Reproduced here for the first time since their original publication, the Dyers' dueling accounts of the breakup of their marriage form the core of Domestic Broils. In Mary's telling, the deceptions of a cruel husband, backed by an unyielding Shaker hierarchy, destroyed what had once been a happy, productive family. Joseph's narrative counters these claims by alleging that Mary abused her children, neglected her husband, and engaged in extramarital affairs.
In her introduction to the volume, Elizabeth De Wolfe places the Dyers' marital dispute in a broader historical context, drawing on their personal testimony to examine connected but conflicting views of marriage, family life, and Shakerism in the early republic. She also shows how the growing world of print facilitated the transformation of a private family quarrel into a public debate. Salacious, riveting, and immensely popular throughout New England, the Dyers' narratives not only captured imaginations but also reflected public anxieties over rapid cultural change in antebellum America.
"A significant contribution that simultaneously dissects and contextualizes two primary sources relevant to women's studies, religious studies, communal studies, gender studies, and the history of the early American republic."-Christian Goodwillie, coeditor of Millennial Praises: A Shaker Hymnal
Drawing on an extensive archive of primary documents, Wergland discusses topics ranging from girlhood, health, and dress to why women joined the Shakers and how they were viewed by those outside their community. She analyzes the division of labor between men and women, showing that there was considerable cooperation and reciprocity in carrying out most tasks-from food production to laundering to gathering firewood-even as gendered conflicts remained.
In her conclusion, Wergland draws together all of these threads to show that Shaker communities achieved a remarkable degree of gender equality at a time when women elsewhere still suffered under the legal and social strictures of the traditional patriarchal order. In so doing, she argues, the experience of Shaker women served as a model for promoting women's rights in American political culture.
The book opens with an introductory assessment of the Shaker contribution to the history of American social experimentation, as seen from the modern point of view. There follows the often amazing story of Ann Lee and the origins of the movement in eighteenth-century England, its emigration to New England, the early Shaker experiments in communism, and the expansion to the American West. The author then pauses to examine in detail the ideology behind the Shaker dedication to physical labor; Shaker industry and design, including a discussion of the spare, utilitarian folk art so popular today; the highly formalized mode of worship, with its lively songs and dances and its often violent emotionalism; strange manifestations during the revival periods of the 1830s and 40s; the rigid internal organization of the Shaker community and its original economic and sociological theories; Shaker relations with the outside world; and the decline of the sect after the Civil War.
This edition is the first to include the author’s valuable notes, as well as the original appendixes containing the complete text of the Millennial Laws, a statistical breakdown of all the Shaker communities, and a bibliography. This material is especially useful to students of American social and religious movements, but the author’s reliance upon original manuscript material and contemporary illustrations lend this book an exciting immediacy that makes it a pleasure for all readers interested in fascinating people and unique ways of life.
“An excellent history of one of the most interesting of American religious cults.” — Nation.
“Satisfies the exacting standards of historical scholarship and promises at the same time to enlighten and hold the interest of the general reader.” — Saturday Review.
“A substantial contribution to American history.” — The New York Times.
In The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics, Paul B. Thompson articulates a new agrarian philosophy, emphasizing the vital role of agrarianism in modern agricultural practices. Thompson, a highly regarded voice in environmental philosophy, unites concepts of agrarian philosophy, political theory, and environmental ethics to illustrate the importance of creating and maintaining environmentally conscious communities. Thompson describes the evolution of agrarian values in America, following the path blazed by Thomas Jefferson, John Steinbeck, and Wendell Berry.
Providing a pragmatic approach to ecological responsibility and commitment, The Agrarian Vision is a significant, compelling argument for the practice of a reconfigured and expanded agrarianism in our efforts to support modern industrialized culture while also preserving the natural world.