Reform Movements 1800s Essay Help

While America was undergoing an "era of good feeling" there were many problems lying under the surface. These social ills were attacked many social reformers. This reform movement was led by people who believed that America could do anything if she put her mind to it. One writer called America, "The Israel of our time."

Major reform movements existed in the following areas:

A. Women's Rights:

1. This movement led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held a women's rights conference at the Seneca Fall Convention. At the convention they wrote a Declaration of Women's Rights.

B. Temperance

1. The temperance movement was an attempt to eliminate the evils of alcohol. Mostly the same women involved in the women's rights movement . Led by the American Christian Temperance Union they sought to save the American family by trying to get alcohol declared illegal.

2. They were successful in getting some states to adopt state constitutional amendments banning alcohol.

3. This movement continued until the passage of the 18th amendment in 1920.

C. Education

1. Led by Horace Mann, the great educational reformer, a movement was led to create mandatory public education in America. It was eventually successful.

D. Treatment of the insane

1. Reformers led by Dorothea Dix led the way to more modern treatment of the mentally ill.

2. The first mental hospital was built in the state of Massachustetts as a result of her efforts.

Few areas escaped the notice of reformers in the 1830's and 1840's. Here are some examples of their writings. For each selection note their goals, methods used to convince their leaders, your opinion of their effectiveness and a judgment as to what extent their goals have been reached today.


1. Dorothea Dix was an extremely influential reformer of the period. Her work led to prison reform and improved treatment of the insane. In 1843 Dix sent the following report to the Massachusetts legislature:

If I inflict pain upon you, and move you to horror, it is to acquaint you with the sufferings which you have the power to alleviate (cure), and to make you hasten to the relief of the victims of legalized barbarity.

Lincoln. A woman in a cage. Medford. One idiotic subject chained, and one in a closed stall for seventeen years. Pepperell. One often doubly chained, hand and foot; another violent; several peaceable now. Brookfield. One man caged, comfortable. Granville. One often closely confined; now losing the use of his limbs from lack of exercise. Charlemont. One man caged. Savoy. One man caged. Lenox. Two in the jail, against whose unfit condition there the jailer protests.

Dedham. The insane disadvantageously placed in jail. In the (charity ward), two females in stalls, situated in the main building; lie in wooden bunks filled with straw; always shut up. One of these subjects is supposed curable. The overseers of the poor have declined giving her a trial at the hospital, as I was informed, on account of expense.


2. Some who worked for equal rights for blacks also fought to win equality for women. Denied admission to the World Antislavery Convention in London in 1840, abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the nations first women's rights convention. The convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It issued the following "Declaration of Women's Rights":

We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. . . Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government. . .

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward women, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this let the following facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise (the vote).

He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she has had no voice. . .

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. . .

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. . .

He has endeavored, ion every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject (submissive) life.


3. Alcoholism was a serious problem in the United States, particularly in an era when women had no right to control their own earnings and an entire family could starve because of a drunken father. Organizations like the American Temperance Union and the American Christian Temperance Union worked to eliminate excessive drinking (and eventually to pass a prohibition amendment). Songs like the following were sung in parades, at meetings, and during rallies:

Father, dear father, come home with me now!

The clock in the steeple strikes one.-

You said you were coming home from the shop,

As soon as your day's work was done.-

Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark,

And mother's been watching since tea,

With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms,

And no one to help her but me.-

Come home father, come home, come home!-

Please ,- father, dear father, come home!


4. Horace Mann was an educational reformer. He helped improve schools, curricula, and instructional methods throughout the Northeast. As secretary to the Massachusetts Board of Education, he argued for reforms in reports submitted to the state legislature. The following is his twelfth and last report (1848):

According to European theory, men are divided into classes, some to toil and earn, others to seize and enjoy. . . Our ambition as a state should trace itself to a different origin and propose to itself a different object. . .

Education. . . beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery. . . I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men. . .

. . . To all doubters, disbelievers, or despairers in human progress, it may still be said there is one experiment which has never yet been tried. It is an experiment, which, even before its beginning, offers the highest authority for its ultimate success. . . It is expressed in these few and simple words: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and, when he is old he will not depart from it."

But this experiment has never been tried. Education has never been brought to bear with one-hundredth part of its potentialforce upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the character of men and of the race.


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How Reform Movements In The 1800s Sought To Expand Democratic Ideals (Ap Us History Dbq)

America was expanding in the early 1800s, politically, economically, and socially. Many movements occurred during this time, particularly from 1825 to 1850, aimed to better laws, institutions, and society and to spread democracy overall. Although the religious, penal, education, and feminist reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals, the temperance and abolitionist reform movements ended up limiting democracy.

The religious, penal, education, and feminist reform movements sought to expand democratic ideals, and that is exactly what they did. In the 1820s, Charles G. Finney, a Presbyterian minister, led the Second Great Awakening, or the religious revival. Finney preached that harlots, drunkards, and infidels could be “saved” through hard work and a steadfast faith in God (Document B). The religious revival was brought on to fight against deism. Finney pushed forth the creation of city churches, where everyone could come together to improve society. The religious reform movement expanded democratic ideals by telling people that they could take control of their own fate and could have the same rights as others if they just worked hard and had a strong faith in god. It pushed the equality of everyone in the country and also gave people the idea of perfecting society by starting other reform movements. Prior to the penal reform movement, the mentally ill and criminals were put together in prisons. The punishments were cruel and the conditions were unbearable. Dorothea Dix pushed the separation of the ill from the criminal and for the improvement of mental institutions to care for the mentally ill. As a result of the asylum reform movement, the penal reform movement was brought forward. Before, prisoners were just serving time in jail, not gaining anything from the experience. They gained no new skill and were sure to commit crimes again, and eventually land themselves right back into prison. This led to prisons becoming penitentiaries (Document A) and starting programs that would teach prisoners a special skill so they could leave prison with a new path and outlook on life. They also provided moral education through increased religious services. The penal reform movement pushed democracy forward by fighting for equal rights, humane punishments, and for the prevention of any type of unjust treatment in prisons and mental institutions. The reformation of education was brought on in part by the penal reform movement. The reform was intended to prevent criminal tendencies from ever touching the minds of children. Horace Mann led the movement with his cries of a free public school system that would be funded by the states. Prior to the 1840s, children were not forced to attend schools because of the costs, but Mann’s efforts trumped this barrier and spread free compulsory education to children across the...

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