The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Lee, Ann

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LEE, Ann, the founder of the sect of Shakers in America, born in Manchester, England, Feb. 29, 1736, died in Watervliet, N. Y., Sept. 8, 1784. Her parents were members of a distinct branch of the society of Friends, and too poor to afford their children even the rudiments of education. She was early married to Abraham Stanley, by whom she had four children who died in infancy. She became in 1758 a member of the Manchester society of Friends, and in 1770 she professed to have received a divine mission to deliver her “testimony against all lustful gratifications as the source and foundation of human corruption and misery.” Her peculiarity of manner and the novelty of the doctrines she preached subjected her at first to abuse, and she was at length confined in prison by the authorities of Manchester for several weeks. During this imprisonment, Christ, she said, revealed to her in a vision the most astonishing views and divine manifestations of truth; and after her release she was regarded by her sect as “a mother in spiritual things,” and was always called by them “Mother Ann.” In 1774 Ann Lee, with others of her sect, including her husband and a brother and niece, emigrated to New York, for the purpose of establishing there the “church of Christ's second appearing.” The company separated for a time in order to seek employment and the means of subsistence; but about 1776 they were reunited in the present town of Watervliet, near Albany, where Ann Lee, who had previously formally dissolved her connection with her husband, became their recognized head. In 1780, during a religious revival in New Lebanon and several adjoining towns, the company first brought itself into notice, and under the influence of Ann Lee many persons were converted to their doctrines. In this movement originated the flourishing society at New Lebanon. They incurred, however, the suspicion of the local authorities with regard to their friendliness to the patriotic cause, and Ann and others were imprisoned for several months for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the state of New York, it being contrary to their faith. They were released without a trial by order of Gov. George Clinton in the latter part of 1780. In 1781-'3 Ann Lee and the elders of the society at Watervliet made a missionary journey through New England, in the course of which societies were founded in Harvard, Mass., and other places. She died about a year after her return. See “Ann Lee, or Shakers and Shakerism,” by F. W. Evans.