Religious sect founded by Ann Lee in 1766. At its height of popularity in the mid-1800s, the Shaker community included more than 6,000 members in the US.
Lee was born and raised in Manchester, England, as an English Quaker. The radical offshoot group would eventually become known as the "Shaking Quakers" because of a ritual practice of physically "shaking off" sin.
Lee believed that she was the second incarnation of God and had a revelation that sex prevented people from achieving divine understanding and salvation. She was twice imprisoned for declaring these beliefs.
In 1774, Lee had another vision: she needed to establish a Shaker church in the colonies. Her small group (mostly family members) left England and settled near Albany, New York. In a short five years, she amassed thousands of converts of celibate men and women working together as "brother" and "sister."
Because of the Shaker stance on sex, the group all but died out in a few generations. One small community still exisits in Maine.