Education Programs: Landmarks of American History and Culture

Period of Performance

10/1/2012 - 12/31/2013

Funding Totals

$175,767.00 (approved)
$171,440.53 (awarded)

Heaven on Earth: Shakers, Religious Revival, and Social Reform in America

FAIN: BH-50520-12

Siena College (Loudonville, NY 12211-1462)
Jennifer Dorsey (Project Director: March 2012 to November 2014)

Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on the nineteenth-century Shaker movement and the communitarian society it produced.

Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on the nineteenth-century Shaker movement and the communitarian society it produced. This workshop is anchored in the observation that "[t]he impulse toward utopia has played a vital role in the evolution of American culture from the seventeenth century to the present." Given the opportunity to engage in close study of Shaker history and material culture, teachers gain a deeper understanding of the importance of the utopian experiment in American history. The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing (Shakers) came to America under the direction of Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784), who evangelized on the basic tenets of their faith, including celibacy, gender equality, and a communal life. The growth of the Shaker movement took place against the backdrop of industrial and commercial transformation that was particularly intense in New York, with its aggressive investment in transportation; by the 1830s approximately 6,000 Shakers lived in nineteen communities from Kentucky to Maine. Assigned readings include works by visiting scholars Stephen Stein (The Shaker Experience in America) and Glendyne Wergland (One Shaker Life: Isaac Newton Youngs, 1793-1865, and Sisters in the Faith: Shaker Women and Equality of the Sexes), as well as readings drawn from nineteenth-century Shaker writings and testimonials. Participants visit Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts, as part of a general introduction to the time in which the Shakers lived and how their community life responded to it, as explained by project director Jennifer Dorsey. Glendyne Wergland leads sessions on two days, covering a wide range of topics--health, diet, celibacy, gender roles, education, children--and accompanying the group on field trips to the Shaker Museum and Library at Mount Lebanon and to the New York State Library in Albany, which houses a collection of documents relating to Shaker educational practices. On the fourth day, Stephen Stein joins the group to discuss Shaker spirituality in the context of the Great Awakening; in the visit to the Shaker Heritage Society in Watervliet, New York, director Starlyn D'Angelo discusses Shaker architecture, music, and dance. On the last day, Professor Stein focuses on the post-Civil War decline of the Shaker movement, the mythology or romanticism about Shakers that subsequently emerged, and the Shakers' efforts in the early twentieth century to preserve their own material culture, culminating in a visit to the New York State Museum's Shaker Collection. The teachers are expected to develop curricula that incorporate material culture or use primary source documents.

Associated Products

New York's Burned-over District A Documentary History (Book)
Title: New York's Burned-over District A Documentary History
Editor: Jennifer Hull Dorsey
Editor: Spencer W. McBride
Abstract: In New York's Burned-over District, Spencer W. McBride and Jennifer Hull Dorsey invite readers to experience the early American revivals and reform movements through the eyes of the revivalists and the reformers themselves. Between 1790 and 1860, the mass migration of white settlers into New York State contributed to a historic Christian revival. This renewed spiritual interest and fervor occurred in particularly high concentration in central and western New York where men and women actively sought spiritual awakening and new religious affiliation. Contemporary observers referred to the region as "burnt" or "infected" with religious enthusiasm; historians now refer to as the Burned-over District. New York's Burned-over District highlights how Christian revivalism transformed the region into a critical hub of social reform in nineteenth-century America. An invaluable compendium of primary sources, this anthology revises standard interpretations of the Burned-over District and shows how the putative grassroots movements of the era were often coordinated and regulated by established religious leaders.
Year: 2023
Primary URL:
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Type: Edited Volume
ISBN: 9781501770548
Copy sent to NEH?: No

Conscription, Charity, and Citizenship in the Early Republic: The Shaker Campaign for Alternative Service (Article)
Title: Conscription, Charity, and Citizenship in the Early Republic: The Shaker Campaign for Alternative Service
Author: Jennifer Dorsey
Abstract: This article examines Shaker protests against the New York militia laws (1845-1846) and their advocacy for alternative civilian service in the early American Republic.
Year: 2016
Primary URL:
Secondary URL:
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Church History
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

"The Shakers and the Perfecting Spirit in Early America" (Book Section)
Title: "The Shakers and the Perfecting Spirit in Early America"
Author: Jennifer H. Dorsey
Editor: Benjamin E. Park
Abstract: The Blackwell Companion to American Religious History consists of roughly thirty original essays on critical themes and topics in American religious history. There will be three primary points of emphasis: the centrality of religion to American cultural, political, social, racial, gender, and intellectual history; the diversity of religious expressions across regions, races, and denominations; and the role of religion in eras of historical change. Though more microhistorical in approach, and historically bound in framework, chapters will glean broader lessons concerning the volume's larger themes and address questions typically asked in American history courses. The recent generation of scholars have produced a plethora of exciting and revisionist interpretations in the field, and this volume will condense and explain them for anew generation of readers. In a world still struggling to define the parameters of pluralism, this edited collection provides both a historical genealogy for the various traditions as well as meaning for its many expressions. A Companion to American Religious HIstory will serve as a resource for teachers, especially those who do not teach American religious history but who wish to expose their students to the significance, variety, and malleability of America's religious past
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc
Book Title: The Blackwell Companion to American Religious History
ISBN: 9781119583707