Davenport Films Titlebar
Davenport Films Home
From the Brothers Grimm
Making Grimm Movies
American Traditional Culture
American Field Sports
Behind the Scenes
Classroom Resources
Ordering Information
Contact us:


Home > Documentaries >

The Shakers

The Shakers are America's oldest and most successful experiment in communal living. A century ago, nearly 6000 Shaker brothers and sisters lived together in nineteen communities scattered from Maine to Kentucky. This film traces the growth, decline, and continuing survival of this remarkable and influential religious sect through the memories and rich song traditions of the surviving Shakers themselves. It includes performances by the late Eldress Marguerite Frost of Canterbury, NH, and the late Sister R. Mildred Barker, a leading singer of the Shaker community still active at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

Directed by Tom Davenport and produced by Davenport Films and the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC, Chapel Hill with Daniel Patterson.
(30 minutes, color)

Sister Mildred Barker 's Account of Paulina Springer and Her Gift Song

Sister Mildred Barker"When I was a child, there was an older sister named Paulina Springer. Sister Paulina was very very dear to me. I loved her. She was ninety years old, and she used to ask if I could be the one to come and help her do her chores every morning, make her bed, and clean up her room. It was my greatest delight to do it because I thought she was just an angel, nothing else. She lived to be ninety years old, and I think perhaps it was two years I served her. And she was taken ill very suddenly. She didn't have a sickness and linger. She just sort of faded away. And when she was dying, the last day she lived—everyone knew she wouldn't live past noon— she asked if the children could come in and see her. She was fully conscious. So I was one, and I happened to be the last one in the line to come in and see her. So she spoke to each one as they passed through. When I came up to her bed, she took my hand and said, "Mildred, I want you to promise me something." At that point in my life I'd have promised her anything in the world, I didn't care what it was! Oh, I certainly would, I'd promise her anything. She said, "Promise me that you'll be a Shaker." Of course, I promised her, but it took me a great many years to fulfill the promise and to really come to the point where I knew what that promise meant. But it's always followed me— and as I've gone through life, this little song that she sang, not especially at that time, but some years before, she had had the gift of this little song. But after she talked with us, we left, and she said to the sisters in the room, "I'm not going to be here much longer." She says, "There's two angels standing over by the cupboard door waiting for me." About twelve o'clock she just passed away."

Follow this link to see the score and words of
"Mother has come with her beautiful song".

"...probably the definitive film on the Shaker movement." —The New Yorker , August 5, 1974


  • American Film Festival -- Blue ribbon
  • CINE Golden Eagle award
  • A PBS Broadcast

The Shaker Spiritual book cover

Dover Press will soon republish this book by Daniel Patterson, one of the producers of this film.

Numerous other books on the Shakers are published by Dover Press. They have no website of their own but their books are sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.