In England, Ann Lee rose to prominence in the Shaker religion by urging followers to preach in public. She and her followers were frequently arrested. In 1774, Mother Ann Lee and a select group of Shakers emigrated to America and ultimately founded the Mount Lebanon Shaker Community in New Lebanon.
The Shakers were originally formed as sect of the Quaker religion. They worshiped by ecstatic dancing or "shaking", which dubbed them as the "Shaking Quakers" or Shakers. Ann Lee rose to prominence in the Shaker community while she was still in England. She encouraged followers to promote their religion publicly. She and her followers were arrested on numerous occasions for breaking the the Sabbath by dancing and shouting in public and for blasphemy. In 1774, Mother Ann and a select group of followers decided to emigrate to America, in search of greater religious freedom.
When the Shakers emigrated to America, they remained for 5 years in New York City, then in 1779 moved to Niskayuna, New York where the original American Shaker community was formed. In 1780 she recruited a group of followers in New Lebanon. The property on Mount Lebanon was later donated and the Mount Lebanon Shaker community was founded in 1787.
In 1781, Mother Ann Lee and a group of her followers began an extensive missionary throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut which was especially successful in converting groups already outside of mainstream Protestantism.
At this time, few colonial religious leaders were women. Mother Lee was the most significant figure of the few. The Shakers were the most important religious group to be formed by a woman. The followers of Mother Ann came to believe that she embodied all the perfections of God in female form, and was revealed as the "second coming" of Christ. She preached that sinfulness could be avoided by not only treating men and women equally, but also by keeping them separated so as to prevent any sort of temptation leading to impure acts. Celibacy and confession of sin were essential for salvation.
Unfortunately, the Shakers were sometimes met by violent mobs and Mother Ann suffered violence at their hands more than once. Because of these hardships Mother Ann became quite frail; she died on 8 September 1784, at the age of 48. She is buried in the Shaker cemetery in Niskayuna.