Sister Frances Carr, one of the last remaining members of a nearly extinct religious society called the Shakers, has died. She was 89. Carr died Monday surrounded by family and friends in the dwelling house at the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine, after a brief battle with cancer, Brother Arnold Hadd, one of the group's two remaining members, tells the AP. "She had a death with dignity and love," Hadd says. "She was surrounded by love, tears, and a lot of Shaker songs." Their community at Sabbathday Lake was settled in 1783 and was one of more than a dozen such communities created in the New World by the Shakers, formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearance.
The group, which fled persecution in England, practiced equality of the sexes, pacifism, communal ownership of property, and celibacy. The Shakers' numbers declined because members are celibate and the group stopped taking orphans like Carr, who arrived as a 10-year-old after her father died and her mother was unable to care for her. She never forgot her humble beginnings and devoted herself to helping the disadvantaged, especially children, stepping into situations to provide food, shelter, and money, Hadd says. "She had a great passion for being a Shaker and serving God and serving her fellow man," he said. Her favorite song was "In as much as ye have done it to the least of these, ye have done it unto me." He says she remained hopeful to the end that the Shakers would grow again. (Read more religion stories.)