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The Second Great Awakening

In the late 1820s and 1830s, a religious revival called the Second Great Awakening had a strong impact on pre- Civil War American religion and reform. The revival was a response to rapid immigration, industrialization and urbanization. Of the major reforms four stand out greatly. They are temperance, rehabilitation, abolitionism and women’s rights. Methodist and Baptist groups experienced a surge of membership without delaying a move toward laissez-faire and competitiveness on the part of the Anglican, Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches.

The success of the Methodists and Baptists lay for the most part in their reliance on travelling preachers who brought the message of the church to the people, converting great numbers through emotionally charged revivals. The age of evangelicalism had arrived, with the Protestants and upper middle-class women leading the charge, making this one of the most impactful reforms in American history.

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The temperance movement was organized to reduce the drinking of liquor or total abstinence. The movement was supported mainly by women who were the most affected by the drinking of their husbands. Alcohol was blamed for society’s problems such as health problems, poverty, and crime. Temperance associations were established in New York and Massachusetts with the help of churches. Some 6,000 local temperance groups were up and running by the 1830s. Also, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League quickly picked up steam.

As their political power grew, they changed from moral persuasion to make the government control liquor. In fact, they succeeded in getting many liquor laws passed with help from churches and factories that saw poor productivity from drunken workers. Some distinguished figures are Susan B Anthony, Frances e. Willard, and Carry Nation. Some effects that remained permanent are government regulation, instruction on alcoholism in schools, the study of alcoholism.

The rehabilitation movement helped to improve the lives of the destitute. Group leaders wanted to create institutions for specific illnesses. In colonial times, orphans mentally challenged people, and criminals were cared for by their own families and remained part of the community. Reformers wanted these people placed in specialized institutions where they could be trained or improved. Prison reforms included rehabilitation of criminals attempted to counter the tendency of prisons to create more hardened criminals.

Work was seen as a way to reform criminals. Hence, asylums, orphanages, prisons, and reformatories were developed. However, the earlier places had inhumane living conditions. But a woman named Dorothea Dix investigated and reported treatment of the insane and led to the creation of humane institutions. As a result, legal code reforms were produced: reduction in crimes punishable by death, abolishing of public hangings in many states, abandoning flogging and other cruel punishments.

Abolitionism was a political movement that sought to abolish the slave trade and slavery. The movement was a development of the SGA, in which Northern Protestants were encouraged to assume a more active role in both religious and civic affairs. The concept of abolitionism contributes to churches, like the Free Methodist Church. These concepts included a belief in the equality of all at Jesus’ feet. This translated into the abolitionist movement of the North. At the same time, the movement itself moved through the South, which had been prominently non-practicing Anglican. African slaves for the first time were allowed to hear sermons, which helped bring their community together.

In this lesson, students study the Great Awakening through slave narratives and biographies. Women took a large part in this movement and these efforts helped them organize for their own rights. Many women were Quakers and felt the need for equality for all. With the help of their leader Lucretia Mott, women demanded they be allowed as members of male groups. Another distinguished women in the movement are the Grimke sisters. They led a series of lectures on the dreadfulness of slavery.

The abolition reform helped the upper and middle-class women how to organize and plan for their own rights. These women campaigned to improve the lives and save the souls of women, increase wages, expand employment opportunities and achieve the same rights men had.

These women struggled hard to attain their rights because they strongly felt that women were created equal to men so they had the same rights as men. Notable leaders such as Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York.

They wrote the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolution, which is one of the founding texts for the women’s rights movement. The document disparaged men for denying women the right to vote, the right to hold property, same rights for marriage as men. It also criticized men for not letting women get a higher education or profession.

The Second Great Awakening had a great impact on the history of America. Churches grew in size, people drank less, insolvent people were helped in specific ways, blacks got freedom, and the path to women’s rights was paved. Belief in God helped improve many people along with the help of rich women. After learning how to plan and organize, the women began to fight for their rights, which would occur in upcoming years.

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The Second Great Awakening. (2021, Feb 14). Retrieved June 19, 2021, from