Ann Lee is perhaps one of the remarkable and mystifying women in the history of Western Culture. Few could have imagined that humble beginnings in Manchester, England, would lead to the illiterate daughter of a blacksmith overcoming personal anguish and increasingly Puritannical sentiments in England and rising to become a visionary religious leader, thought by her followers to have been the second coming of Christ.
After the deaths of her four children, Ann was committed to an insane asylum. While committed, she received the revelation that she was Ann the Word, the female embodiment of Christ. Upon her release, she assumed leadership of the Shaking Quakers, or Shakers, a local religious cult know for their erratic fits of divine shaking, passionate song and dance, speaking in tongues, believing that the millennium heralded the end of the world. Escaping persecution, she escaped to America with a small band of Shakers in 1774. Charges of witchcraft and spying followed Lee wherever she went as she began an ambitious mission of conversion, establishing communities across New England.
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