Reform Movements of the 1800s

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Reform Movements of the 1800s

Why reform America now?

1. A renewal of religious faith called the Second Great Awakening encouraged folks to “choose salvation.” Preachers told Americans that the “road to God and heaven” was paved by “Good deeds.” So that if you created “heaven on Earth,” you will be ready to meet God after death. Preachers told people that “helping others is the way to heaven.”

2. Also, the election of a “common man” to the presidency (Andrew Jackson), lead people to believe that anyone could affect change. (if he can do it, so can I). Americans across the country began to believe that they could act to make things better.


How did the Second Great Awakening encourage reform?

People were encouraged to save their souls through good works

How did the election of Andrew Jackson encourage reform?

He showed that a single individual could change society
The Temperance Movement

Temperance is the moderation of your actions, thoughts, and feelings; it is self-control.
In the reform movements, it refers to people moderating their consumption (or total abstinence) of alcohol.

Why was this an important issue?

1. Some workers spent most of their wages on alcohol – leaving their families without enough money to live on. As a result, many women joined in the temperance movement.
2. Temperance also was supported by business. Industry needed workers who could keep schedules and run machines… kinda hard to do when drunk.
3. Reformers believed that only temperate (sober) people could contribute to society. Drunks were not living up to society’s expectations.

What was the affect of the Temperance movement?

Truths in life go beyond what humans can understand:

  1. They focused on self-reliance (doing things on their own); and (more importantly….)

  1. Encouraged questioning authority (asking why the government does certain things)

Transcendentalists didn’t like the war against Mexico and saw the war as a government “plot” to extend slavery. Many felt their tax dollars would go to support a war they did not believe in.
Writer Henry David Thoreau turned his opposition to the war into a theory and essay called “civil disobedience” where he encouraged folks NOT to pay their taxes in defiance of the government’s war policy.
1. What is a “school-related” activity some do every day that constitutes “civil disobedience?

Prison Reform

Dorthea Dix volunteered to teach Sunday school at a local jail.

She was appalled at the conditions of the prisoners:

  1. Inmates were bound in chains and locked in cages.

  2. Children accused of minor thefts were jailed with adult criminals.

  3. Debtors, many owing less than $20 were jailed until they paid their bills, sometimes they stayed there for years!

Her biggest shock was how the mentally ill were treated.

Those judged “insane” were locked away in dirty, crowded prison cells and were whipped if they misbehaved.
Dix thought insanity should be treated as a disease, not a crime, but the state mental hospital was only open to those who could afford it

After spending two quiet years gathering information, Dix presented her findings to the government. Shocked by her report, lawmakers made many changes over the next few years:

  1. Created public asylums for the mentally ill

  2. Stopped putting debtors in prisons

  3. Created special justice systems for children in trouble

  4. Outlawed cruel punishments, such as branding people with irons.

Education Reform
Before “Industrialization,” most children lived on farms and received no education at all. Those who did go to school were only there maybe 10 weeks of the year and were taught by teachers with limited education getting VERY little pay. As more and more families moved to cities, children were left alone to “roam the streets” while the parents worked in factories.
Why did they need education reform?

As a result, some poor children stole, destroyed property, and set fires. Reformers believed that education would help these children escape poverty and become “good citizens”

Who helped the movement?

Horace Mann spoke out on the need for public schools...

“Education…is a great equalizer of the conditions of men…to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich: it prevents being poor…”

Citizens began to pay taxes to build better schools, pay higher teacher salaries, and create teacher education schools. Most states in the North and West established schools and white children, especially boys attended free public schools. Most high schools and colleges still did not accept girls. States passed laws forbidding black students in the schools (Not until the 1970-71 school year was the Galveston ISD fully integrated). In the South, few girls and NO blacks attended school. (Public school, open to everyone did not appear in the South until AFTER the Civil War.)

The Abolitionist Movement

How is it that in the “land of the free” so many people were oppressed (crushed by the abuse of power)? Those who sought to answer this question were called “abolitionists”.

First “abolitionists” were the Quakers of Pennsylvania, who stopped owning slaves in 1776. By 1792, every state in the North had anti-slavery societies. However, northern factory owners liked the cheap cotton provided from Southern plantations. Although slavery ended in the North by the early 1800s, many northerners still supported southern slavery and its economic benefits.

Abolitionists sought to change this acceptance.
A deeply religious white man, William Lloyd Garrison, started an abolitionist newspaper called the Liberator, in which he demanded the immediate freeing of all slaves. Angry pro-slavery groups destroyed his printing press and burned his home.
Many escaped slaves began to tell their stories to encourage Northerners to oppose slavery. Frederick Douglass quickly became a leader in the abolitionist movement. Douglass also began a newspaper called the North Star. Its motto was, “Right is of no sex – Truth is of no color – God is the father of us all, and we are all brethren.”
What is the significance of Douglass’ naming his paper “the North Star?”

  • Refers to the Biblical story about the Wise men and not only spiritual salvation but, physical salvation, too.

Many women were inspired by the religious movement to become involved in the Abolitionist movement. Sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke’ were raised in a slave-owning family, but after becoming Quakers, began speaking out about the poverty and pain of slavery.

Former slaves joined the Abolitionist movement in the North. When former slave Sojourner Truth met Douglass and Garrison, she was encouraged to speak out publicly against slavery.
Slaves would hear passed information about methods of escape by word-of-mouth, in stories, and through spiritual songs sung in the fields. They were hearing of Harriet Tubman and her Underground Railroad.
Was it really underground?

No. The Underground Railroad was a secretive group of sympathetic whites and free blacks throughout the South who were willing to place their own lives on the line to help escaping slaves reach freedom in the North.

Tubman became known as the "Moses of her people,” because over the course of 10 years, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, at great personal risk.
Why did they call Harriet “Moses?”

How the Underground Railroad was set up:
1.What were those that helped the slaves escape called?

2.What were the houses along the route called?

3.What were the home owners called?

4.Who were the people who contributed money?

5.Why do you believe all these codes were important?

Tubman made 19 trips to Maryland and helped 300 people to freedom. During these dangerous journeys she helped rescue members of her own family, including her 70-year-old parents.
At one point, rewards for Tubman's capture totaled $40,000. Yet, she was never captured and never failed to deliver her “passengers" to safety.
As Tubman herself said, "On my Underground Railroad I [never] run my train off [the] track [and] I never [lost] a passenger."

Women’s Movement

  • Women abolitionists were in a strange position trying to convince lawmakers to make slavery illegal, yet women themselves could not vote or hold office.

  • They worked to raise money for the movement, yet their own money and property were controlled by their fathers and husbands.

  • They spoke out against the mistreatment of slaves, yet their husbands could “discipline” them whenever they wanted

  • The Grimke sisters began to question, “What can a woman do for the slave, when she herself is under the feet of man and shamed into silence?”

The organized movement for women’s rights began as a call for an answer.
Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the early call for women’s rights. Mott was a Quaker and outspoken Abolitionist. Stanton used to beg her father, a judge, to protect women from abusive husbands, her father would only say, “there was no law against it.” Both women agreed something had to be done about the injustices suffered by women.

Seneca Falls Convention

In July 1848, almost 300 men and women answered an advertisement announcing a women’s convention in Seneca Falls, New York. At this convention, the organizers modeled their proposal for women’s rights on the Declaration of Independence…“we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

Declaration of Sentiments

The women however, changed this very important line… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal...”

Just as the Declaration of Independence listed the Kings acts of tyranny over the colonists, the NEW Declaration of Sentiments listed acts of tyranny by men over women. (A sentiment is an attitude or judgment prompted by feeling.)

  • “Man did not let women vote.”

  • “He did not give her property rights, even to her own wages. ”

  • He did not allow her to practice professions like medicine and law.”

At the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton demanded the right to vote. Many women, even good friend Lucretia Mott said this step was “too big.” “Thou will make us ridiculous! We must go slowly!”

But Stanton received powerful support from another member of the convention, Frederick Douglass. “Everyone who believed that black men should have the right to vote,” Douglass argued, “must also favor giving black women the right.” That meant that all women should have the precious right. Inspired by Douglass’s speech, the convention voted narrowly to approve this last cause.

Effects of the Abolition and Women’s Rights Movements

Slowly, women’s rights made progress.

  • NY gave women control of their finances,

  • MA passed better divorce laws,

  • colleges began to accept women students,

  • but the right to vote waited until 1921, 73 years after Seneca Falls.

Slavery wasn’t outlawed until 1865 with the 13th amendment, but black equality did not have serious backing until the 1960s, with Martin Luther King’s powerful march on Washington (“…I have a dream”) and Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964, 99 years after the end of slavery. Still, much progress needs to be made by both blacks and women in the struggle for equality.

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