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Rare Book and Special Collections Division



The Domestic Sphere
Religion and Spirituality
Indian Capitivity Narratives
arrow graphicShakers, Christian Scientists, and Sabbath School Founders
Reform Efforts
Women in Popular Culture
Collections Formed by Women
Literary Works



Shakers, Christian Scientists, and Sabbath School Founders
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Social Life and Vegetarianism. Martha J. Anderson. 1893. Rare Book Collection.

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The division has an important collection of Shaker literature, significant here because of the nineteenth-century Christian sect's commitment to the equality of women. Members were dedicated to a life of perfection, seeking “the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” 2 Their efforts toward perfection included hard work, pacifism, communal living, and celibacy. They believed in God as a spirit being, both a spiritual father and mother, and in the equality of the sexes. Martha Anderson wrote, in her Social Life and Vegetarianism, [full item] “As there is perfect equality of the sexes in our home, guaranteed by the law of absolute purity, which frees women from masculine dominance, the sisterhood are insured the right to manage their own affairs.” 3

It was the Shakers' pacifism during the Revolutionary War that first called outside attention to the group and its activities. Mother Ann, as the leader Ann Lee was called by followers, and five others were jailed for several months in 1780 because of their opposition to the war. The sect's opposition to war continued and is spelled out in A Declaration of the Society of People . . . Shewing their Reasons for Refusing to Aid or Abet the Cause of War and Bloodshed by Bearing Arms, Paying Fines, Hiring Substitutes, or Rendering any Equivalent for Military Services (Albany, N.Y.: E. & E. Hosford, 1815; BX9789.W2 A5 1815) .

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Shakers near Lebanon state of New York, [ca. 1830]. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-13659 (b&w film copy neg.)

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Almost all the Shaker items can be found in the catalog with classification numbers between BX9751 and BX9793. Much of the literature is an explanation of Shaker beliefs, but it also includes works on the Shakers' famous woodworking, seed supply businesses, and inventions. Six scrapbooks filled with newspaper and journal clippings, programs, and poetry compiled by members document the years 1841 to 1882.

Many Shaker works are by and about women, including biographies of their women leaders. Additional Shaker materials, including correspondence, diaries, hymns, and other papers may be found in the Library's Manuscript Division and Shaker maps in the Geography and Map Division.

Christian Science

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) is another pioneering religious reformer whose writings are well represented in the division. Her first major work, Science and Health (Boston: Christian Scientist Publishing Company, 1875; BX6941.S4 1875) , explores the relationship between spirituality and healing and has been reprinted often in various editions and translations. In addition to Eddy's other books, sermons, speeches, and magazine writings, the division has scrapbooks compiled by Stella Hadden Alexander, one volume (New York, 1935; BX6931.Z8 A6) , and Alice Morgan Harrison, three volumes, 1900- 1931 (New York, 1936), which document the activities of Eddy and her disciple Augusta E. Stetson (1842-1928), as well as the Christian Science movement.

Sabbath Schools

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Some of the Workers and Sunday School Scholars. From Thomas Stanford, Imaginary Obstructions, [ca. 1898]. Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

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The central role played by African American women in organizing sabbath schools and benevolent societies is acknowledged in the National Baptist Magazine (Nashville, Tenn., 1899; E449.D16 C:9 Murray Pam) [full item], where the Reverend J. Francis Robinson celebrates the “pious, consecrated, self-sacrificing women” who bring “stability and support” to such endeavors. This echoes Bishop Benjamin Arnett's praise of black women's efforts in establishing the New Asylum for Orphan and Friendless Colored Children and other benevolent societies in Cincinnati in Proceedings of the Semi-Centenary Celebration of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Cincinnati, 1874; E449.D16 D:2 Murray Pam) [full item] and James Holloway's recognition of the influence of female Sabbath School teachers in Why I Am a Methodist ([Charleston, S.C., 1909]; E185.A254 H:134 Afr Am Pam) [full item].

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