Softcover, 32 pages
by Ann Turner
paintings by Wendell Minor
The religious sect known as Shakers, who at their height (ca. 1825) probably only numbered around 4000, has always exerted a profound influence on the American imagination. Perhaps it was their simplicity, or their celibacy, or their strict rules for communal living, but while other utopian communities have long since been forgotten, the Shakers live on. Founded by Mother Ann Lee in the eighteenth century, they soon had active communities throughout the Midwest and as far south as Kentucky. Dedicated to serving God, they lived simple, agrarian lives in harmony with the changing seasons, content with what they could provide with their own hands and labor. Although living communities have all but disappeared, their influence survives — in everything from the clothes pin to the seed packet.
Their spare motto, "Hands to Work, Hearts to God" is repeated like a mantra in the charming rhymed text by Ann Turner. Coupled with the chaste, sensitive, almost elegiac paintings by artist Wendell Minor, this lovely paperback reprint of the hardcover original brings back the virtues of hard work, simple needs, rural living, and an admirable religious order we would do well to contemplate.