When Mother Ann Lee outlined her theology for the community that would become known as the Shakers, she placed equality at its heart. As the nature of God was dual, both male and female, the children of God were to be companions, celibate brothers and sisters, each representing a share of God's image. This fundamental precept shaped gender relations within the Shaker communities, leading to dual offices in which men and women worked in tandem. But it wasn't enough for the Shakers to enact gender equality in their own communities. Called to serve their fellow man, the Shakers took to heart the call for women's suffrage. The 1884 Shaker Manifesto (quoting the resolutions of the Annual Meeting of the New England Woman Suffrage Association) denounced 'the political aristocracy of sex as contrary to nature, reason, justice, expediency and common-sense."
This exhibition traces the evolution of Shaker gender relations, from the earliest prophecies of Mother Lee to the struggles of Shakers in the fight for universal suffrage.
Photo: "Freeing of Pride." Image courtesy of The Trustees - Archives & Research Center, Fruitlands Museum.