Deep within the Sabbathday Lake, Me., library rests a book of medical receipts attributed to Alfred Shaker, Sister Joanna Barnes. Its contents are similar to many contemporary handwritten collections in that it concerns a wide range of ailments and offers recipes from various eighteenth and nineteenth-century resources. However, in perusing this apparently commonplace manuscript a curious admonition about the receipts' origin and permitted uses.
Beneath the surface lies a much larger story—one that includes early advertising, the hard-nosed and unregulated American medical marketplace of the nineteenth century, identity and gender politics, snatched opportunity, and ultimately, the business of health. Furthermore, it begs a series of questions. From whom were these recipes purchased? Who was this patent-holder and how did they come to meet the Shakers? Were these recipes circulated throughout the Society? And finally, did this information remain within the sect or was it exposed to the World? If the latter, how?
American Communal Societies Quarterly
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