Ann Carr, who died earlier this week at the age of 89, spent nearly her whole life in the Shaker community of Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

Her mother placed Frances and her little sister with the Shakers in 1937 after their father died. Two of Carr’s siblings had already been taken to the Shakers for care.

In an interview a couple of years ago, Frances admitted that, as a young child, she was a handful, but she eventually grew to love her work in the kitchen. Of the four siblings, only Frances chose to join the community.

Now only two Shakers live at Sabbathday Lake, which is the last Shaker community. Brother Arnold Hadd is 60 years old, and Sister June Carpenter is 78.

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