This article examines the disparity between fictional and historical accounts of Shaker women. Th e fiction, influenced by pervading social beliefs like the cult of true womanhood, usually portrays a woman who becomes dissatisfied with her Shaker life, concluding that it is a sort of living death that isolates her from love, marriage, and motherhood. Historical records reveal independent and fulfilled women who became Shakers for religious reasons but also for secular opportunities unknown in the outside world, including companionship, refuge from sexual predation, and a chance for professional or governmental fulfillment.

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