Reform Movements Essay Sample

Reform Movements Pages
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“Reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals” Throughout the years of 1825-1850 America had undergone a dramatic conversion. These changes led to a tense relationship between the states and the federal government. During this period in America the education system was ineffective and religion was branching out in unorthodox ways that went against the norms of society. America was also experiencing an awe-inspiring reform that proved that the pen was truly indeed mightier than the sword. Transcendentalism began to flourish and expand ideals of educating the citizens such as, opening public schools. As a result of these changes, individuals began to develop their own ideas of how government should be run and their contribution to society. Women began to demand to have a voice on how the government treated them. They refused to conform any longer to be treated as second class citizens without a voice or right as to how the government impacts their everyday life. The need to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was not only for those with white skin. During this time slavery still was a major part of the south’s economy.

The North and South were being divided by identifying who is worthy of pursuing these rights. During the creation of the Declaration of Independence, women and slaves were not included as those that were worthy of these rights. This was tearing the union apart. The North believed that blacks deserved the same basic rights and liberties as those of white skin. The South, held on to the belief that whites were superior to blacks. This conflict was literally splitting America at its poorly woven seams. Substandard education was one of America’s challenges .Qualified educators were extremely difficult to find because most of the American population was un-educated. Most of who were women and freed blacks. Mary Lyon of New England believed everyone was entitled to an education. So, she established the Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts in order for women to receive the education they deserved and not be discriminated for having a degree.

Emma Willard also shared the same beliefs as Mary Lyon, so Willard established the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York. With women receiving education freed blacks also joined in as well. In the south, public education expanded tremendously and became the foundation of a true democratic order. In 1875, fifty percent of black children attended public schools. The parents encouraged their children to go to school so they could learn to read, write, and think for themselves. Women, children, and freed blacks benefited from this new and improved public education system. Religion was not simply prayer and attending church anymore, it has sprung and formed into this cluster of rituals and fine products. An example of this is Mother Ann lee and the shakers. The Shakers believed god was both man and women, so there was no dominance by the opposite sex. Also, the shakers practiced celibacy, temperance, and their craftsman’s ship in furniture design. When the shakers died out, John Humphrey Noyes came out with a new radical look on god. By taking certain practices for the shakers and perfectionism, Noyes created this new utopia and named it the Oneida Community. In the Oneida Community, which was named after Oneida, New York; polygamy had the most impact on society.

Noyes believed love was cursed by monogamy, so he introduced “complex marriage”. Complex marriage meant all members in the community were married. Noyes discouraged women from having multiple children so they could focus on the community instead. The Oneida community was not only known for their radical practices, they were also known for their fine silverware. But the Oneida Community shared the same fate as the shakers, and disappeared at mid-twentieth century. The significance of this community was their radical outlook on gender roles and capitalist principles. These communities were radical utopians that caused Christians to turn hostile during their reign. But the hostility grew even more when Joseph Smith introduced the Mormon experience. Mormonism descended from puritan practices along the Erie Canal. From that, a religious fever had spread across members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter – day Saints, most of which were Mormons. Mormonism proved to be one of the largest radical utopians around. But with that much fame, comes a heavy price to pay.

When morons found their “City of Zion” in Nauvoo, Illinois, Illinois government demanded smith to pay taxes for his settlement. When he refused to pay, he and his brother were thrown into jail, where they were killed by anti-moron mob. Even with equality in their religious practices women were still being placed at the bottom of the social pyramid. Men believed women’s only political should be republican motherhood, and that woman belonged in “separate spheres”. Women rejected this conception and joined the second great awakening. Women began to have their own voice in society; Catherine Beecher encouraged women to turn their homes into examples of efficiency and domesticity and have a strong moral in their household. Also women joined the family-oriented temperance organizations which they fully participated in. Women also founded Female Moral Reform Society to protect women from moral corruption and they founded homes of refuge to shelter prostitutes.

But one woman named Dorothea Dix sought to improve health conditions for the mentally ill and to establish state asylums. Women also dominated the education field by become well-educated and kept a moral and intellectual instruction in the classroom. Women, who were doubling as moral reformers and educators, became a major part of American public life. Then women turned their attention to reform and sought to protect women’s rights in marriage. Between 1839-1845 Mississippi, Maine, and Massachusetts enacted the women’s property laws that gave women full control of their property that they brought into marriage. In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held a gathering of women’s rights activists at Seneca Falls, New York which ultimately led to the re-writing of the constitution so that it included women and their rights.

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