Did you know there are only three living Shakers? Three.
What’s worse is that I didn’t know anything about them. Amish people are pretty well established here in the Midwest (and on reality television – thank you TLC), so I mistakenly thought of Shakers as a New England’s version of the Amish. I knew they were religious. I knew they wore hats. I knew they lived in colonies and promoted a simple, less extravagant way of living. I knew they wore old-timey clothes and looked like extras from Little House on the Prairie, and yet, I also knew a professor in art school who credited Shakers as the taproot of all modern design. I knew the Shakers belonged to a religious order that sprung out of the Quakers (true story: they got their name because they would shake when they danced in church), and I knew they made beautiful furniture and cloth loomed by hand. I knew they lived but I did not know that I would live to see their extinction. This year, this season, this very day, will be one of the last for their society. And it is a beautiful one at that.
Last week I read THIS article, which prompted me to watch THIS documentary on Netflix. Fascinating stuff. For one thing, in Shaker communities, men and women live separately. This ensured celibacy, which is why Shakers have always relied on outside recruits and adoption for new membership (urm…that may not be going so well seeing as there are only three of them). Unlike Amish people, Shakers are pro-industry and innovation. Shakers are responsible for the creation of the washing machine and the flat head broom, among other things. The circular saw was created by a female Shaker, Tabitha Babbit, in 1813, in her effort to aid the creation of a reliable set of false teeth (tell that to the fellas at Home Depot!). Shakers espoused that labor saving devices allow for “more time to pray” and sought purposeful efficiency in everyday life. (This ten minute video on Youtube covers this concept of ‘God in Design’ a bit more, but if you have a Netflix account, I really suggest you add the full documentary to your que (or buy it on amazon)).
This is great stuff for any of the American history buffs out there. Or the design buffs. Or the feminist buffs. Or the Jesus buffs. Or students of any age. Or just anyone else who could benefit from learning about another walk of life.
– HEY, that’s all of us!