When the Shirley Shakers first conceived the idea of building a cotton factory, their economic fortunes were at a high point. In addition, they were receiving several applicants for membership from individuals and families who had worked in textile mills. This influx allowed them to re-open their South Family in 1849. That family, with its magnificent brick dwelling, had closed in 1842. If the cotton factory could bring in large amounts of cash, this would help launch a new time of prosperity for the society. The spiritual power of the Era of Mother’s Work was also lingering and this provided much reassurance. As mid-century approached, the Shakers had every reason to foresee a bright future for their community. By the time the factory was sold in 1866, the Shirley Shakers were in steep decline.
American Communal Societies Quarterly
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