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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities


Brief Hints

Valentine Rathbun. Some brief hints of a religious scheme: taught and propagated by a number of Europeans, living in a place called Nisqueunia, in the state of New-York. Hartford, 1781.

A pamphlet published by a Connecticut minister who attended a Shaker meeting and was “tricked” into believing the Shaker’s were people of God. Luckily, he caught on to their “scheme”: the Shakers were actually the manifestation of Satan on earth. Reverend Rathbun claimed the devilish Shakers were a sign that the Apocalypse was at hand.

Macdonald’s letters pixel.gif The Shaker pixel.gif  
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The Shakers are the quintessential American utopian commune to which all others are compared. With one small Shaker community still in existence in Maine, the Shakers are by far the longest-lived American utopian experiment. The Shaker version of utopia – often encapsulated in the word “simplicity” is part of the American popular imagination: Shaker influence can be found in fashion, furniture design, textiles, and music.

In 1774, a Scottish woman named Ann Lee, who had received visions from God declaring the supremacy of a celibate life, brought her followers to America. “I knew by revelation that God had a chosen people in America. I saw some of them in a vision and I met them in America. I knew that I had a vision of America, I saw a large tree, every leaf of which shown with such brightness as made it appear like a burning torch representing the Church of Christ which will yet be established in this land.”

While the Shakers are known for their simplicity, their devotion is by no means simple-minded. The Shaker credo demands duty to god, duty to man, separation from the world, simplicity of language, right use of property, and a celibate life.

At their height in 1830, there were over 18 Shaker communities from Kentucky to Maine, including one in Enfield, Connecticut.