How many children did Shaker “Mother Ann” Lee have?
Since celibacy is one of the cardinal principles of Shakerism, it may come as a shock to some that the founder of the sect, “Mother Ann” Lee, was also a biological mother.
The daughter of an impoverished Manchester, England, blacksmith, Ann was a Quaker when she married Abraham Standerin in 1762.
That union was an unhappy one, but it still produced four children, none of whom lived past age six. Child mortality was common in the squalid industrial city, but Lee took that loss of her children as God’s punishment. Believing that lust impeded Christ’s work, she decided that true believers should practice celibacy.
Mother Ann, as her followers called her, turned to guiding her own spiritual flock, only to be jailed for breaking the Sabbath with the “impassioned convulsions” of the Shaker worship service. Seeking more freedom, she led eight followers, including her husband, to America in 1774.
The “Shaking Quakers” were often aggressive toward those of other faiths in America, and violent confrontations occurred. Having sometimes claimed to be immortal, “Ann, the Word,” as she dubbed herself, left mortal life in 1784 after an arduous missionary journey.
Mother Ann’s legacy produced industrious communities in and near the Berkshires. At its height, the flock reached about 6,000 in 19 communities across eight states.