The claims of Ann Lee and the Shakers that Christ had returned as a female bred both opposition and obedience in the early American republic. From 1780 onward, new converts accepted the claims of incarnation and took their places in the hierarchical church of the Shakers while opponents derided the Shakers as dangerous and possibly subversive. The return of Christ as a female, therefore, raised more questions about the public order of masculine self-government than about universal salvation. Ultimately, Shakers defended themselves not by diluting their radical religion, but by portraying themselves as a loyal, apolitical, and feminine organization. An examination of the published attacks on and defenses of Shakerism between 1780 and 1819 suggests that the struggle over Shakerism centered more on loyalty than on theology.


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pp. 179-204
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