In the 1820s, Shakers complied a list of rules and values called the Millennial Laws that would govern the types of actions, properties and relationships that the Shaker communities had with the outside world. These rules were set in place to allow a distinct separation between Shaker communities and the outside world:

“One very important use of the Millennial Laws was to create strict boundaries between Shakers and the outside World. Believers were intent on living their lives as self-sufficient and pure as they possibly could, and a key element in being successful was maintaining a distance from the non-Believers outside their communities. ” (Law and Order)

These laws stated a variety of actions that the Believers could or could not take when it revolved the outside world. Permission had to be granted by the Elders to allow Believers to leave the community and visit cities with Non-Believers. Afterwards, they were required to give detail reports about the events that happened during the visit and they could not attend any religious functions without first reporting to the Elders. The laws also prohibited literature that was not approved by the Elders, set specific dress codes, and could not use “worldly” titles such as Miss or Mister.

Millennial Law Book

The Millineal Laws helped to establish a union and a shared commonality over all of the different Shaker villages throughout the country. By establishing set guidelines, the leaders were able to maintain a common Shaker image and purpose that would be reflected at each site. All communities had buildings of the same layout and architecture, similar simplistic design features were used and shared knowledge of inventions helped to spread the wealth throughout the Shaker communities.


Nicoletta, Julie. “The Gendering of Order and Disorder: Mother Ann Lee and Shaker Architecture.” The New England Quarterly74, no. 2 (2001): 303-16. doi:10.2307/3185480.

Promey, Sally M. “Celestial Visions: Shaker Images and Art Historical Method.” American Art 7, no. 2 (1993): 79-99.