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
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
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.
1. Led by Horace Mann,
the great educational reformer, a movement was led to create
mandatory public education in America. It was eventually
D. Treatment of the insane
1. Reformers led by
Dorothea Dix led the way to more modern treatment of the mentally
2. The first mental hospital was
built in the state of Massachustetts as a result of her
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
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.
Come Home Father
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
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 potential
force upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the
character of men and of the race.
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