Foundations of Reform
Reform movements began in the mid-1800s during a time when Americans felt they could change things for the better. Some reforms could be religious or political. Others were to make society better for all. Works of writers and artists inspired other waves of reform.
In the 1800s, American citizens were starting to feel powerful and they wanted to make a difference. Many people, both black and white, spoke out against the practice of slavery because they felt that ending slavery was a way to promote "liberty and equality for all." Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Sarah Grimke, and Anjelina Grimke all spoke out against the evils of slavery.
Women's Rights Movement
Women were beginning to feel furious about the inequality they faced. They weren't allowed to vote or hold office. All wages they earned went to their husbands and abuse was common. Susan B. Anthony was a famous women's rights activist. The Seneca falls convention, led by Mott and Stanton, demanded equality for women at work, school, church, and voting booth.
Dorothea Dix went to teach a Sunday school class at a jail. She was overwhelmed by the conditions inmates and e mentally ill were forced to live in. Inmates hooked to chains and locked in cages; they were malnourished and crammed in dark, damp cells. Some people were imprisoned because they had debts as small as $20. Dix was able to outlaw cruel punishments and create a special justice system for children.
Men and women were starting to abuse alcohol so reformers got to link alcohol abuse to crime and mental illness. The temperance movement banned the sale and drinking of alcohol starting in Maine and spreading to other states.
Horace Mann, also known as e father of American public schools, led efforts to change public school systems. Later on, Massachusetts' citizens voted to pay higher taxes to build better schools, pay higher salaries for teachers, and open schools to train teachers. Mann's ideas spread all across the nation but not everyone had the opportunity to go to school. Few girls were able to get a high school or college education.