Foundations of Reform
There are many events/people who have encouraged efforts to reform America. One would be the Second Great Awakening which was a revival of religious belief that emphasized people's roles in their society. Another movement was the Transcedentalism, where Henry David Thoreau encouraged civil disobedience. Writers and artists such as Washington Irving, Emily Dickinson, and Gilbert Stuart are just a few of the many artists/writers who also influenced some reforms. Lastly, Andrew Jackson motivated the public by participating in Democracy and being and ordinary man. These are just a few of be people/events that made up the foundation for all the reforms.
In the mid-1800s, many Americans, black and white, were standing up to end slavery because they thought it was the only was to have "liberty and equality for all." The abolitionist movement started from inhumane treatment of slaves. Some of the many people who helped in the abolitionist movement were William Lloyd (publisher), Frederick Douglass (writer), and Harriet Tubman (conductor of the Underground Railroad). The north ended up banning slavery but, sadly, the antislavery movement failed in the south.
In the mid-1800s, women had hardly any political/legal rights. They could not hold office, could not vote, all of their earnings and property belonged to their husbands, and women could be abused by their husbands without their husbands being charged. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were just two of the women who were outraged by this. They hosted a women's rights convention, The Seneca Falls Convention, which started a women's rights movement. Many abolitionist were active in this movement. Reformers for women's rights slowly made progress.
Prison reform & care of the disabled
A woman named Dorothea Dix agreed to teach a Sunday school class at a jail. She was horrified with what she saw there. Inmates were locked up for small debts they couldn't pay (some only $20 dollars), food supply was low, and the inmates were put in chains and locked in cages. Worst of all, the mentally ill were locked away where they were physically injured for their "insane" behavior. Dix issued a report to the state they voted on creating new, better mental hospitals.
In the mid-1800s, the cost to go to school was high and lots of families couldn't afford it so many children didn't go to school. Horace Mann tried to change this. He spoke about the importance of education and influenced the citizens of Massachusetts to vote for and pay taxes to help better the education system. Mann's ideas spread and soon other states did the same thing. His ideas are still continued in public school systems today.
In the mid-1800s, there was a lot of alcohol abuse. Reformers traced mental illnesses, family breakups, and crime back to alcohol abuse. The temperance movement started and there were many campaigns against alcohol. Maine was the first state to ban alcohol and many states later followed. These laws would later be repealed.