Sunday, December 2, 2007

Were the grassroots movements in the Age of Reform successful in achieving their goals?

From the Eve of the American Revolution until the civil war, America was ready for change. It was the first experience of a republican government, rather than a one man rule. With this idea, Americans were willing to take a lead in making social changes, an opportunity they were previously deprived of during British rule. The Second Great Awakening further empowered women to play a leading roles in these reform movements. Advances were made in regards to women's rights, abolition, and public education. However, these movements were unsuccessful at achieving their ideal goals. Instead, they merely paved the was for future events.

Prior to the Era of Reform, women were regarded simply as housewives with one goal- to raise responsible republican citizens. Through the ideals of the Second Great Awakening, individualism spread, and the era of reform resulted. Republican motherhood was replaced by the cult of domesticity, and women began to demand more respect from society as well as from their own families. This shift in attitude lead women to demand not only mere glorification, but legal rights and an actual voice in their own society. Little did they know, they would have to wait decades for significant progress.

Women set to advocate for their own rights with a can-do attitude in 1848. The Seneca Falls Convention was lead by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. There, the optimistic women created a list of expectations and demands, the "Declaration of Rights Sentiments." They were tired of being second-class citizens and wanted changes. In addition to calling for social equality, they felt the had a right to own property as well as to vote. Unfortunately, their second class citizenship status remained with them until the following century, when they were finally given the right to vote.

While women were read to rid themselves of their second-class citizenship status, slaves were calling to achieve citizenship. Harriet Tubman, a former slave, advocated for current slaves. With the creation of, The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, abolishment circles got emotional encouragement. Other leaders included Fredrick Douglass, who wore about his harsh enslaved conditions, and William Llloyd Garrison. Little was accomplished during the Age of Reform for the slaves, who were mainly occupied in the South. While the North's industry flourished with Eli Whitney's invention of interchangeable parts, Southern economy became more and more reliant on slave labor due to his ideas regarding the cotton gin. This era only serves to widen the gap between the North and the South. Eventually, it would take a war to abolish slavery.

While slave conditions remained the same, White America was making some progress within the field of public education. The idea of educating the "brats" gave way to the creation of a public school system. However, teacher were often poorly trained and paid. Horace Mann, secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, called for improvement in these conditions. Nonetheless, with nearly one million illiterate citizens, education was still a luxury in America. In addition, education for the Blacks was forbidden.

The Era of Reform initiated several movements that would eventually lead to significant change. The grassroots movements were not successful at achieving their ideals at the moment. However, they got the movements off the ground and going.

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