History of Utopian Founder Mother Ann Lee Part 1

About one of the founders of the Shaker Colonies Mother Ann Lee, history and biography of the utopia creator.




When Ann Lee was a child, she thought she was an angel in human form and stood in front of mirrors hoping to see her wings sprout. Later in life, she thought of herself as God's daughter, the sister of Jesus, and she saw God's feet on the horizon and heard his voice in the stars.

Born in Manchester, England, one of eight children, she went to work in a cotton factory when still very young. All her life she was illiterate.

Ann was married to an alcoholic blacksmith, by whom she had four children, all of whom died in infancy. The birth of the last child almost killed her. This experience probably influenced her attitude toward sex; she was against it, believing that it had caused humanity's fall. Ann's husband complained to church authorities that she refused him sexually; she scolded her own mother for what she called "carnal acts of indulgence." God, she felt, was male-female, capable of producing himself without nastiness, and human beings had been that way, too, before they sinned.

In 1758 Ann met James and Jane Wardley, leaders of a small group of radical English Quakers who became convinced that she was Christ come back as a woman. That same year, she was converted to the "Shaking Quakers." Under Ann's guidance, the movement grew stronger.

Ann was thrown in jail for her religious beliefs in 1770; in her cell she had more visions, in one of which she was told to go to America. Four years later, she sailed from Liverpool with eight others, one of them her husband (from whom she was separated). She hadn't been in America long before she and some of her followers were jailed for their pacifist stand on the Revolutionary War; it was 1780 before she was released.

A simple person, either blessed by God or a little insane depending on your point of view, she affected thousands of people, filling them with awe and inspiring devotion. One said, "Mother Ann's appearance seemed truly beauteous and heavenly ... such godly fear and heavenly love I never beheld in any person before ...." It was all "inner light," for Ann Lee was altogether a plain woman--thickset yet straight-backed, with keen blue eyes. She was able to perform miracles of healing, and many of her followers thought she was the mother of the race.

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