Analysis Of 19th Century Reform Movements

Reform is the procedure of modifying something in order to improve it.  A reform movement is an assembly of people who group and work in concert to change something for the better. In the 1800s or 19th century, several critical reorganization movements existed in the United States. During the 1800s, women lacked political rights. However, female activists played a significant role in all of these movements.

Some of the critical reform movements included education reform, prison reform, and mental illness patients’ care. Other reforms were temperance or anti-drinking reform, abolition reform, and women’s rights. These reform movements formed the first great awakening among the citizens. The second great awakening was the US 1820s and 1830s religious movements. During the religious movements’ period, people across the country congregated in tent revitalizations and churches in order to listen to inspiring salvation and hope messages. Through religious messages, many American citizens were inspired to engage in good works as a way of saving their souls thereby resulting to involvement in reform movements.

Many people engaged in the 19th century each making remarkable contributions. For instance, Dorothea Dix was a middle-class reformist whose contribution had great impacts on the US prison system (Feldmeth, 1998). The second great awakening was led by important leaders such like Charles Finney. Fredrick Douglass fought against anti-slavery speeches while Lyman Beecher was a minister who spoke widely about the evils of alcohol.

Henry David Thoreau believed in self-reliance and wrote books about nature. Emma Willard was the founder of the first women college level institution in 1821 named the “Troy Female Seminary.” Lucretia Mott established the Anti-slavery Society in her course as an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. This paper explores the anti-drinking reform through the drunkard’s progress and the way of good and evil as one of the religious reforms.

The consequences of evil and good

In human life, both evil and good has consequences accompanying them. Through “the drunkard’s progress,” what starts as a matter of fun results to the shameful death? In the beginning, an individual takes alcohol or other liquor for fun and in measurable amounts. By first tasting liquor through just one glass of wine, it is clear there is awareness of the consequences. Man also wants to avoid the consequences, or is afraid of what may happen to him. Taking one first glass reveals control. However, time for the drunkard continuously leads to loss of control and the drunkard shifts from a glass to with a friend to a glass too much (Feldmeth, 1998). The person can no longer do without the drink any more.

Lack of control is evident as the drunkard becomes riotous, poor with disease, forsaken, and finally despairs, engages in crime and dies out of suicide. In “the way of evil and good,” humans are born with great innocence-unaware of good and bad. However, as time goes by, evil and good becomes evident through acts such as disobedience and obedience to parents and teachers. For those who choose disobedience while young, their path is filled with evil and other forms of vanity actions. However, those who choose to obey have the traits such as pure of heart, humility, and righteous among others.

From the two images, the message was relevant as people needed to understand what religion was all about. Religious movements were about living righteously and engaging only in good deeds. In order to have people belief in salvation, teachings that demonstrated the consequences of good and evil were relevant to have people take up the good deeds with the hope of eternal life.

Social reform efforts: “true love waits”

Today, reforms are still a very critical part of life. Like the 18th century reforms, today’s reforms are focused on issues affecting the society for lack of knowledge or lack of enough information about them. One such reform movement is “True Love Waits.” One campaign is a national abstinence movement (Feldmeth, 1998). This movement is by the youths.

It is aimed at helping teenagers and students in college to save sex until they are married. This campaign has targeted students in different learning institutions and began in 1993. The movement already has approximately 2.4 million youths as members. In order to show one’s commitment to true love waits movement, students are required to sign their pledge card and make a commitment to keep off sex until they are married.

In addition, each member has to sign a statement that demonstrates their belief in true love waits. This is then followed by a commitment to themselves, God and their family. In addition, a commitment is made to those they are dating or intend to date and their future mates. In the 18th century, everyone was informed that the will of God was to have sex for the married only. Any other engagement in sex was a sin that one had to repent and seek for forgiveness. Although this message is used today, it is in an indirect way since not everyone believes in God.


Feldmeth, G., (1998). U.S. History Resources. Retrieved from


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