Notes on Reformers

Lowell, Francis Cabot

 1775 -- 1817 Textile manufacturer; born in Newburyport, Mass. (son of Judge John Lowell). He worked in import-export trade and observed textile machinery in Lancashire while on a visit to England (1810--12). On his return, he started the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Mass. (1813) with the assistance of his brother-in-law Patrick Tracy Jackson, Paul Moody, and Nathan Appleton. It was the first mill ever to combine all the operations of making finished cloth from raw cotton. He pushed for high duties on imported cotton cloth. He died prematurely and his partners named their new factory town, Lowell, Mass., after him.

Moody, Paul 

1779 -- 1831 Inventor; born in Newbury, Mass. The son of a Revolutionary War officer, he went to work in a woolen mill at age 12 and soon became an expert mechanic. Beginning in 1814, he built and repaired mill machinery in partnership with Francis C. Lowell. Moody designed a series of mechanical improvements that sped the development of the New England textile industry. He was a champion of the temperance movement in Massachusetts.

Owen, Robert 

1771 -- 1858 Social and educational reformer, born in Newtown, Powys. Apprenticed to a draper, in 1800 he became manager and part owner of the New Lanark cotton mills, Lanarkshire, where he set up a social welfare programme, and established a "model community'. His socialistic theories were put to the test in other experimental communities, such as at Orbiston, near Glasgow, and New Harmony in Indiana, but all were unsuccessful. He was later active in the trade-union movement, and in 1852 became a spiritualist.

Wright, Frances ("Fanny'')

 1795 -- 1852 Abolitionist, social activist, author; born in Dundee, Scotland. Having lost both parents while a child, she was raised by relatives; she read on her own and by her twenties was writing romantic poetry and plays with progressive themes. She came to the U.S.A. in 1818 with a younger sister and had her play Altorf produced in New York City; when it failed, she traveled throughout the Northeast and then returned to Britain (1820). Her Views of Society and Manners in America (1821) became one of the best-known traveler's accounts of the day, distinguished by its almost embarrassing praise for everything in the New World. She went over to France in 1821 and began a somewhat ambiguous relationship with the aging Marquis de Lafayette, almost 40 years her senior; when he made his famous "farewell tour" of America in 1824--25, she followed him around. She stayed on in the U.S.A. and took on the cause of abolishing slavery; she purchased 640 acres near Memphis, Tenn., and set up a plantation, Nashoba, on which she intended to demonstrate a method for liberating slaves; her scheme ended in scandal, but through highly controversial lectures, she continued attacking not only slavery but also organized religion and laws forbidding marriage between the races; although she thus antagonized most Americans, the freethinking, bold-talking "Fanny Wright" gained the respect of others such as the young Walt Whitman. By 1829 she was settling in New York City; she had by this time linked up with Robert Dale Owen of the utopian community at New Harmony, Ind., and she joined him in publishing the Free Enquirer in which she promulgated her increasingly more radical views about religion, education, and other social issues. She went off to Paris in 1830, married a French doctor and reformer (1831), and in 1835 returned to the U.S.A. with him and their child, settling this time in Cincinnati, Ohio, but continuing to lecture until 1839. In her last book, England, the Civilizer (1848), she called for a sort of united nations that would impose peace on the world; in its vague theorizing, it was an instance of the idealism and impracticality that characterized so much of her life and work. <h3fuller, (sarah)="" margaret<="" span=""> 

Fuller, (Sarah) Margaret

1810 -- 1850 Feminist, literary critic; born in Cambridgeport, Mass. Her father, Timothy Fuller, was a prominent Massachusetts lawyer-politician who, disappointed that his child was not a boy, educated her rigorously in the classical curriculum of the day. Not until age 14 did she get to attend a school for two years (1824--26) and then she returned to Cambridge and her course of reading. Her intellectual precociousness gained her the acquaintance of various Cambridge intellectuals but her assertive and intense manner put many people off. Her father moved the family to a farm in Groton, Mass. (1833), and she found herself isolated and forced to help educate her siblings and run the household for her ailing mother. From 1836 to 1837, after visiting Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, she taught for Bronson Alcott in Boston, and then at a school in Providence, R.I. All the while she continued to enlarge both her intellectual accomplishments and personal acquaintances. Moving to Jamaica Plain, a suburb of Boston, in 1840, she conducted her famous "Conversations" (1840--44), discussion groups that attracted many prominent people from all around Boston. In 1840, she also joined Emerson and others to found the Dial, a journal devoted to the transcendentalist views; she became a contributor from the first issue and its editor (1840--42). Her first book, based on a trip through the Midwest (1840--42), was Summer on the Lakes (1844) and this led to her being invited by Horace Greeley to be literary critic at the New York Tribune in 1844. She published her feminist classic, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). In addition to writing a solid body of critical reviews and essays, she became active in various social reform movements. In 1846 she went to Europe as a foreign correspondent for the Tribune. In England and France she was treated as a serious intellectual and got to meet many prominent people. She went on to Italy in 1847 where she met Giovanni Angelo, the Marchese d'Ossoli, ten years younger and of liberal principles; they became lovers and married in 1849, but their son was born in 1848. Involved in the Roman revolution of 1848, she and her husband fled to Florence in 1849. They sailed for the U.S.A. in 1850 but the ship ran aground in a storm off Fire Island, N.Y., and Margaret's and her husband's bodies were never found.

Mott, Lucretia Coffin

 1793 -- 1880 Women's rights activist, abolitionist, religious reformer; born in Nantucket, Mass. A child of Quaker parents, she was early impressed by her mother's and other Nantucket women's active roles while menfolk were away on voyages. The family moved to Boston in 1804 and she attended and then taught at a Quaker boarding school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (1808--09). After she moved again with her family to Philadelphia, she married James Mott, a former teacher at the Poughkeepsie school who had now joined her father's hardware firm. By 1821, she became a Quaker minister, noted for her speaking abilities, and in 1827 she and her husband went over with the more progressive wing of the Friends. She had become strongly opposed to slavery and one of the chief advocates of not buying any products of slave labor; her husband, always her supporter, had to get out of the cotton trade about 1830. She became an early supporter of William Lloyd Garrison and his American Anti-Slavery Society, and she often found herself threatened with physical violence due to her radical views. She and her husband attended the famous World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, the one that refused to allow women to be full participants. This led to her joining Elizabeth Cady Stanton in calling the famous Seneca Falls Convention, N.Y., in 1848 (at which, ironically, James Mott was asked to preside), and from that point on Lucretia Mott was dedicated to women's rights. She wrote her influential Discourse on Woman (1850). While remaining within the Society of Friends, in practice and beliefs she actually identified increasingly with more liberal/progressive trends in American religious life, even helping to form the Free Religious Association in Boston (1867). While keeping up her commitment to women's rights, she also maintained the full routine of a mother and housewife. She continued after the Civil War to work for advocating the rights of African-Americans. She helped to found Swarthmore College (1864), continued to attend women's rights conventions, and when the movement split into two factions in 1869, she tried to bring the two together.

Willard, Emma Hart 

1787 -- 1870 Educator; born in Berlin, Conn. Raised by a father who, while a farmer, encouraged her to read and think for herself, she attended a local academy (1802--04) and then began to teach. In 1807 she went to Middlebury, Vt., to head a female academy there, marrying a local doctor in 1809. In 1814 she opened her own school, the Middlebury Female Seminary, to provide advanced education that young women were denied by colleges. Her Address... Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education (1819) was a much admired and influential proposal to get public support for advanced education for young women. In 1821 she moved to Troy, N.Y., where she opened the Troy Female Seminary; with both boarding and day students, in some respects it was the first U.S. institution of serious learning for young women although even it recognized that most of its graduates would be housewives, not professionals, and most of its students came from families of means. The school actually made a profit and she also earned money from textbooks she wrote. (She also wrote poetry; only "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep" remains known.) Her husband died in 1825 and she ran the school until 1838. Her second marriage proved disastrous and she separated within nine months. Her later years were spent in traveling to promote education for women. She returned to Troy in 1844. (The seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School in 1895.)

Blackwell, Elizabeth

 1821 -- 1910 Physician, born in Counterslip, near Bristol, England. The first woman of modern times to graduate in medicine, she fostered personal hygiene as a means of moral reform and combatting disease. Sister of pioneering physician Emily Blackwell, she emigrated with her family to America at the age of 11 (1832). Educated along with her brothers, introduced to abolitionist and reform activities, she chose to study medicine rather than marry, always maintaining an interest in the arts. She was turned down for entrance by most major medical schools of the time, but was eventually accepted at Geneva College in New York state. Initial student ostracization turned to respect, a pattern repeated throughout her pioneering medical career. After receiving her degree (1849), she was barred from practice in most European and American hospitals (1850--8). Setting up private practice in New York City, she lectured on public hygiene and founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children (1857). Lecturing in England (1858--9), she became the first female physician listed in the Medical Register of the United Kingdom. She helped found the US Sanitary Commission (1861) and founded the Women's Medical College of the New York Infirmary (1868--9). Returning to London (1871), she maintained a large practice and was named chair of gynecology at the London School of Medicine for Women (1875).

Grimké, Angelina Emily 

1805 -- 1879 Abolitionist, women's rights advocate; born in Charleston, S.C. (sister of Sarah Grimké). Daughter of a slave-owning judge and educated by tutors, she came to dislike the institution and practice of slavery and in 1829 she followed her older sister Sarah to Philadelphia. There she adopted the Quaker religion and turned to teaching, but she soon was devoting herself to the abolition of slavery and to promoting the rights of women. In 1836 her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, brought the name Grimké to the fore and she was warned not to return to the South. She and Sarah moved to New York City in 1836. She soon became a noted speaker against slavery, but controversial even in the North for speaking before "mixed" audiences of men and women, and soon she was drawn into the related struggle for women's rights in general. In 1838, she married the abolitionist Theodore Weld and thereafter she concentrated on circulating antislavery petitions and publishing antislavery documents. In 1840 the Welds moved to Belleville, N.J., and from 1848--62 they ran a school there. In 1863 they moved to Massachusetts, where Angelina took up teaching (1864--67). Angelina suffered a stroke after her sister Sarah's death in 1873.

Grimké, Sarah Moore 

1792 -- 1873 Abolitionist, women's rights activist; born in Charleston, S.C. (sister of Angelina Grimké). Daughter of a slave-owning judge and educated by tutors, she had from an early age become uncomfortable with the practice of slavery. Visiting Philadelphia in 1819, she was moved by the Quakers' rejection of slavery and in 1821 she moved there and joined the Society of Friends. For several years she confined herself to religious and charitable causes, but when her younger sister Angelina joined her in 1829 and went public with her own attacks on slavery (1835), Sarah spoke out against the Philadelphia Quakers' own discrimination against African-Americans and moved to New York City (1836). She then published her first work on slavery, Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States (1836), in which she attacked the argument that slavery was justified because it was recognized in the Bible. The Grimké sisters then themselves became controversial by their insistence on speaking before "mixed" audiences of men and women, and soon Sarah was writing Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838). After Angelina married the abolitionist Theodore Weld in 1838, Sarah lived with them and followed them on their moves first to New Jersey and then to Massachusetts, where she helped raise their three children. She ceased lecturing in public but continued to write and petition against slavery, and for many of the years between 1848 and 1867, she taught to help support their family. The sisters did not publish much against slavery after 1839 but they continued to identify with the women's rights movement.

Dow, Neal 

1804 -- 1897 Temperance reformer; born in Portland, Maine. A businessman devoted to the temperance movement, he helped win passage in Maine of the first state prohibition law (1846), banning sale of alcohol by the drink. After being elected mayor of Portland (1851), he won passage of landmark state laws extending the ban to virtually all alcohol sales and providing imprisonment for offenders. A riot in Portland (1856) led to the repeal of prohibition, although Dow won passage of a milder law after being elected to the state legislature in 1858. In later life he toured the United States and Britain preaching prohibition; he ran for president in 1880 as candidate of the Prohibition Party.

Weld, Theodore Dwight 

1803 -- 1895 Abolitionist, born in Hampton, Connecticut, USA. After attending Hamilton College and the Oneida Institute, which stressed manual labor in education, he was influenced by Presbyterian evangelist Charles Grandison Finney to devote himself to promoting reforms and he went to study at the Lane Seminary in Cincinnati (1834). For about ten years thereafter, as an ardent abolitionist, he gave forceful lectures, trained workers for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and wrote influential pamphlets, although, being very retiring, he permitted nothing to be published under his own name. He was an adviser to an antislavery bloc in Congress in the early 1840s and recruited prominent people to abolitionism. He and his wife later opened two schools in New Jersey that stressed the importance of manual labour; many abolitionists' children went there. After the Civil War he became a crusader for women's rights.

Mann, Horace 

1796 -- 1859 Educator, public official; born in Franklin, Mass. He overcame limited educational opportunities, attended Brown University, and practiced law in Dedham and Boston, Mass. (1821--37). As Massachusetts state representative, senator, and senate president (1827--37), he worked to establish the first state hospital for the mentally ill and a state board of education. As head of the new board, his 12 annual reports (1837--48) comprehensively established the basis for universal, nonsectarian public education. Using his legal skills, he established public high schools, built teacher-training schools, curbed child labor, gained acceptance for women teachers, and fended off opposition from religious and business interests. After serving in the U.S. Congress (Whig, Mass.; 1848--53), he became president of Antioch College (1853--89), which was nonsectarian and open without regard to sex or race. The public school system he established in Massachusetts served as the nation's model, hence his appellation, "the father of American public education."

Garrison, William Lloyd 

1805 -- 1879 Journalist, abolitionist, social activist; born in Newburyport, Mass. With little formal education, he was a printer by trade who became editor of several small New England papers (1824--28). Turning his attention away from temperance to slavery, in Boston (1829) he delivered the first of his innumerable and inflammatory public addresses against slavery; later that year he joined Benjamin Lundy in Baltimore to help edit the Genius of Universal Emancipation. If not the first abolitionist, Garrison was one of the earliest to demand the "immediate and complete emancipation" of slaves. Founder/editor of The Liberator (1831--65), he continued his uncompromising attacks on slavery despite threats and harassment from pro-slavery opponents and often disagreement and dismay from other less absolute abolitionists. Cofounder and agent for the New England Anti-Slavery Society (1831) and its president (1841--63), he favored a peaceful separation of the North and South. To dramatize his contempt for the U.S. Constitution's acceptance of slavery, he publicly burned a copy in Framingham, Mass. (1854), but as a pacifist he opposed the actions of John Brown and others who supported violence. With the end of the Civil War and slavery, he turned his passions and energies to crusading for such reforms as prohibition, the plight of Native Americans, and, above all, women's rights. In 1840, when the world's antislavery convention met in London, he had refused to attend sessions because women were excluded.

Truth, Sojourner (, originally Isabella) 

? 1797 -- 1883 Abolitionist and women's rights activist, born in Ulster County, New York, USA. Born to slaves of a wealthy Dutch-American estate owner - she grew up speaking Dutch - she herself served as a slave in the Dumont family (1810--27) and had at least five children (two daughters were sold away from her). She fled her owners' household in 1827 and found refuge in the home of the Van Wageners and took their name. She successfully sued to get her son back from slavery in Alabama, and about 1829 she settled in New York City with him and a daughter. A religious mystic by this time, for the next few years she was heavily involved with some questionable religious evangelicals; after a scandal in which she was an innocent bystander, she withdrew to raise her children and to work as a domestic. Then in 1843 she announced that "voices' had commanded her to assume the name "Sojourner Truth' and to set out as a preacher. She ended up in Northampton, Mass, with a utopian community and stayed there until about 1850 when she settled in Battle Creek, Mich. By that time she had also added lectures on abolition and women's rights to her public appearances. (Extremely tall, she was accused of being a man and is said to have bared her breast at a women's rights convention to prove she was a woman.) She was received by President Lincoln at the White House in 1864. After the war she advocated a "Negro State' and promoted the emigration of African-Americans to the West. She continued to travel throughout much of the northeast, lecturing on a variety of inspirational and social reform topics, retiring to Battle Creek, Mich, in her later years.

Douglass, Frederick (b. Frederick Augustus Washington Baily)

 c. 1817 -- 1895 Abolitionist, author, public official; born near Tuckahoe, Md. Born into slavery (his father was white, his mother was part American Indian), he was taught to read as a household servant but at age 16 was sent out to work as a field hand. In 1836 he was apprenticed to a shipyard in Baltimore, Md., but he escaped in 1838 and settled in New Bedford, Mass., where he assumed the name by which he would thereafter be known. After he made a speech before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1841, he was hired as an agent and he lectured throughout the North; because his intelligence and speaking abilities led some to question whether he had been a slave, he published Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845. Then, fearing for his freedom, he fled to England where he lectured with such effect that the British contributed a generous sum of money that, added to money contributed by Americans, helped him buy his freedom when he returned to the U.S.A. in 1847. He went to Rochester, N.Y., where he cofounded (with Martin Delany) the abolitionist periodical North Star, which he edited for 16 years (in 1851 changing its name to Frederick Douglass's Paper). In 1859 he took refuge in Canada for a short time because he was falsely accused of aiding John Brown. He took a more gradualist approach to ending slavery but never wavered as the leading voice of African-Americans' call for freedom and equality. During the Civil War he urged President Lincoln to emancipate the slaves and he helped recruit African-American troops. After the Civil War, he also spoke out for other social reforms such as woman's suffrage. He also held a series of government posts--assistant secretary to the Santo Domingo Commission, marshal of the District of Columbia (1877--81), district recorder of deeds (1881--86), and ambassador to Haiti (1889--91). He issued a final revision of his autobiography as Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881).

Nation, Carry (Amelia b. Moore) 

1846 -- 1911 Temperance reformer; born in Garrard County, Ky. Her alcoholic first husband left her with an abiding hatred for liquor and saloons. She conducted a series of hatchet-swinging, saloon-smashing missions in Kansas and in large cities throughout the country. She was arrested 30 times before her retirement due to poor health. Even supporters of the temperance movement found her a difficult person.

Lovejoy, Elijah (Parish) 

1802 -- 1837 Abolitionist; born in Albion, Maine. Ordained a Presbyterian minister (1833), he went to St. Louis, Mo., to preach and edit the Presbyterian St. Louis Observer, enlisting the paper in the fight against slavery, intemperance, and "popery." Harassed for promoting even gradual abolitionism, in 1836 he moved to Alton, Ill., to relocate his paper as the Alton Observer. Although some citizens supported his views on slavery, others were adamantly opposed and they threw three successive printing presses into the local river. The final straw came when he called for establishing an auxiliary of the American Anti-Slavery Society (1837). He was shot during a mob attack as he was defending the arrival of yet another printing press.

Dix, Dorothea (Lynde) 

1802 -- 1887 Reformer, nurse; born in Hampden, Maine. She left an unhappy home at age ten to live with her grandmother in Boston; by age 14 the resourceful and determined Dix was on her own and teaching school in Worcester, Mass. In 1821 she established her own school in Boston, running it successfully until 1834, when a tubercular illness, a recurring affliction, forced her to give it up. After a period of invalidism, she dedicated herself to the quiet study of conditions of insane asylums, prisons, and alms houses, at first in Massachusetts and eventually in many states, Canada, and Europe. What she found appalled her: men and women chained to the walls of tiny, dark and fetid rooms, ill-clothed and -fed and treated brutally when they were noticed at all. Remaining in the background, Dix used influential political leaders to broadcast her findings. From 1842--45 she traveled more than 10,000 miles on her investigations. The results were a gradual and continuing improvement of conditions. New asylums were built in many states, and others improved; more humane methods of caring for the insane were adopted. In June 1861 Dix became superintendent of women nurses for the federal government, in which role she oversaw the recruitment, training, and placement of some 2,000 women who cared for the Union war-wounded. After the war she resumed her work among the insane, traveling widely in Europe and Japan. Hardworking, dedicated to the humanitarian cause in spite of continuing illness, she could seem cold and even distant; "I have no particular love for my species," she once said, "but own to an exhaustless fund of compassion." She died in a Trenton, N.J., hospital she herself had founded.