Social Change in the Nineteenth Century

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What were the major reform movements of the early 19th century?

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There were a number of reform movements that arose in the early 1800s.  These movements came about as a response to changes in America’s economy and society.  Some of these, like the market revolution, were changes that made people anxious and broke social bonds.  These changes made people feel that something was wrong with society and needed to be fixed.  Others, like the Second Great Awakening, were changes that made people more optimistic and made them feel that they could improve their society. 

Together, these factors inspired many people to start reform movements.  Among the most important of these movements were the abolitionist movement, the women’s rights movement, the movement for temperance, and the movement to create free public schools.  There were also many other movements that were somewhat less prominent.  These include the movement to create good schools for deaf people and blind people, the movement to improve prison conditions, and the movement to improve care for mentally ill people.  Finally, we could look at the rise in utopian societies as a type of reform movement.  These utopian societies tried to create new ways of life that would do away with things like private property and would thereby encourage people to be less selfish.

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