Thereform movements, such as those concerning women’s rights, education,temperance, abolition, and humane prisons/ asylums occurred because they wereeither integrated with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence orChristianity. The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival movement thathappened in the beginning of the nineteenth century that emphasized faith andcalled for liberty and equality. Just like the First Great Awakening, the timeperiod expressed the idea that people could be saved through revivals. Itbrought forward new Christians and branched out many new denominations. TheSecond Great Awakening motivated the creation of many reform movements with thepurpose to get rid of all the wickedness in society and fix social problems beforethe second coming of Jesus Christ.
Women’s rights began due to the fact that the only bigrole a woman had was in the household. Their responsibility was to raise theirchildren and to education them in religious matters. Because of suchresponsibilities women began arguing that they themselves had to be educated inorder to educate their children. The fact that women only had a few rights wentagainst religious beliefs of equality.
According to the Bible, a man and womanare both equal in the eyes of God. The man is commanded to be the head of thehousehold and the wife should be submissive to that authority. However, thatdoes not mean the woman is any less important than a man, it just means the manand woman play different roles. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention tookplace, led by Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott. At the Convention, womendiscussed religious and moral issues, as well as the role of women in society.
These women insisted that they were to be held to the same standard as men andthat they should be granted the same rights and privileges. Regardless ofpracticing Christianity, women were viewed in society as little more thanslaves, with not much of a voice and with only slightly more rights. At theConvention they founded the Declaration of Sentiments, adding to the words ofthe Declaration of Independence saying “all men and women are created equal.”They put forth the ideas of allowing women to vote, to control their propertyin marriage, build more schools for women, and have more of a role in theChurch. Before the 1820’s, public schools were rare and teacherswere poorly trained and poorly paid.
During the Second Great Awakening, a greatamount of people started to push for public schools supported by taxes. Theirreasoning behind this was that if their country could be a democratic one, itneeded to have informed and educated voters. A reformer from Massachusettsnamed Horace Mann is the main contributor to public education. Mann firmlybelieved that everyone was deserving of education, so he was for raising taxesto allow a free public education, along with better teachers, better textbooks,better buildings, etc.
He wanted a type of education that was going todiscipline children and teach them how to be an ideal citizen. He alsoestablished schools that blended education with religious beliefs. As aresult of his leadership, the state of Massachusetts initialized the reformingof schools. The Second Great Awakening got rid of the idea ofpredestination and gave people the idea that they would get rewarded for theirgood works.
People would attend camp meetings to voice their concerns about thewellbeing of the country. As religious zeal intensified, the drinking ofalcohol was found to be inappropriate as well as immoral. This was becausedrunkards tended to hurt relationships with their families, disturb theeconomy, and were seen as the root of trouble and problems. The biggest socialgroup that contributed to the temperance movement were women. Passionate abouttheir faith, they sought to make change.
This movement allowed women to getinvolved in the society, as they had not been able to do before. They took upnew roles in society as leaders as they encouraged the banning of alcoholicbeverages. In 1826, both men and women came together to fight against the sinof “demon rum”. They founded the American Temperance Society, one of the firstorganizations started against the drinking of alcohol. This societyforeshadowed the increasing number of temperance groups as the movement becamepopular and started making change to the society. The Second Great Awakening increased theconcern regarding slavery. Abolitionists came about because slavery did not byany means agree with Christianity and was considered a sin against the Bible.
The realization that “all men are equal” made people come to an understandingthat slavery was not a part of God’s plan for the human condition. Whilepeople in the South used the Bible to perpetuate and justify the practice ofslavery, people in the North used the Bible to speak against slavery. This ledto many churches splitting due to not sharing similar beliefs. Reformers wantedto modify to systems of the country that violated their traditional moral andsocial values; and slavery was definitely a big issue. William Lloyd Garrison,a radical reformer, wrote “The Liberator” and called for immediateemancipation. 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 nothing but hypocrites,because if they felt that a Christian could treat all humans with love andrespect, yet they believed it was perfectly fine to treat blacks cruelly and asif they were less than a human. The United States prison systems were overflowing withdifferent 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 moreefficient system for prisons. Reformers saw their prisons treating the inmatescruelly and unfairly. They wanted to improve living conditions by providingthem with food, and clean clothing. Even though it was a place full ofcriminals, reformers wanted to make prison a place for correction instead ofpunishment.
This movement also pushed for the idea to get people with mentalillnesses out of the prisons and to a place where they can receive the helpthey need. A woman named Dorothea Dix went to one of these prisons and saw theconditions in which the prisoners were being kept. Dix felt that inmates shouldbe separated based on age, crime, and mental stability and needed to be treatedmore humanely.
From there, many new prisons and juveniles were formed, as wellas asylums, as she believed that a part of the prisons horrible conditions wereconsidering people with mental illness to be looked at as convicts, when theyhave done no crime. As a result of individual reformers and societies, thegovernment became more involved in prison affairs and building new prisons.Prison reformers succeeded in the gradual change of the way people with mentalillness were treated, the prisons separating people by age and crime, andestablishing better cell conditions. The Second Great Awakening and the reform movements ofthe nineteenth century were initially started to prepare people for the secondcoming of Jesus Christ, but it also paved the way for a better future for America.It greatly improved life for Americans bringing them together with the revivalof religious faith and realizing the importance of women, education, peoplekept in prisons, and the evil of slavery.
Still, the outcomes of the SecondGreat Awakening and the reform movements are seen today, showing how much of animpact it had.