12. 19 th Century Reform Movements: Utopian communities

  • Utopia (written in 1516)

    A novel by Thomas More, Utopia inspired the descriptions of 19th century reform movements. The word “utopia” may describe a perfect society or impossible plans. Utopian settlements were attempts to perfect society. These attempts were often viewed as impossible plans.
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    Utopian Communities

    Utopian communities attempted to overcome certain challenges growing in 19th century society. These included an increase in individualism, an increase in the gap between the poor and the rich, and the rising issue of gender relations. Utopian communities introduced the ideas of socialism and communism to American politics.
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    Reform in 19th Century America

    The 19th century brought with it a range of new issues which many Americans felt needed to be addressed. To do so, churches, clubs, voluntary associations, and utopian communities were formed. Some of the rising issues were peace, women’s rights, drinking, and slavery.
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    Slavery had been an issue for Americans for centuries. With the end of the Revolution, few people made attempts to free slaves. However, the issue would become much more volatile with slavery's rapid expansion and the rise of the abolitionist movement.
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    Differences Between Economic Classes

    During the 1800s, the differences between poor and rich Americans increased greatly. Wealthy plantation owners controlled the South while poor farmers lived under their influence. Poor immigrant workers in the North contributed to the divide. Robber barons such as Carnegie and Rockefeller would later increase this already large gap near the end of the 19th century.
  • The Rappites

    George Rapp created one of the earliest known utopian communities. Its members were known as the Rappites. A small community, the Rappites failed to sustain a large population. Most were not eager to join a group with very strong views on very controversial topics.
  • New Lanark, Scotland Largest Cotton Manufacturer

    An influential secular communitarian, Robert Owen was a British factory owner who strived to create an economically efficient and worker-friendly environment. Two of his communities were New Lanark, Scotland and New Harmony, Indiana. New Harmony greatly influenced the goal of creating a community of equals, despite existing for a short time.
  • The American Temperance Society was Founded

    The goal of the American Temperance Society was to dissuade Americans from consuming alcohol. Many people became offended by the seemingly aggressive attitude of the Temperance Movement. This created yet another divide between 19th century Americans.
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    The Peak of Shaker Communities

    The Shakers, a group which believed in the equality of men and women due to God’s duel personality, centered on the separation of men and women. As a result, they required many converts and adopted members in order to maintain a significant population. Economically successful, they created a wide range of settlements that included over 5,000 members.
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    The Women's Rights Movement Begins

    In addition to African Americans, women of the 19th century sought to secure their rights. The issue of women’s suffrage first appeared at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Many women also felt that they needed to play a role in the market revolution. The women’s rights movement in America was supported by many other women around the world.
  • Brook Farm Established

    Created near Boston by transcendentalists, Brook Farm attempted to allow manual and intellectual labor to coexist. A very well organized community, Brook Farm experienced difficulties over time. It generally attracted intellectual people who disliked manual labor. Brook farm was disbanded a few years after its establishment.
  • Utopia, Ohio Founded

    Josiah Warren established voluntary settlements at Utopia, Ohio and Modern Times, New York. Being an anarchist, Warren left these communities unregulated. Goods were traded based on the effort of creating them in order to avoid bankers and merchants draining the income of others. The goal of these communities was absolute freedom.
  • Founding of Salt Lake City

    The settlement of the Mormon community in Salt Lake City resembled many earlier utopian settlements. Polygamy and the lack of separation between church and state pushed the Mormons westward. There they established a settlement on the Great Salt Lake to practice Mormonism in peace.
  • Oneida is Established

    Founded by John Noyes in 1848, residents Oneida believed in the ability of humans to reach moral perfection. Although, similar to the Shakers in several aspects, followers of Noyes strived to become a single family and drew criticism for their practice of complex marriage. This resulted in the movement of the group to Oneida, NY. Over time, Oneida became an extremely strict society which even practiced eugenics. The community lasted until 1881.