One of the core beliefs of the Shakers was that only by making a firm commitment to a life of purity and piety as a member of a community of Believers could an individual escape the sinfulness of the world and properly prepare for salvation. This required that individuals sever ties with their natural, biological families and become a member of a new spiritual family, which would offer the love and emotional support that natural family members had formerly provided.
It must also have been difficult for some to abide fully and faithfully by the rules designed to break down the bonds of natural families whose members had become Believers. Typically, an effort was made to place husband and wife in different Shaker families and their children in a separate Children’s Order. But in the smaller Shaker societies, such as White Water, which is the focus of this study, this was not always possible, and frequent interaction between natural family members was inevitable.
This article focuses on three ways in which the mother-daughter relationship was transformed when one or more family members joined a Shaker society. First, when a mother and one or more daughters became and remained Believers; second, when a mother became a Believer, but her daughter either left White Water or never joined; and third, when a daughter was a Shaker at White Water but her mother had either left the society or had died.
American Communal Societies Quarterly
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