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Ann Lee

c.1736-1784. Founder of the Shakers.* Originally “Shaking Quakers,” her movement took form near Manchester, England, in 1758-72. After unfortunate experiences in marriage, childbirth, and the loss of four infants, Ann withdrew from her husband in 1766 and announced her “complete conversion.” Assuming leadership of the local Shakers shortly thereafter, she enunciated her cardinal doctrines: confession was the door to the regenerate life, celibacy its rule and cross. Failure to progress and increasing persecution led “Mother Ann, the Word,” as she was now regarded, and seven followers to emigrate to Watervliet, New York, in 1774. In America the movement grew rapidly under Ann's energetic leadership. She was largely responsible for the formulation of the characteristic beliefs of the Shakers: celibacy, communism, pacifism, millennialism, élitism, and spiritual manifestations through barking, dancing, and shaking.