Last updated: July 29, 2019
Topic: FamilyChildren
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The reform movements, such as those concerning women’s rights, education, temperance, abolition, and humane prisons/ asylums occurred because they were either integrated with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence or Christianity. The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival movement that happened in the beginning of the 19th century that emphasized faith and called for liberty and equality. Just like the first great awakening, the time period expressed the idea that people could be saved through revivals. It brought forward new Christians and branched out many new denominations.The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements designed to get rid of all the evils of society and to resolve social problems before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Women’s rights began due to the fact that the only big role a woman had was in the household. Their responsibility was to raise their children and to education them in religious matters. Because of such responsibilities women began arguing that they themselves had to be educated in order to educate their children. The fact that women only had a few rights went against religious beliefs of equality. According to the Bible, a man and woman are both equal in the eyes of God. The man is commanded to be the head of the household and the wife should be submissive to that authority. However, that does not mean the woman is any less important than a man, it just means the man and woman play different roles. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention took place, led by Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott. At the Convention, women discussed religious and moral issues, as well as the role of women in society. These women insisted that they were held to the same standard as men and that they should be granted the same rights and privileges. Regardless of practicing Christianity, women were viewed in society as little more than slaves, with not much of a voice and with only slightly more rights. At the Convention they founded the Declaration of Sentiments, adding to the words of the Declaration of Independence saying “all men and women are created equal.” They put forth the ideas of allowing women to vote, to control their property in marriage, build more schools for women, and have more of a role in the Church. Before the 1820’s, public schools were rare and teachers were poorly trained and poorly paid. During the Second Great Awakening, a great amount of people started to push for public schools supported by taxes. Their reasoning behind this was that if their country could be a democratic one, it needed to have informed and educated voters. A reformer from Massachusetts named Horace Mann is the main contributor to public education. Mann firmly believed that everyone was deserving of education, so he was pro raising taxes to allow a free public education, along with better teachers, better textbooks, better buildings, etc. He wanted a type of education that was going to discipline children and teach them how to be an ideal citizen. He also established schools that blended education with religious beliefs.  As a result of his leadership, the state of Massachusetts initialized the reforming of schools. The Second Great Awakening pushed away got rid of the idea of predestination and made people believe that they will get rewarded for their good works. People began to attend the infamous camp meeting to display their views and their concerns about the wellbeing of America. As religious zeal intensified, the drinking of alcohol was found to be inappropriate as well as immoral. This was because drunkards tended to hurt relationships with the family, hinder the economy, and were also thought to be the root of urban distresses. The biggest social group involved in the temperance movement were women. Endowed with religious vigor, they sought to make a change in society. The temperance movement would be key to allow them to participate in society, as they had not been able to before. They took up new roles of leadership as they encouraged the removal of alcoholic beverages. In the February of 1826, men as well as women, came together to fight against the sin of “demon rum”. The society they founded was the American Temperance Society, one of the first serious organizations started. This society sparked the beginning changes of the temperance movement and foreshadowed the increasing number of temperance groups as the movement began to pick up pace. The Second Great Awakening increased the concern regarding slavery. Abolitionists came about because slavery did not by any means agree with Christianity and was considered a sin against the Bible. The realization that “all men are equal” made people understand that slavery was not a part of God’s plan for the human condition.  While people in the South used the Bible to perpetuate and justify the practice of slavery, people in the North used the Bible to speak against slavery. This led to many churches splitting due to not sharing similar beliefs. Reformers wanted to modify to systems of the country that violated their traditional moral and social values; and slavery was definitely an issue. William Lloyd Garrison, a radical reformer, wrote “The Liberator” and called for immediate emancipation.  Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the famous “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” presenting African Americans as real people stuck in dreadful circumstances. Abolitionist reformers argued that slave owners were hypocrites, because if they felt that a Christian could treat all humans with love and respect, yet they believed it was perfectly fine to treat blacks with cruelty as slaves. The United States prison systems were overflowing with different people of different ages, disabilities, and mental illnesses. Criminals, children, and insane people were all being held in the same prisons.  From this, the prison reform movement started, attempting to make a more efficient, penital system. Reformers saw their prisons as treating the inmates cruelly and unfairly. They wanted to improve living conditions by providing them with food, and clean clothing. Even though it was a place full of criminals, reformers wanted to make prison a place for correction instead of punishment. This movement also pushed for the idea to get people with mental illnesses out of the prisons and to a place where they can receive the help they need. A woman named Dorothea Dix went to one of these prisons and saw the conditions in which the prisoners were being kept. Dix felt that inmates should be separated based on age, crime, and mental stability and needed to be treated more humanely. From there, many new prisons and juveniles were formed, as well as asylums, as she believed that a part of the prisons horrible conditions were considering people with mental illness to be looked at as convicts, when they have done no crime. As a result of individual reformers and societies, the government became more involved in prison affairs and and building new prisons. Prison reformers succeeded in the gradual change of the way people with mental illness were treated, the prisons separating people by age, and establishing better cell conditions.