Religion and Reform

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

Time Line

1790s-1830s Second Great Awakening
1820s American Temperance Society
1822 Establishment of Monrovia (now Liberia), Africa

First issue of The Liberator

Nat Turner’s rebellion

1834 Whig Party founded
1836 Election of Martin Van Buren
1839 Publication of American Slavery as It Is
1840 Election of William Henry Harrison

Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention

Married Women’s Property Act


Religion and Reform

The early nineteenth century was a time of great change in American society. With American independence firmly established, and the realization that the new government was proving workable, people turned their attention to two major issues that had been swept aside in the need for unanimity on the question of independence. These two issues were the rights and freedoms of women and slaves.

Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, both groups fought for equal rights and equal treatment. The women’s rights movement and the abolitionist movement shared many goals and leaders. They had strong arguments on their side: principally, that the founding documents of the United States granted liberty and equality to all the people in theory, but in fact, the leaders denied equality to the entire female population, and denied both liberty and equality to the slaves.

A wave of religious fervor swept the nation from the 1790s to about the 1830s. This Second Great Awakening helped fuel the struggle for full civil rights for all; many preachers pointed out that it was a sin to hold human beings in slavery, and that women were equal to men in the eyes of God. The evangelical revival also gave rise to the temperance movement, in which women literally stormed saloons and destroyed their stock of alcoholic beverages.

In Washington, a new political party had risen to combat Jacksonian Democracy. The Whigs elected their first president, William Henry Harrison, in 1840. They would continue to be a force in politics for the next twenty years.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Religion and Reform Practice Test

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