Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village

Front Cover
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Jun 1, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 227 pages
7 Reviews
In Simple Gifts, June Sprigg tells the story of one of America's last Shaker communities--Canterbury Shaker Village, in Canterbury, New Hampshire--during its twilight years, and of its seven remarkable "survivor" women, who were among the last representatives of our longest-lived and best-known communal utopian society. As a college student Sprigg spent a summer among them, and here she gracefully interweaves the narrative of their lives with the broader history of Shakers in America as she shows us how her experiences there affected her own life and opened the door to her creativity.

Gleaning information from old records and journals that she pored over that summer and later, Sprigg brings to life the generations of Canterbury Shakers from the eighteenth century to the present--their customs, their architecture, their spirituality. She also explores the social and cultural forces and the internal imperatives and tensions that caused membership to decrease, all of which, by 1972, brought the community to crisis.

Chronicling the daily life of the village as she found it, Sprigg uncovers the affirming energies of the Shakers--the prominence of mutual love and respect, the devoted tradition of mothering surrogate children, and, above all, the surviving women's spirited eccentricities. She reveals the Shakers as individuals--their personal histories, their wildly different beginnings, what they gave up to join the Shaker community, and, more important, what they gained.

Through her lively text and drawings and her intimate connection with the community, Sprigg brings us close to its people with a book that both enlightens and inspires.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review: Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village

User Review  - Nate Capone - Goodreads

This book is an amazing example of how lazy writing can butcher even the most fascinating of experiences. June Sprigg, who got to spend a summer with the Shakers, regurgitates that time with almost no ... Read full review

Review: Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village

User Review  - Diane - Goodreads

Sprigg's memoir of how she first lived with the Canterbury Shakers during a summer while she was a college student. It is both a coming of age story, and also an explanation of how Sprigg became a ... Read full review

About the author (1999)

June Sprigg is a graduate of Lafayette College and the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. From 1977 to 1982 and 1986 to 1994 she was Curator of Collections at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She has guest-curated major exhibitions of Shaker design at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Sezon Museum of Art in Tokyo. She is a freelance writer and adjunct instructor of history at Berkshire Community College. Her many publications include By Shaker Hands (1975), Domestick Beings (1984), Inner Light: The Shaker Legacy (1985), and Shaker Built (1994). She lives in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.


From the Hardcover edition.

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