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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Ann Lee

b. 1736, Manchester, England; d. 1784, Watervliet, New York

Around 1758, Ann Lee, an illiterate textile worker and daughter of a blacksmith, joined the Shaking Quakers, or Shakers, so-called for their practice of ecstatic dancing and trembling during worship. An offshoot of Quakerism, the sect was persecuted in England and Lee was jailed in 1770, there experiencing a vision that became the basis of the Shaker doctrine of celibacy. In 1774, with a small band of followers, she emigrated to America and founded a settlement in Watervliet, New York. She landed in prison again (1780), charged with treason for refusing to take an oath of allegiance, but was soon released. “Mother Ann,” as she came to be called, toured New England preaching against war, oaths, and sexual relations, advocating the sanctity of labor, and attracting thousands of converts. After her death in 1784, her followers founded the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing and over the next decades established eighteen Shaker villages in eight states.