The United Society of Believers in the Second Coming of Christ, commonly known as the Shakers, came to British North America in 1774 from Manchester, England. Mother Ann Lee, the founder, and a small group of followers established their first community near Albany, New York, the following year. The basic tenets of the Shakers were spiritualism, millennialism, common property, celibacy, and pacifism.

During the last two decades of the eighteenth century and the first two of the nineteenth century, the Shakers were successful in converting several thousand people to their sect. They were aided by the broad sweep of the Second Great Awakening and the widespread attention given to millennialism. Entire families converted, bringing a large number of children into newly founded communities located first in ...

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