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Heaven on Earth: Shakers, Religious Revival, and Social Reform in America

Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on the nineteenth-century Shaker movement and the communitarian society it produced.

This workshop is anchored in the observation that "[t]he impulse toward utopia has played a vital role in the evolution of American culture from the seventeenth century to the present." Given the opportunity to engage in close study of Shaker history and material culture, teachers gain a deeper understanding of the importance of the utopian experiment in American history. The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing (Shakers) came to America under the direction of Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784), who evangelized on the basic tenets of their faith, including celibacy, gender equality, and a communal life. The growth of the Shaker movement took place against the backdrop of industrial and commercial transformation that was particularly intense in New York, with its aggressive investment in transportation; by the 1830s approximately 6,000 Shakers lived in nineteen communities from Kentucky to Maine. Assigned readings include works by visiting scholars Stephen Stein (The Shaker Experience in America) and Glendyne Wergland (One Shaker Life: Isaac Newton Youngs, 1793-1865, and Sisters in the Faith: Shaker Women and Equality of the Sexes), as well as readings drawn from nineteenth-century Shaker writings and testimonials. Participants visit Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts, as part of a general introduction to the time in which the Shakers lived and how their community life responded to it, as explained by project director Jennifer Dorsey. Glendyne Wergland leads sessions on two days, covering a wide range of topics--health, diet, celibacy, gender roles, education, children--and accompanying the group on field trips to the Shaker Museum and Library at Mount Lebanon and to the New York State Library in Albany, which houses a collection of documents relating to Shaker educational practices. On the fourth day, Stephen Stein joins the group to discuss Shaker spirituality in the context of the Great Awakening; in the visit to the Shaker Heritage Society in Watervliet, New York, director Starlyn D'Angelo discusses Shaker architecture, music, and dance. On the last day, Professor Stein focuses on the post-Civil War decline of the Shaker movement, the mythology or romanticism about Shakers that subsequently emerged, and the Shakers' efforts in the early twentieth century to preserve their own material culture, culminating in a visit to the New York State Museum's Shaker Collection. The teachers are expected to develop curricula that incorporate material culture or use primary source documents.

Dates: July 7–13 or July 14–20
Director(s): Jennifer Dorsey
Grantee Institutions: Siena College
Location: Loudonville, NY

About NEH Landmarks of American History: Workshops for School Teachers

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the federal government. As part of the NEH’s We the People program, we offer the following Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers. NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops provide the opportunity for K-12 educators to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics in American history and culture. These one-week programs will give participants direct experiences in the interpretation of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary evidence. Landmarks Workshops present the best scholarship on a specific landmark or related cluster of landmarks, enabling participants to gain a sense of the importance of historical places, to make connections between what they learn in the Workshop and what they teach, and to develop enhanced teaching or research materials.

Amount of Award

Teachers selected to participate will receive a stipend of $1,200 at the end of the residential Workshop session. Stipends are intended to help cover living expenses, books, and travel expenses to and from the Workshop location.


These projects are designed principally for classroom teachers and librarians in public, charter, independent, and religiously-affiliated schools, as well as home schooling parents. Other K-12 school personnel, including administrators, substitute teachers, and classroom professionals, are eligible to participate, subject to available space.

Teachers at schools in the United States or its territorial possessions or Americans teaching in foreign schools where at least 50 percent of the students are American nationals are eligible for this program. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline. Foreign nationals teaching abroad at non-U.S. chartered institutions are not eligible to apply.

Applicants must complete the NEH application and provide all of the information requested to be considered eligible.

New this year: An individual may apply to up to two NEH Summer Programs in any one year (Landmarks Workshops, Summer Seminars, or Summer Institutes), but may participate in only one. Please note that eligibility criteria differ significantly between the Landmarks Workshops and the Seminars and Institutes Programs.

How to Apply

Please e-mail, telephone or send by U.S. Post a request for application information and expanded Workshop descriptions to the Landmarks directors listed here; in many cases, these materials will also be available on project Web sites. You may request information about as many Workshops as you like, and, as noted above, you may apply to up to two programs but participate in only one.