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Reform Movements in the Us Sought to Expand Democratic Ideals

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Essay title: Reform Movements in the Us Sought to Expand Democratic Ideals

“Reform movements in the U.S. sought to expand democratic ideals.” Assess the validity of this statement with specific reference to the years 1825-1850.

The period between 1825 to 1850 was one of high aspirations and hopes for change. The ideals of reform attempted to right many of the social injustices that persisted in American society during this time. While these movements made significant gains toward expanding democratic ideals, they fell short in many areas. Among the most powerful catalysts for change were the groups advocating for the rights women and African Americans, the disenfranchised white citizenry and other social misfits.

While the anti-slavery movement on behalf of blacks came to dominate social political thought in the years immediately before the Civil War, the movement first began as an extension, even partner, in the early women’s rights movement. Women themselves had begun pushing for change earlier, but by the 1830’s and 1840’s the movement was gaining strength. Higher education for women became at least possible (if only on a very limited basis) with the advent of the first women’s colleges and seminaries: Mt. Holyoke, Wesleyan and coeducational Oberlin. The women who attended these schools did not, however, desire to break entirely from the male-dominated social structure; they simply wanted more protections and opportunities. (Doc. G) Women also became the leading reformers in both the anti-slavery movement and the push for temperance. As African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass became increasingly outspoken (with the help of white ally William Lloyd Garrison and his abolitionist newspaper the Liberator), he joined forces with women reformers. Indeed, the Seneca Falls Conference of 1848, which urged equality and the right to vote (Doc. I), was attended by Douglass himself. In fact, the convention resulted from several women’s leaders being barred from an anti-slavery convention several years before. The women’s movement and the anti-slavery movement, therefore, were inextricably linked during their formative years from 1825 to 1850. Though they established themselves as a force that could not be ignored, true equality would not come for many years afterward.

Another major movement during this was directed toward helping people to whom society’s opportunities were largely closed. This began with the establishment and separation of penitentiaries and mental

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