American Idealism and Reform 1820-1860

American Idealism and Reform 1820-1860

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the various reforms of the Antebellum Era.  What were the key reforms that made Americans more American?
  • Evaluate the social impact of the Second Great Awakening, including its impact on blacks, women and the poor.
  • Analyze how the Second Great Awakening influenced the abolitionist, social reform, and women’s rights movements.
  • Discuss Transcendentalism and the ways it was alike and different from the Second Great Awakening.
  • Compare and contrast the societies that were religious to the communal societies that were seeking a perfect community.
  • How did these communal societies reflect and shape the concept of being an “American”?
  • Are the Mormons a communal society or a religious movement? Why?
  • What were the primary goals of the women’s rights movement until 1840? After 1840?
  • Did the Cult of Domesticity help or hurt the Women’s movement?
  • Explain why prison and mental health reform were closely connected.
  • Describe the Temperance Movement. How did the influx of recent immigrants shape the movement?
  • Describe the key figures of the early Abolitionist Movement.  Were they successful in their efforts?

Module Supplemental Readings/Videos

Multimedia Resources

Slavery - Crash Course US History #13

Crash Course: Slavery

Additional Materials

Glossary of Key Terms

American Temperance Society: Founded in Boston in 1826 as part of a growing effort of nineteenth-century reformers to limit alcohol consumption.

American Anti-Slavery Society: Abolitionist society founded by William Lloyd Garrison, who advocated the immediate abolition of slavery.

Gag Resolution: Prohibited debate or action on anti-slavery appeals in Congress.

moral suasion: abolitionist groups appealed to the morality of those who favored slavery to try to make them change their minds about the issue.

Mormons: Religious followers of Joseph Smith, who founded a communal, oligarchic religious order officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

 Second Great Awakening: Religious revival characterized by emotional mass "camp meetings" and widespread conversion.

Shakers: Called "Shakers" for their lively dance worship, they emphasized simple, communal living and were all expected to practice celibacy.

transcendentalism: Antebellum literary and intellectual movement that emphasized individualism and self-reliance, predicated upon a belief that each person possesses an “innerlight” that can point the way to truth and direct contact with God.

The Liberator: Anti-slavery newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison.

Women’s Rights Convention:  Gathering of feminist activists in Seneca Falls, New York, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton read her “Declaration of Sentiments,” stating that “all men and women are created equal.”

Instructor Resources

After studying the communal Utopian societies of the Antebellum period, create a web outline of what you would include in your Utopian society.  How would you organize/control key societal points like food, education, work, religion, family, sex, race, and government?

Here’s a few YouTube videos that may help:

OPTIONAL: Divide Class into Groups.
Designate one group as being set aside as recruits looking to pool resources to 'drop out' of mainstream 1840s American society and select a society that best meets their hopes & objectives. Have the recruit group develop a criteria for what they want in a group.
OTHER GROUPS (As many others as class dictates)
Have other groups combine their indiviudal Utopian society visions into a combined Group Utopian society
Have the Utopias groups pitch their societies to the recruits group and llow brief questions form recruits.
At the conclusion have the recruits confer and indicate which of the Utopias they will be investing & moving to and why.


Compare the “Declaration of Sentiment and Resolution to the Declaration of Independence
Why did the writers make the phrasing so similar to that of the Declaration?  What were they trying to achieve?