The Shakers are a small religious sect that was founded in Manchester, England, in 1747. Their name came from the derogatory term, "Shaking Quakers," which they were initially called because of their tendency to shake their bodies spastically while praying. The Shakers' first leader, Ann Lee, was known as Mother Ann, and claimed to have visions of God. She was imprisoned in England for her controversial religious views; upon her release, she led a small group of eight fellow Shakers to the United States.
This group settled in a small town in upstate New York. They believed in celibacy, and attempted to raise new generations of children by adopting orphans into their community. The Shaker movement soon grew, with new communes appearing throughout New England, as well as in Kentucky and Ohio.
The Shaker communities were known for their devout Christianity, their plain clothes, and their work ethic. Many people in the community became adept at building furniture, which is highly valued today for its excellent craftsmanship. As excellent farmers, they were also responsible for many agricultural inventions, such as the clothespin and the circular saw. They were also well-known for their collection of medicinal herbs.
Today, there is only one remaining community of Shakers, located on Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine. The community has only a handful of members, and they are no longer permitted to adopt children as a religious group. They lead a quiet life, full of work and prayer. There is a Shaker Museum on the premises which is open to visitors, and visitors can also sit in on Sunday services. On the first Sunday of August, the Shakers celebrate Mother Ann Day, in honor of the group's founder. Some believe that once the group's membership has dwindled to only five members, there will be a revival.