Ann Lee was born in Toad Lane, Manchester, England, on 26th February, 1736. The daughter of a blacksmith, she worked as a cook in a infirmary. In 1758 Lee joined the Shaking Quakers, a radical offshoot of the Society of Friends. Influenced by the French Camisards, members shook, shouted, danced and sung in tongues during religious worship.
In 1761 Anne married Abraham Standerin, and over the next few years the couple had four children. They all died within weeks of being born and this caused her to have a mental breakdown and in 1770 was admitted to the lunatic ward of the local infirmary. After she was released she announced that she was the female Christ and that she was now to be known as "Ann the Word". Ann also told other Shaking Quakers that in future they must live a celibate life.
Anne became the leader of the Shaking Quakers and in 1774 she had a vision that she must take her followers to America. They sailed from Liverpool and lived for a while in New York. Ann continued to make converts including the wealthy John Hocknell who helped her establish a settlement in Niskeyuna near Albany. A pacifist, Ann was imprisoned in 1780 for refusing to sign an oath of allegiance.
After she was released from Albany Prison she toured New England. According to contemporary accounts she performed several miracles including healing the sick. She obtained more followers but others were extremely hostile to her ideas and was sexually molested several times and on one occasion was abducted by vigilantes. By the time Ann Lee died on 8th September, 1784, she had established a community of over a thousand people.