Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Ann Lee 1736 ~ 1874


 Founder in America of the sect known as the Shaking Quakers. Was born in Manchester, England, about 1736. Her father was a blacksmith and she was taught the trade of cutting fur for hatters. She was married when quite young and four children were born to her, but all died in infancy. When but twenty-two years of age she was converted to the doctrine of James Wardley, a Quaker who preached against marriage and whose followers, because of the great agitation of their bodies when wrought with religious excitement were called Shakers.

She became a teacher of the faith, but in 1770 was imprisoned as a fanatic. While in prison she claimed to have a revelation and declared that in her dwelt the "word" and her followers say, "The man who was called Jesus and the woman who was called Ann are verily two great pillars of the church," and she was acknowledged as a spiritual mother in Israel and is known among her followers as Mother Ann. In 1774 she came to New York with a few of her followers and in the spring of 1776 they settled in Muskayuna, now Watervliet, opposite Troy, where the sect flourishes.

With the superstition of those times of course Ann Lee was charged with witchcraft and the Whigs accused her of secret correspondence with the British, her countrymen, because she preached against war. The charge of high treason was preferred against her and in 1776 she was imprisoned in Albany, and later sent to Poughkeepsie with the intention of placing her within the British lines in New York, but she remained a prisoner in Poughkeepsie until 1777, when she was released by Governor Clinton.

She returned to her home and the greatest sympathy was awakened for her, which greatly increased her followers. Such a movement of revival followed that the converts came into the sect in thousands. She declared that she judged the dead and no favor could be found except through confession of their sins to her, in fact she became a second Pope Joan; those coming under her spell threw aside all worldly things, pouring their jewels, money and valuables into her hands. She declared she would not die but would be translated into Heaven like Enoch and Elijah, but contrary to this announcement, on the 8th of September, 1784, she did die, but many believed it was not real death.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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