Today’s Los Angeles Times has a fascinating article on the last Shaker community. It’s well worth a read. Here’s a start:
Thus these pious men and women came to invent such practical devices as the spring-loaded clothespin, the flat-bottom broom and the circular saw. They patented a washing machine in 1858. Their multi-chambered oven from 1878 strongly resembles contemporary restaurant ovens.
The Shakers were never large in number. At the sect’s peak before the Civil War, 5,000 claimed membership in the monastic Protestant fellowship in which men and women live as brothers and sisters. The group, known formally as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, counsels self-reliance and mandates celibacy.
Today, four Shakers remain: two elderly women and two graying men. They are pondering the future not only of their faith but of their way of life.