SHAKER STUDIES: INTRODUCTION
In her book, The Shaker Adventure (1940), Marguerite Fellows Melcher reminds us that “the early Shakers…were rooted in revolt: revolt against smugness and bigotry in religion, revolt against social and economic evils, revolt against the uglier side of human nature.” From the beginning, the Shakers have been practical idealists. They did not dream vaguely of conditions they would like to see realized; they went to work to make those conditions an actuality. They have always preached tolerance for all faiths and for all individuals. They could not abolish poverty from the world, but they could and did abolish it from their communities. They did not bluster or use violence; their courage was quiet, calm, and unyielding. They could not end wars, but they could and did keep out of them. In their business dealings with the “World’s people”, they are known for their upright dealing and strict honesty, individually and collectively.
It is a paradox that Shaker furniture and oval boxes are now being collected, and Shaker buildings and villages are admired, as contributions to American art, while the principles that the Shakers have valued so highly are not better known and more appreciated. It is our hope that the resources for Shaker studies provided in this section of the web site will inspire you to learn more about the theology, history, and material culture of these courageous people and to tell their story to others. While you will find that most of these Shaker resources are available remotely online, we look forward to having you visit Enfield Shaker Museum to learn firsthand about the Shakers who lived, worked, and worshiped at this beautiful place.