Another movement that came about was called transendentalism. This was the belief of goodness of man. A leading transendtalist was Henry David Thoreau. He advocated that people challenge laws they considered unjust by refusing to obey them.
In the mid 1800s, a growing number of Americans, both black and white were speaking out against slavery. The Abolitionist movement began in the Revolutionary era, partially in response to the inhumane treatment of slaves and partially in an effort to remove blacks from white society. The daughters of a slave owner, Angelina and Sarah Gimke gave lectures all over the northern United States on the evils of slavery. Two of the best-known black abolitionists were Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.
When Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth C. Stanton attended the world Antislavery Convention in London in 1840, they were not allowed to speck about slavery simply because they were woman. Woman had few political or legal rights - they could not vote (suffrage) or hold office. Mott and Stanton decided to host a National Woman's Rights convention in New York. The convention organizers modeled their proposal for woman's rights, the Declaration of Sentiments, on the Declaration of Independence. The Seneca Falls Convention demanded equality for woman at work, school, church, and voting booth.
Boston school teacher by the name of Dorothea Dix agreed to teach a Sunday school class at a jail. Little did she realize at the time that her kindness would lead to a reform effort in the area of prison and treatment of the mentally ill. Inmates bound in chains and locked in cages, children jailed with adults, food in short supply, and inmates crowded into dark damped cells. What most was disturbing for dix was the treatment of the mentally ill. Most individuals judged insane were locked away in prisons, where they were whipped and beaten for their behavior. Shocked by her report, the lawmakers voted to create new mental hospitals for the mentally ill. Dix was able get other reforms enacted, such as: the outlawing of cruel punishments, the discontinuing of debtors prisons and the creation of a special justice system for children.
In the mid-1800s the sport the spirt of reform is made its way to the classroom. At this time few children attended school because of the cost. Efforts to change this practice were led by Horace Mann who would later receive the nickname father of American public schools for his work. Under Mann's guidance the citizens of Massachusetts voted to pay taxes to build better schools, pay higher salaries for teachers, and to open schools to train teachers. While public schools were springing across the country, not every child had the opportunity to a public education. Few girls were able to go to high school or college.
Alcohol abuse was widespread among men, women, and children. Reformers. Linked alcohol abuse to crime, the breakup of families, and mental illness. In the late 1820s the temperance movement (a public campaign against the sale or drinking of alcohol) was started. By 1850, Maine banned the sale of alcohol and other states soon followed with similar legislation. While these laws were later repealed, the movement would once again gain strength in the late 1800s.