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American History 1--HIST 2111 (OER): Chapter 10: Religion and Reform

American Yawp Chapter Summary

The early nineteenth century was a period of immense change in the United States. Economic, political, demographic, and territorial transformations radically altered how Americans thought about themselves, their communities, and the rapidly expanding nation. It was a period of great optimism, with the possibilities of self-governance infusing everything from religion to politics. Yet it was also a period of great discord, as the benefits of industrialization and democratization increasingly accrued along starkly uneven lines of gender, race, and class. Westward expansion distanced urban dwellers from frontier settlers more than ever before, even as the technological innovations of industrialization—like the telegraph and railroads—offered exciting new ways to maintain communication. The spread of democracy opened the franchise to nearly all white men, but urbanization and a dramatic influx of European migration increased social tensions and class divides. Read more from Chapter 10 of the American Yawp.

Things to Consider

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What factors led to the Second Great Awakening? In what ways did the revivals of the Second Great Awakening appeal to ordinary Americans? In what ways did the Second Great Awakening represent a democratization of religion?
  2. How did the Second Great Awakening lead to the establishment of new religious groups? What ideas in particular influenced these new religious groups?
  3. Compare and contrast the ideas of the Mormons, the Shakers and the Oneida Perfectionists to marriage and sexuality. What might have the existence of these religious groups with different ideas about marriage and sexuality say about this period in American History?
  4. The United States saw the establishment of a number of utopian communities in the first half of the nineteenth century in which property was shared. What economic and social problems in this period might have made utopian communal life appealing for some Americans?
  5. Describe the growing problem of alcoholism in early nineteenth century America. How did the Temperance movement seek to fight alcoholism? In the end, how successful was the Temperance movement?
  6. What was the “Benevolent Empire”? What sorts of social reforms and associations were part of this “Benevolent Empire”? 
  7. Why did Evangelical missionaries oppose the removal of the Cherokee and other Natives from the East? How did this mark the beginning of Evangelical participation in politics?
  8. What were the religious roots of the Abolitionist movement? Why did radical abolitionists demand immediate emancipation? What actions did abolitionists take in the 1830s to convince the American public to end slavery?
  9. Why did the public and the Congress react either with indifference or negatively to abolitionists in the 1830s? How was this reaction bipartisan and both in the North and the South?
  10. Discuss the views of William Lloyd Garrison on abolitionism and women’s rights. How did Garrison’s views on women’s rights come to divide the abolitionist movement?
  11. Discuss the abolitionist activities of Frederick Douglass. Why was Douglass such an important abolitionist figure?
  12. What was the place of women in American society, especially considering the legal concept of coverture and the social idea of the “Cult of Domesticity”?
  13. What connections did the women’s rights movement have to the Second Great Awakening and social reform movements of the period? How did the women’s rights movement offer an alternative view of the place of women in American society?
  14. What sorts of specific demands did the women’s rights movement make at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848? Why were they initially unsuccessful with their demands? How did Seneca Falls lay the groundwork for future women’s rights activism?

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Course Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to identify issues pertaining to governmental systems & the evolution of American liberty from the Articles of Confederation to the end of the Age of Jackson.
  • Students will be able to analyze economic development & cultural reform movements during the first half of the 19th century.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will demonstrate their ability to read, analyze, and comprehend college level written texts.
  • Students will be able to recognize differing perspectives and points of view.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of diversity among cultures.
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