Classroom FAQ

Below are some of the questions submitted by local students:

What time did the Shakers go to bed and wake up?

The Shakers get up at about 4:30 in the morning and 5:30 during the winter. Bed-time is usually about 9:00/9:30 at night.

How do you make a broom?

Making a flat broom takes about three hours and uses several pieces of equipment including something called a broom winder. First you place the handle in the broom winder then you add on multiple layers of broom corn wrapping it with a thin metal wire. Finally, you finish it off by using a sail needle and broom vise to tie thread around the layers of broom corn to flatten it out.

How did the Shaker religion begin?

The Shaker religion did not appear overnight, but instead evolved over the entire history of the Shaker Order (about 1747-present). Its official founder was a woman named Ann Lee, whom the Shakers refer to as Mother Ann. Mother Ann created many of the central principles of the Shaker Church including its focus on community and chastity. Later Shaker leaders such as Father James Whittaker, Father Joseph Meacham, and Mother Lucy Wright began to develop a formal structure for communal life including the Shaker Millennial Laws which governed the community. Most of the Shakers early beliefs were transmitted orally. Joseph Meacham was the first Shaker to publish a description of the Shaker religion(1790). He did this at the request of a deaf Shaker.

How old do you have to be to become an elder?

There was no official rule for the age of an Elder. Typically, they were at least in their late twenties, but there is quite a bit of variation. Most of the time there was one older Elder and one younger.

How old was the oldest Shaker?

Two of the oldest Shakers I am aware of were Elder Ezra Newton(1795-1896) of Harvard, MA who lived to 101 and Sister Dolly Sexton (1776-1884) of Mount Lebanon, NY who lived to 107.

How old was Ann Lee when she died?

Mother Ann Lee was born in 1736 in Manchester, England and passed away in 1784 at the age of 48.

Did the Shakers eat meat?

The short answer is the Shakers did eat meat, though some chose to be vegetarian. Throughout their history, the Shakers instituted many different diets.

What did the Shakers invent?

The Shakers consistently involved themselves throughout their history with advances in technology. Sometimes they came up with new inventions and other times they modified machines already in existence. Unlike today, when looking at the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it is often difficult to figure out who was the first to come up with a particular invention. Some of the devices that are attributed to the Shakers include the flat broom, the circular saw, a version of the industrial washing machine, clothespins, an electrostatic machine, and an air conditioning system for bee hives.

What kind of animals did they raise?

The Enfield Shakers raised all sorts of animals including Durham Cattle, Merino Sheep, horses, and chickens.

How did the Shaker community begin?

The Shaker community began as the Wardley Society, a Christian group influenced by the thought of the Camisards, in Manchester, England in the 1740s. Ann Lee became the leader of the group in 1758 and they renamed themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. The Shakers are one of many examples of English Protestants looking for new ways to express their religious faith.

What are the dimensions of the Great Stone Dwelling?

The Great Stone Dwelling is roughly 120’ in length and 50’ feet in width. The total area of the building is around 36,000 square feet.

How many floors does the Great Stone Dwelling have?

The Great Stone Dwelling has four floors, a two-floor attic, and a basement for a total of seven.

Why did Shaker communities end?

The Shakers have not ended. There is still one active community called Sabbathday Lake in Maine.

Which Shaker village was the first?

This is a bit of a trick question. The first technical Shaker village is Watervliet, NY which the English Shakers established in 1776. Though, New Lebanon , NY( Mount Lebanon) was the first to formally establish a communal system(1785) and was the seat of the leaders of the Shakers.

How old did you have to be to make brooms?

No official age limit. Though, Shaker children would typically begin to apprentice in a trade such as broom making in their early teenage years (12, 13).

Were there special meals on holidays such as Christmas and Easter?

The Shakers ate large meals throughout the year so Christmas and Easter would not have been that different. How the Shakers celebrated holidays like Christmas and Easter changed depending on the period in Shaker History. In the early days (1770s-1860s), Christmas and Easter were celebrated in a much more serious and solemn manner. By the Victorian period, Shaker Christmas had begun to take a more celebratory tone with decorations and fun activities.

Can someone still become a Shaker?

Yes, you can still join the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. There are certain requirements in order to join and you would usually spend time with Brother Arnold Hadd and Sister June Carpenter. After that, they might invite you to spend a year at the community as a novice. Once your novitiate is complete, you can decide whether to join the Shaker village or leave.

Enfield Shaker School Children with Sister Fanny Fallon