From The Archives: The Shakers

May 14, 2014

Credit Ella Nilsen / NHPR

I was listening back this week to New Hampshire Daily, a half hour NH news program we aired from October, 1989 to February, 1992. I was listening to the programs from the week of 14 May, 1990. Among the news of the day (including the death of Jim Hensen, and Lithuania’s independence negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev) was a four part series we produced about the Canterbury Shaker Village.

Sadly part two of the series was on a damaged tape reel, and we were not able to recover the audio. But the three parts we were able to salvage explore the village’s then-recent history and gender roles in the community, and profiles individuals who helped to shape CSV.

Part 1: The Shakers, religious dissenters who danced their passions away, settled in NH in 1792. While much has been made of the Shaker’s golden period during the early 1800s, few have considered their more recent history.  NHPR's Catherine Curtis spoke to the Sister Ethel Hudson and Eldress Bertha Lindsay. (There’s a bit of a glitch at the beginning, but hang in there).

Part 3: Feminists interested in models for egalitarian communities have few examples. Where in America have men and women lived equally? One of the few places is Canterbury Shaker Village in NH. There men and women shared equal status and authority, though their lives were strictly segregated. But there is more to the sexual politics in a Shaker village than meets the eye. 

Part 4: From 1792 until the death of Hudson in 1992, CSV was home to thousands of men and women who committed their lives to the rigorous Shaker ways. In 1990, there were just  two shakers left at Canterbury: Eldress Bertha Lindsay and Sister Ethel Hudson. They share their memories of shakers whose lives helped to shape the religious community.

Eldress Bertha Lindsay died just a few months after this series aired in 1990 at age 93. Sister Ethel Hudson was 96 years old and the last surviving member of Canterbury Shaker Village when she died in September, 1992. Here's her obit as it aired on NHPR.