The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers, was a Protestant sect founded in England in 1749 with roots in two extreme 17th-century religions: the French Camisards, a Protestant denomination originating in southern France during the 17th century, and the Quakers, or Society of Friends, founded in England in 1652 by George Fox.
Heavily persecuted for their beliefs by King Louis XIV, the Camisards fled to England between 1702 and 1706, where their preachers heavily influenced a group of Quakers in Manchester, England. Over the next several decades, Quakerism morphed and evolved, influenced by disparate ideologies. One such sect was the Camisard-influenced “Shaking Quakers” out of Manchester, known for the violent trembling and quaking that defined their process of worship in an effort to expel sin from their bodies. Among the members of this Shaking Quakers sect, led by Jane and James Wardley, was a 22-year-old Ann Lee, whose emigration to New York City in 1774 introduced the Shaker religion, its Utopian lifestyle, and an aesthetic movement of design and craftsmanship to America.
In this issue, we interview Willis Henry, who is known for his auction house’s annual Shaker auctions and knowledge of the market, visit an Enfield Connecticut Shaker property to learn more about the significance of the founding of Shakerism, and explore five Shaker Village living history museums to find out what everyday life was like. Learn more about the history behind the making of some of your favorite and most iconic Shaker objects.