Stefany Anne Golberg visited the Shaker Heritage Society in Colonie, New York. She mulls one of their inventions – the flat-bottom broom:
Flattening the broom’s bottom seems like a small innovation. But before this the broom was little more than a bundle of twigs that moved dirt around the house. Flattening the bottom made the broom so efficient it’s hard to now imagine the broom any other way. The flat-bottom of the broom is as integral to the act of sweeping as it was integral to Shaker doctrine. Sweeping encapsulated the alienation of household labor. It was a solitary act, somewhat futile, usually done by women. So the Shakers turned the broom, literally and figuratively, upside down. By streamlining and improving daily chores, for both men and women, work could be more joyful, more expressive of the community. Leisure time would be increased. Cleanliness (next to godliness) was improved. The Shakers could be more self-sufficient, thus further insulated from the political and religious pressures of the outside world. In other words, to create new ways of living, the Shakers had to create new ways of working.
(Photo of brooms at the Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts, by Flickr user dbking)