The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers

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Yale University Press, 1992 - Religion - 554 pages
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The Shakers, once a radical religious sect whose members were despised and harassed by their fellow Americans, have in recent years become celebrated--and sentimentalized--for their communal way of life, the simplicity of their worship, their belief in celibacy, pacifism, and equality of the sexes, and not least their superb furniture and handicrafts. This monumental book is the first general history of the Shakers from their origins in eighteenth-century England to the present day.
Drawing on written and oral testimony by Shakers over the past two centuries, Stephen J. Stein offers a full and often revisionist account of the movement: their charismatic leaders, the early years in revolutionary New York and New England, the expansion into the West, the maturation and growth of the sect before the Civil War, the decline in their fortunes after the war, the painful adjustments to society Shakers had to make during the first half of the twentieth century, the renaissance of interest after 1950, and the "forbidden topic" within contemporary Shakerism--the conflict between the two remaining villages at Canterbury, New Hampshire, and Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Stein provides many new interpretations of the Shaker experience. He reassesses the role of founder Ann Lee, emphasizes the impact of the western Shaker settlements on the course of the society's history, and describes the variety of cultural enterprises that have obscured the religious and historical dimensions of the Shakers. Throughout Stein places the Shaker experience within the wider context of American life and shows how the movement has evolved to deal with changing times. Shattering the romantic myth that has been perpetuated about the quaint and peaceful Shakers, Stein portrays a group that is factious, practical, and fully human.

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THE SHAKER EXPERIENCE IN AMERICA: A History of the United Society of Believers

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

An unusually comprehensive and eminently readable chronicle of more than two centuries of Shaker life, from its rough beginning in the late 18th century to its diminished yet still significant ... Read full review

The Shaker experience in America: a history of the United Society of Believers

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The first book to cover all Shakerdom from the 1700s to the 1980s, this work of scholarship will also prove accessible to the nonspecialist. Stein (religious studies, Indiana Univ.) offers a ... Read full review


The Age of the Founders 17471787
The Establishment of the United Society 17871826
The Maturation and Revitalization of the Society 18271875
The Transformation of the Society 18761947
The Rebirth of Shakerism 1948 to the Present
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About the author (1992)

Stephen J. Stein received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1970 and subsequently taught in Indiana University's Department of Religious Studies for 35 years. He has received numerous grants and fellowships, including two from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1994, he served as the President of the American Society of Church History. In 1995, Stein received the Tracy M. Sonneborn Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research at Indiana University. He edited three volumes in The Works of Jonathan Edwards. He also edited The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards. Stein's volume, The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers, was awarded the Philip Schaff Prize by the American Society of Church History in 1994. He is a historical advisor on The Joseph Smith Papers and a co-editor of the journal Religion and American Culture.

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