When looking back at the events which took place in the XIX century, one can easily understand that the present-day rights and freedoms, as well as the modern highly developed structure of the society are the phenomena which can be easily taken for granted – and which should not be by any means. Indeed, it is almost impossible to believe that a couple of centuries ago the ideas of temperance were considered another potentially dangerous whim.
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Unless the reformers of the XIX century established their idea of what principles the society should base on, the ideas of temperance and, consequently, women’s rights, antislavery and a number of other essential innovations, would have been established considerably later. Analyzing the objectives which the reformers pursued in their attempt to change the then social structure, one can possibly estimate the scale of the reforms and their impact on the society.
Among the most memorable reforms of that time, the innovations in the system of treating the convicts and the prisoners must be the reform that reflected the very essence of the XIX-century social ideas.
As Frank (2008) explains, the reform was opposed to the system existing in the XIX century and was aimed at changing the prisoners for the better rather than establishing an eye-for-an-eye atonement for their crimes. “Rather than punishing the prisoner through whippings, incarceration, or execution, prison reformers sought to improve the soul of the convict” (Frank, 2008, 4).
As for the education reforms, the aims of those who launched the process were a bit different. With the help of the latter, the reformers had fighting with poverty in mind.
Once the quality of education is improved, the competence and, hence, the wages and the well-being of millions of people is improved within a relatively short time period: “Educational reform aimed both to prepare children for life in an industrializing economy and to reinforce Protestant American culture; reformers also established new institutions to deal with the poor, criminals and the insane” (Boyer et al., 2009, 235).
However, the largest and the most impressive movement of all in the XIX century was the movement of tolerance. As Frank (2008) explains, “Reformers believed drinking led to a host of social evils, including poverty, crime, family violence and poor child rearing” (Frank, 2008, 4).
Therefore, the focus of the reformers was the way to drive the alcohol abuse to minimum. It is quite peculiar that the drinking problem was also considered the cause of poor working performance and, thus, the number one obstacle to achieving the increase in the industry development. With the above-mentioned in mind, it becomes obvious that the temperance reform was the key one in the early 180-1810.
Another significant reform, the successful campaign for women’s rights was also triggered by a number of factors. Despite the growing scale of the female labor force recruitment, the moral restrictions imposed on women were immense. Among the most prominent people who impacted the women’s rights reform, Angelina and Sarah Grimke must be mentioned.
With the help of Grimke sisters’ efforts, namely, the fact that they “assumed the public role of men” (Frank, 2008, 7), women employees committees finally appeared and women gained their support in the sphere of employment. Caused by the unfair and extremely harsh working conditions (Allan & DeLuzio, 2009), the movement finally gained nationwide scale.
Finally, the issue of slavery must be referred to as one of the greatest and the most significant achievements in the XIX century. As Armstrong (2006) says, “Many Christians, especially in the North, began to speak out forcefully about the treatment of American slaves” (119).
Despite the fact that some supporters of the reform had their own idea of what the whole change was about and considered that the African Americans were supposed to return to their native land, i.e., the African continent, after the reform completed its final stage, it was still obvious that the largest amount of people were guided by their most humane intentions when approving of the reform.
Therefore, it cannot be doubted that the reform which made the African Americans free and abolished slavery once and for all, considering it the pinnacle of the inhumane, was first of all caused by the reasons of humanity and tolerance.
Thus, together with the new idea of what the society is supposed to be like, new objectives emerged and demanded immediate actions to be taken. Obviously aiming at giving people new freedoms and opening a pool of opportunities in front of them, the reformers succeeded in their attempt to change the world for the better.
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Even though the changes occurred at much slower pace than they could have, the scale of the events could not be overestimated – with the tremendous effects not only on the social life, but also on the economics and the financial state of the country, the innovations offered by the reformers completely proved their worth. Once making a successful attempt at reorganizing the society and reestablishing moral values as well as offering a more solid fundament for the society to base on, the reformers started a brand new era of the U. S. history.
Allan, C. & DeLuzio, C. (2009). Women’s rights: People and perspectives. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Armstrong, S. (2006). 5 steps to a 5 AP U. S. history. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Boyer et al. (2009). The enduring vision: A history of the American people. Stanford, CN: Cengage Learning.
Frank, L. (2008). Women in the American Civil War (Vol. 1). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.