Gay blades from Pittsfield, Mass., riding past the big brick house a century ago, might have smiled to hear them singing:
Oh, it is by holy living
That we gain an entrance there;
For communion with the angels,
Spotless robes we must prepare.
But the Shakers of Hancock, Mass., meant it. They prepared their spotless robes by maintaining strict celibacy in their community of 200-odd men and womencohabitation of married couples was forbidden, and "sisters" and "brethren" had separate entrances and hallways in their houses. They lived lives of calculated simplicity, sheltered the indigent and...