Reform Movements Joshua Grantham, Hayward Singletary 5th period

Foundations Of Reform

The efforts to reform American society is mostly caused by religious movements that spread across America. One movement was called Transcendentalism. This was the belief in the goodness of man. People that supported this movement believed in people that were completely self reliant. This belief disagree with some institutions in society that supported political parties and organized religions. The leading transcendentalist was Henry David Thoreau, who advocated defying laws that were considered unjust. Another transcendentalist was Nathaniel Hawthorne, the writer of The Scarlet Letter.  However, the most notable movement is the "Second Great Awakening," which was a revival of religious feeling and beliefs that occurred in the 1820s and 30s. This movement emphasized the role that people played in their own societies. Artists, writers, and political events inspired other reforms, and gave hope to the public.

Women's Rights Reform

In 1840, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Stanton attended the World AntiSlavery Convention in London. They were outraged when they found out that they couldn't speak their minds about the topic, that they had to sit quietly in a section, roped off, separate from everyone else, and other inequalities, simply because they were women. They decided to hold a women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY, This convention called for equality for women in many places, such as work, school, church and in the voting booth, and modeled a proposal for women's rights after the Declaration of Independence. They called it "The Declaration of Sentiments." This slowly influenced people, and states such as New York, Massachusetts, and Indiana to pass laws that started to give equality to women.


In the 1800s, a growing amount of people, both black and white, were speaking out against slavery. This movement began in the Revolutionary era. These people felt that America's promise for "liberty and equality for ALL" wouldn't be fulfilled until slavery was abolished. Even though slavery was ended in the North by the early 1800s, many people still accepted slavery in the south. Two well known black abolitionists were Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Douglass had his own antislavery newspaper, but it was Sojourner Truth that convinced him to speak out against slavery, and to give his own experiences. William Garrison was another vocal abolitionist, and was the publisher of "The Liberator." Other vocal abolitionists were Angelina and Sarah Grimke, who had personally seen the terrors of slavery as daughters of slave owners. They travelled across the United States, giving lectures and personal experiences. While these people spoke out against slavery, others risked prison and death. Harriet Tubman, a runaway slavery with a $40,000 bounty on her head, helped other slaves escape by conducting a Underground Railroad. While being a minority at the time, abolitionists helped sway the publics opinion, and also helped pave the way for the women's rights movement.

Prison Reform, Care of The Disabled.

When a Boston school teacher, Dorothea Dix, agreed to teach a Sunday school class at a local jail as a favor to a friend, she was shocked by the conditions of the prison. Inmates were chained up and in cages, children were in the same jail as adults, inmates were crowded into dark, damp cells, and there was very little food. Debtors and children were in the same cells as murderers and rapists, and the mentally ill were treated horribly. Dorothea was so shocked, but she didn't believe all jails were that bad. She decided to go tour other jails in Massachusetts, and was very surprised that they were very similar. She issued a report to state legislature, and lawmakers voted to create new mental hospitals for the mentally ill. After this, other reforms to prison were made, such as the discontinuing of debtors' prisons, and a creation of a special justice system for children (also called Juvenile Detention Centers.)

Public Education

The spirit of reform found it way to schools in the mid-1800s. Few children went to school in this time period, because it cost so much to attend. Horace Mann led efforts to change this practice, and earned the nickname "father of American public schools." Mann served as the head of the state board of education in Massachusetts. He gave several speeches about the importance of public schools in producing educated citizenry. He influenced the public to see education as a way to solve problems in society, such as crime and poverty. Massachusetts citizens voted to pay taxes for open schools, better schools, and higher salaries for teachers. These ideas spread across the country, eventually leading to the education systems we know today.

Temperance Movement

Alchohol abuse causes a lot of problems. Crime, family breakups, mental illnesses, all are linked to alchohol abuse. In the late 1820s, a public campaign against the sale or drinking of alchohol was started. This campaign was called the Temeperance Movement, and influenced states such as Maine to begin banning the sales of alchohol. Other states began to pass similar legislations. Even though all of these were eventually repealed, this movement began gaining strength again in the late 1800s.

Labor Reform

Most conditions in the workplace were horrible. Several movements and reforms were started. One of these decreased the number of work hours to 8 a day. Another improved labor laws. Another example is that labor laws were passed in Massachusetts that helped protect workers such as the AFL/CIO, and women.

General Website for all reforms

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.