(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In the foreword, Campion presents Lee as an unsung Colonial heroine who was more influential than the well-known Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, or Molly Pitcher. The book asks how a poor, illiterate woman became accepted as the female embodiment of Christ and the spiritual leader for numerous men and women. It also explores how she was able to establish a society based on cooperation and internal rewards rather than on materialism and self-gratification. Mother Ann believed in women’s rights in a day when almost every woman was forced to marry and all assets, including children, belonged to her husband. She believed that women had the right to control their minds and bodies, an idea that did not become a mainstream one in the United States until the twentieth century. Lee became a zealous traveling preacher in an era when women were supposed to stay at home and tend the children.

Campion’s admiration of Lee is evident, as the author relates anecdotes that have been passed down from generation to generation of Shakers. These stories display Lee’s fortitude and her unwavering belief in a supreme power to provide for believers. When jailed for two weeks without food or drink, she astounded her captors when she emerged healthy; only the Shaker faithful knew that Brother James Whittaker had fed liquids to her through a pipe stem in the keyhole. Another story tells of how, through prayer, Mother Ann saved the ship on which the Shakers came from England...

(The entire section is 596 words.)