American Reform Movements

American Reform Movements Essay Sample

When the United States was founded, neither women nor African Americans had civil rights. This all began to change in 1800’s when people began to fight for equality. The Women’s Rights Movement and the Abolitionist Movement, although different in leadership and protest, were similar in their motivation and spread of ideas. One key differentiation between the fight for women’s rights and for African Americans rights is the methods of protest and gathering.

While women held conventions and occasional strikes, slaves organized violent rebellions and insurrections. In Lowell in February of 1834 Women were peacefully protesting the unfair wages and conditions they worked in. (Nash). In 1848 the first Woman’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls (Abolition). On the other end of the spectrum, in August of 1831, Nat Turned and approximately 40 other slaves traveled from house to house and killed every white person they encountered (Nat). This shows a clear difference between how women’s rights and how American American rights were sought after.

Another significant difference between the fight for women’s right and for African American rights was the people in leadership. In both of these movements, the key writers and leaders were usually white. This was obviously due to the fact that most African Americans were still enslaved; therefore, they often weren’t allowed to congregate and had no access to the tools necessary for writing and spreading information. Because of this, passionate white people took charge of both fights. Even some women became prominent leaders in the abolition movement. Angelina Grimke and Sarah Moore Grimke became famous for making speeches to about slavery (The Abolition). Other women who were active in the abolitionist movement became interested in women’s rights as well; women working to secure freedom for African Americans began to see similarities in their situation as white women and the situation of enslaved black men and women (The Abolition).

African Americans did not have as much of an opportunity to fight for their rights which led to some leaders in the abolitionist movement who weren’t affected by it. One thing that ties both freedom movements together is their motivation. In the early 19th century, married women were denied rights to own and manage property, to form contracts, to sue and be sued, and to exercise legal control over their children. In addition, women were prohibited from voting or holding public office and were denied access to higher education and high professions (Nash). Married women had no legal identity apart from their husbands. Divorced women could not gain custody of their children. Similarly, African Americans did not have the right to own property or to exercise legal control over anything; additionally they could not vote in a public election and were only worth three fifths of a person in state representation. African Americans were deprived of a real education or high authority jobs. Both groups of people lived in very similar situations and were motivated by their lack of freedom to fight for their human rights.

In the Abolitionist Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement, the use of pamphlets, newspapers, and books were very advantageous. Women wrote articles for Humanitarian Rights papers, circulated Rights pamphlets, and spread, signed, and delivered petitions to Congress calling for equal rights. In 1854 Douglass wrote the autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom (Abolition). News Papers such as The Liberator made a large contribution to the gain in support for Rights movements. Both movements largely benefited from pamphlets, papers, and books in spreading their ideas.

The fight for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights shared many similarities and differenced. The Abolitionist Movement was much more violent and morbid compared to the Women’s Rights Movement. However, both movements were motivated by the same want and need for freedom and equal rights, and they both heavily relied on the spread of ideas through pamphlets and newspapers. Overall, both of these fights are a very important part in American history and contribute to future events including the current issue in communist countries such as North Korea to gain freedom from government oppression for all citizens.


“Abolition, Women’s Rights, and Temperance Movements.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 1 Mar. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. Nash, Gary, and Julie Jeffrey. “The Lowell Factory System.” Web. 17 Nov. 2014. “Nat Turner’s Rebellion- 1831.” PBS. PBS. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. “The Abolition Movement and Woman Suffrage.” National Women’s History Museum. 1 Jan. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

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