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Why did the Second Great Awakening inspire reform movements?

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US History Age Level High School (16 to 18 years old)

The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival movement in the first half of the 19th century. It emphasized emotion and enthusiasm, but also democracy: new religious denominations emerged that restructured churches to allow for more people involved in leadership, an emphasis on man's equality before god, and personal relationships with Christ (meaning less authority on the part of a minister or priest). There was also a belief that the Second Coming was imminent, and society must be improved before that time. Women were heavily involved in the 2nd Great Awakening movement, converting in large movements and taking on leadership roles in service committees and reform work.

Students and teachers might use this collection as a topical resource to explore: Why and how did the Second Great Awakening inspired a range of antebellum reform movements?

Other questions that might support this inquiry include:

  • How are concepts of democracy and equality important to both the Second Great Awakening and the rise of reform movements?
  • Why do you think women were often leaders in antebellum reform movements?
  • More Americans were moving westward during this period. How do you think that impacted the religious revival movement?
  • Can you hypothesize a connection between the increase in utopian societies during this time and the growing reform and religious movements?

Tags: abolition, temperance, women's rights, women's suffrage, second coming, antebellum reform, asylum and prison reform, education, 2GA

Great Republican Reform Party

National Portrait Gallery

Joseph Smith

National Portrait Gallery

Revival Banner ("Old Time Bible Revival")

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Sawdust Trail [painting] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Hymns for Little Children

National Museum of American History

A Dialogue between a Father and the Son

National Museum of American History

Frances Willard

National Portrait Gallery

Dorothea Lynde Dix

National Portrait Gallery

Horace Mann

National Portrait Gallery

Harper’s Weekly: Journal of Civilization Vol XXVII, No. 1405

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Cabinet card of Sojourner Truth

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Portrait of Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875), (painting)

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

Caroline Wells Healey Dall

Smithsonian Archives - History Div

5c Henry David Thoreau single

National Postal Museum

Robert Dale Owen

National Portrait Gallery

Robert Dale Owen

Smithsonian Archives - History Div

The Atheneum, New Harmony, Indiana

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

National Portrait Gallery

McGuffey's Eclectic Second Reader

National Portrait Gallery

Emma Hart Willard

National Portrait Gallery

2c Mary Lyon single

National Postal Museum

Coronation of Womanhood

National Portrait Gallery

Lucy Stone

National Portrait Gallery

Lucretia Coffin Mott

National Portrait Gallery

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

National Portrait Gallery

Declaration of Sentiments Table, 1848

National Museum of American History

William Lloyd Garrison

National Portrait Gallery

William Lloyd Garrison

National Portrait Gallery

Collection box of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society owned by Garrison family

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Liberator Vol. VII, No. 9

National Museum of African American History and Culture