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reform movements, such as those concerning women’s rights, education,
temperance, abolition, and humane prisons/ asylums occurred because they were
either integrated with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence or
Christianity. The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival movement that
happened in the beginning of the nineteenth century that emphasized faith and
called for liberty and equality. Just like the First Great Awakening, the time
period expressed the idea that people could be saved through revivals. It
brought forward new Christians and branched out many new denominations. The
Second Great Awakening motivated the creation of many reform movements with the
purpose to get rid of all the wickedness in society and fix social problems before
the second coming of Jesus Christ.

            Women’s rights began due to the fact that the only big
role a woman had was in the household. Their responsibility was to raise their
children and to education them in religious matters. Because of such
responsibilities women began arguing that they themselves had to be educated in
order to educate their children. The fact that women only had a few rights went
against religious beliefs of equality. According to the Bible, a man and woman
are both equal in the eyes of God. The man is commanded to be the head of the
household and the wife should be submissive to that authority. However, that
does not mean the woman is any less important than a man, it just means the man
and woman play different roles. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention took
place, led by Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott. At the Convention, women
discussed religious and moral issues, as well as the role of women in society.

These women insisted that they were to be held to the same standard as men and
that they should be granted the same rights and privileges. Regardless of
practicing Christianity, women were viewed in society as little more than
slaves, with not much of a voice and with only slightly more rights. At the
Convention they founded the Declaration of Sentiments, adding to the words of
the Declaration of Independence saying “all men and women are created equal.”
They put forth the ideas of allowing women to vote, to control their property
in marriage, build more schools for women, and have more of a role in the
Church.

            Before the 1820’s, public schools were rare and teachers
were poorly trained and poorly paid. During the Second Great Awakening, a great
amount of people started to push for public schools supported by taxes. Their
reasoning behind this was that if their country could be a democratic one, it
needed to have informed and educated voters. A reformer from Massachusetts
named Horace Mann is the main contributor to public education. Mann firmly
believed that everyone was deserving of education, so he was for raising taxes
to allow a free public education, along with better teachers, better textbooks,
better buildings, etc. He wanted a type of education that was going to
discipline children and teach them how to be an ideal citizen. He also
established schools that blended education with religious beliefs.  As a
result of his leadership, the state of Massachusetts initialized the reforming
of schools.

            The Second Great Awakening got rid of the idea of
predestination and gave people the idea that they would get rewarded for their
good works. People would attend camp meetings to voice their concerns about the
wellbeing of the country. As religious zeal intensified, the drinking of
alcohol was found to be inappropriate as well as immoral. This was because
drunkards tended to hurt relationships with their families, disturb the
economy, and were seen as the root of trouble and problems. The biggest social
group that contributed to the temperance movement were women. Passionate about
their faith, they sought to make change. This movement allowed women to get
involved in the society, as they had not been able to do before. They took up
new roles in society as leaders as they encouraged the banning of alcoholic
beverages. In 1826, both men and women came together to fight against the sin
of “demon rum”. They founded the American Temperance Society, one of the first
organizations started against the drinking of alcohol. This society
foreshadowed the increasing number of temperance groups as the movement became
popular and started making change to the society.

                        The Second Great Awakening increased the
concern regarding slavery. Abolitionists came about because slavery did not by
any means agree with Christianity and was considered a sin against the Bible.

The realization that “all men are equal” made people come to an understanding
that slavery was not a part of God’s plan for the human condition.  While
people in the South used the Bible to perpetuate and justify the practice of
slavery, people in the North used the Bible to speak against slavery. This led
to many churches splitting due to not sharing similar beliefs. Reformers wanted
to modify to systems of the country that violated their traditional moral and
social values; and slavery was definitely a big issue. William Lloyd Garrison,
a radical reformer, wrote “The Liberator” and called for immediate
emancipation.  Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the famous “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
presenting African Americans as real people stuck in dreadful circumstances.

Abolitionist reformers argued that slave owners were nothing but hypocrites,
because if they felt that a Christian could treat all humans with love and
respect, yet they believed it was perfectly fine to treat blacks cruelly and as
if they were less than a human.

            The United States prison systems were overflowing with
different people of different ages, disabilities, and mental illnesses.

Criminals, children, and insane people were all being held in the same prisons.

 From this, the prison reform movement started, attempting to make a more
efficient system for prisons. Reformers saw their prisons treating the inmates
cruelly and unfairly. They wanted to improve living conditions by providing
them with food, and clean clothing. Even though it was a place full of
criminals, reformers wanted to make prison a place for correction instead of
punishment. This movement also pushed for the idea to get people with mental
illnesses out of the prisons and to a place where they can receive the help
they need. A woman named Dorothea Dix went to one of these prisons and saw the
conditions in which the prisoners were being kept. Dix felt that inmates should
be separated based on age, crime, and mental stability and needed to be treated
more humanely. From there, many new prisons and juveniles were formed, as well
as asylums, as she believed that a part of the prisons horrible conditions were
considering people with mental illness to be looked at as convicts, when they
have done no crime. As a result of individual reformers and societies, the
government became more involved in prison affairs and building new prisons.

Prison reformers succeeded in the gradual change of the way people with mental
illness were treated, the prisons separating people by age and crime, and
establishing better cell conditions.           

            The Second Great Awakening and the reform movements of
the nineteenth century were initially started to prepare people for the second
coming of Jesus Christ, but it also paved the way for a better future for America.

It greatly improved life for Americans bringing them together with the revival
of religious faith and realizing the importance of women, education, people
kept in prisons, and the evil of slavery. Still, the outcomes of the Second
Great Awakening and the reform movements are seen today, showing how much of an
impact it had.