The need for reform is based on some aspect of the population not being represented in a dialogue. Reform arises from this silence and demands to transform what is to what can be. As far as American reform has been present, there has been a need to hear voices and this transformative element. The previous posts alluded to this so well, including the notion of activism being a critical component to reform and change.
Reform has always been present in some capacity in the United States, from the American Revolution, Temperance, Abolition, to Women's Rights. The core of reform in the United States moves to expand individual political rights and or improve the quality of life for people. However, it would be the new 'middle class' that emerged torwards the end of the 19th century that became the stronghold for reform in America. This new economic group began to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in America. Although not wealthy, they did achieve enough income to allow them 'leisure time', something unheard in their families just a generation before. This free time combined with the rising literacy rates of the new middle class resulted in a raised public awareness torwards social problems. These people saw fit to change the ills they now had the time to see. As literacy rates grew the influence of the media became a powerful tool for reformers. Reformers such as Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Jacob Riis understood public opinion could be mobilized using the written word. This period in U.S. history illustrates not value literacy has upon the individual, it confirms the impact it can have on societal reforms.
Several reform movements occured in the United States. One might call the Second Great Awakening the first catalyst for reform in the United States. This religious movement stirred the morality and consciences of the American people. It spawned reform movements such as abolition, which was against slavery, and temperance, which was against alchohol. The abolition movement got stronger and stronger until it was resolved by the Civil War, which brought an end to slavery in the United States. The temperance battle continued until the early 1900's.
Social and economic problems caused by incredible industrialization and urbanization after the Civil War also created reform movements. Farmers and urban laborers raised protests that were not well responded to during the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, reasonably well-off middle class Americans took interest in reform and took up the causes of the protesters of the late 19th century. American cities were cleaned up and American laws were changed. These reforms, in turn, lost steam, and America entered a conservative period until the Great Depression called for reform once again. FDR's programs greatly altered the American economy and the government's role in society.
There will always be reforms in any society, as new years bring new problems to the forefront and activists demand that those problems be solved. Reforms are certainly necessary for the positive development of a society. In America, especially, with its democratic and activist character, reform has played a crucial part in history.
Reform is an inherent quality in a free person. Reform takes the form of expression whichis only limited by a person's abilities. Reform-minded people always improvement, always want better results, and always want success. Without reform, there would be a stagnation in thought and action.