Enfield Shaker Sister Irena George
Sister Irena George
Carte de visite
C. E. Lewis, Photographer, Lebanon, NH, ca. 1880
Private collection

Sister Irena George

Irena George, cook, dairy woman, seamstress, and trustee, was born April 9, 1807, in Sharon, Vermont, the daughter of John and Lydia (Valyar) George.

Irena George lived a long and useful life as a Shaker sister in Enfield’s Second (South) Family. But hers was not an unblemished record of faithfulness. Irena had come into the community as a four-year-old child after her parents had separated.

In 1838, when she was 31, she was appointed an assistant in the Trustees Office. She fulfilled her duties there with honor, and in 1849 was made first trustee on the sisters’ side. Unfortunately, Irena did not rise to the challenges of that important office. Although her specific shortcomings were not enumerated, New Hampshire’s ministry left no doubt that she was found unworthy of the trust placed in her:

March 25, 1851. At the 2nd Family we have made a complete change among the sisters. Calista Slack who stood first in that place appeared not calculated every way for the station, although she is a worthy sister and correct in faith and principle. She was therefore removed, and Irena George who had been in the office for many years took her place. She filled the station perhaps two or three months, when it was found a lack of principle and loss of rectitude disqualified her, and she was removed together with Betty Allard, who was found to be about in the same condition.

Irena was given a new work assignment in the Second Family and over time was able to repair the damage she had done to her reputation. Over the years she served as a cook, a dairy woman, and a seamstress. In 1880 she was once again made a trustee. Given this second chance, Irena was apparently determined to keep track of every penny entrusted to her. When she died in 1898 it was noted, “For many years she lived at the Trustee’s Office and was very careful in the saving of dollars and cents.”

Irena George died May 22, 1898, at the Shaker community in Enfield, New Hampshire, and was buried in the South Family Shaker Cemetery in Enfield.

Original author: Mary Ann Haagen