Transcendentalism was the belief in the goodnness and self reliance of man. Henry David Thoreou, a leading transcendentalist, wanted Americans to adopt and accept the idea of reform and civil disobedience.. Many American writers and artists, such as Herman Melville, the author of "Moby Dick," contributed to the idea of trancendentalism by creating things that broke away from European roots and embodied an American vision.
Abolitionists wanted to rid America of slavery. They believed in the American ideal of equality for all. They were disgusted by the way African Americans were treated and wanted to put an end to slavery throughout the entire nation. Some advocates like Angelina and Sarah Grimike spoke out publicly across the north. Others like Harriet Tubman were significant conductors on the Underground Railroad and led slaves to freedom.
In the 1800s, women were generally denied multiple political rights such as the right to vote, own property, and keep their wages. The Declaration of Sentiments, composed by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Stanton, demanded equality for women in the workplace, churches, schools, and the voting booth. This marked the beginning of an organized women's rights movement. Many abolitionists were also supporters of this. As a result of these movements, New York, Indiana,Massachusetts, passed more laws granting woman rights. However, voting rights would not be achieved until 1920.
Dorothea Dix was overwhelmed and sickened by the inhumane conditions prisoners and the mentally ill were treated, and sought reform. Inmates were chained, children were jailed with adults, food supply was null, and inmates were crowded into dark, cramped cells. People judged "insane" were locked away and punished for their abnormal behavior. Dix was able to achieve reform (outlawing cruel punishments, discontinuing debtors prisons, hospitals for the mentally ill, and the creation of juvenile detention centers) by writing a report to Massachusetts state legislatures.
In the 1820s, reformers linked alcohol abuse with mental illness, ruined relationships, and crime. Thus, the Temperance Movement began. By 1850, Maine and many other states banned the production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol. Although later repealed, these laws and their ideas would once again gain popularity in the late 1800s.
Horace Mann was dubbed the "father of American public schools" after serving as the head of Massachusetts education and publicly speaking to citizens about the importance of a free education. He convinced citizens to pay taxes to raise teacher salaries, build better schools, and open schools to train teachers. Eventually, Mann's reforms were then spread to other states.
Horace "Horse Man" Mann, the father of American public schools