Between 1825 and 1850 many reform movements gained momentum and began to transform the laws and institutions of the United States. These reform movements were spurred largely by the Second Great Awakening which, because religion was moving into a more liberal light, spread a contagious desire of reform nationwide and allowed for the bettering of American lives. Among the reform movements driven by the Great Awakening was a rise in anti-slavery supporters, vast women’s rights movements, and reform of school, prison and institutional systems. All of the reform movements that began in the early 19th century enabled the expansion of the most important Democratic ideal, the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is a core belief in Democratic idealism that all humans are endowed with the right to life and the reform movements of the early-mid 1800’s expanded that ideal. A large role in the expansion of the right to life during this time is the anti-slavery movement. The Second Great Awakening persuaded many to see slavery as a sin and in an engraving by Patrick Reason from 1835, the words “Am I not a woman and a sister?” arc above the depiction of a slave woman (Doc. C). The engraving supports the concept that anti-slavery was popular at that time, enough so that Reason wanted to express his desires. The artwork clearly supports the idea of anti-slavery as well as the fight against oppression of women. Also supporting the expansion of the right to life is the Women’s rights movement, led mainly by Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott who began campaigning for women’s rights after being banned from campaigning at an anti-slavery convention. Stanton argued for the right of women to be “as free as man is free”, for women representatives in government and the right to vote, at the Seneca Falls Convention (Doc. I). The fact that a large feminist convention was held with many supporters illustrates that the rights of women were of much...
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