Top of page

Manuscript/Mixed Material Shaker religious greeting, watercolor, January 1853.

About this Item


  • Shaker religious greeting, watercolor, January 1853.

Created / Published

  • January 1853


  • -  Art
  • -  Women
  • -  Drawings
  • -  Lee, Ann (1736-1784)
  • -  Religion
  • -  Shakers
  • -  Manuscripts


  • Manuscripts


  • -  Reproduction number: A110 (color slide)
  • -  In 1776 Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784) and a small group of religious followers purchased land in Niskeyuna (later Watervliet), New York, and founded the first Shaker community in the United States. Lee had been born in England in 1736 and as a young woman joined a sect there known as the Shaking Quakers or Shakers, so named because of the ritual dancing that characterized their worship. By 1773 Lee was regarded as the group's leader and was imprisoned several times for preaching a new gospel that celebrated God's dual male/female nature, proclaimed that Jesus Christ made his second appearance in the person of Ann Lee, and maintained that salvation lay in forsaking sins of the flesh for the way of the spirit.
  • -  Prompted by a vision in 1774, Lee led a small group of followers to America, where they established a community based on the principles of simplicity, economy, charity, and equality. Viewed initially as a separatist religious community and perceived as rebels against established faiths, the Shakers actually followed an orthodox doctrine. They did not adhere to the institution of marriage and remained celibate, a decision Lee felt would relieve women of the pain and danger of childbirth and spare them the grief she had experienced after losing her four children in infancy. Shaker tradition on equal rights also preceded the struggle for women's rights, as Shaker sisters were accorded equal standing with men and held positions of leadership and responsibility. Lee's preachings found a receptive audience, and her followers swelled to several thousand, with women more than twice as likely to join than men. Shakers settled throughout New England and eventually established more than two dozen communities in eleven states.
  • -  When Lee died in 1784, Mother Lucy Wright (1760-1821) succeeded her as leader of the female division. Upon Wright's succession, the Shakers began to gain recognized constitutional rights as a religious group, and soon the community created a covenant explaining its faith and religious practice. As public opinion toward the Shakers gradually changed, their reputation as hardworking and skilled individuals became more secure. The Shakers are perhaps best known for their ingenious creativity. The intensive communal life of their settlements and the group's emphasis on simplicity and economy resulted in a distinctive arts and crafts tradition. As carpenters and cabinetmakers, Shakers demonstrated precision and skill, and even today their furniture is viewed as valuable collectors items. The simple forms and exquisite craftsmanship of Shaker designs are thought to reflect the untroubled, wholesome, preindustrial past of early America.
  • -  The item exhibited here, drawn in water color and ink, also reflects the talents of the Shaker tradition. It is an example of a spirit or inspirational drawing and is a type of folk art that was shared between Shakers as gifts. Spirit drawings expressed the emotional feelings within the artist and were inspired by symbolic expressions of religious experiences. It is believed that the drawings were created by women for a very limited audience, such as the artist's family or immediate circle. They were not circulated throughout the larger Shaker community, as Shaker rules prohibited hanging the drawings or other decorative items. Drawings ranged from elaborate to simple geometric shapes and often included emblems such as trees, birds, flowers, and moons. As shown in the inscription above this particular drawing, one Shaker sister, Polly Laurance, gave the drawing to another sister with Mother Wright's permission. The intimate inscription demonstrates the close bonds apparent within a community whose purposefulness and productivity remain unparalleled.

Source Collection

  • Shaker Collection


  • Manuscript Division

Online Format

  • image

IIIF Presentation Manifest

Rights & Access

More about Copyright and other Restrictions

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Shaker religious greeting, watercolor, January. January, 1853. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

(1853) Shaker religious greeting, watercolor, January. January. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Shaker religious greeting, watercolor, January. January, 1853. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.