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The Role of Women in The Second Great Awakening

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The antebellum market revolution and the Second Great Awakening marked a turning point for women’s roles in the family, workplace, and society in the years of 1815-1860. This was a result of women achieving more of an importance in the churches, and being honored for their role in their families. Women became the leading attenders of the new church and thus would lead the way in shaping society such as with the abolition of slavery. From 1815-1860, the antebellum market revolution and the Second Great Awakening had a great impact on women’s roles, since they attracted more attention in everyday life, and fought to increase the nation’s equality of life for all.

The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival that took place during the early 19th century in the United States, which made religion one of the main focuses of many people at the time. As churches experienced the largest growth during this period, women became the largest new members of the churches and played an important role in the revivals and reforms of the era. Charles Grandison Finney, a preacher, encouraged women to pray aloud and was one of the first preachers who embraced women in religion. Finney had commented on a conversion that occurred in 1831, which was a result of “ conversation and prayer.” After this happened, the women’s “heart broke down and she settled into a joyous faith.” The conversion enabled her to become a member of the church. This encounter allowed her to be brought back to the Christian faith she once believed in.

Women were also given the responsibility of teaching their children morals and proper virtues at home. They were seen fit for this position since they no longer had as many of the usual household chores, allowing them more time to teach their children. In the picture Sarony and Major, “The Happy Mother” created in 1846, a woman is shown with her two children. During this time family size decreased and women typically got married later. Women also spoiled their children, since they became the center of the household. Additionally, Godey’s Lady Book of 1845, a women’s magazine, illustrated how women are “constituted the first teacher of every human being” according to God. However, they are still “denied those privileges of education which can only enable them to discharge their duty to their children”. Women also experienced new job opportunities in factories, due to the switch to a market economy. The conditions they had to work in were not favorable, however, and the women also had to work six days a week earning only low wages. Harriet Farley described in the Lowell Offering, a newspaper that featured the works of the textile girls, what working in the Lowell Textile Mill was like. She stated it attracted “worthy, virtuous, intelligent, and well-educated girls,” which would be their first experience with independence. They worked to “get money, as much of it and as fast” as they could.

Although women were given new roles in society, African Americans were still subject to slavery, causing many to believe in abolition. In the picture “Selling a Mother from Her Child”, a mother is being separated from her child. This was done “very often, and frequently, too” since they would “sell the mother while they keep her children”. By illustrating this, it was meant to advocate for anti-slavery, since many people regarded this as inhumane behavior. Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, and in her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she captures the degrading effect slavery has on individuals. This caused many people to join the abolitionist movement as a result, and the article “What Women Have to Do with Slavery: A Dialogue” was published in The Liberator, an early anti-slavery newspaper. The dialogue captures the conversation between two women; one who joined the antislavery cause, and the other who criticized the movement. Harriet, the woman who “joined the Anti-Slavery Society” did it “according to her own sense of right”, because she believed women had “strength and enlightening power of truth”. This attitude drove the women’s movement and caused many other reforms to ensue.

There was a wide array of other reformers that tried to improve the quality of society. For example, Dorothea Dix protested the conditions of the mentally ill in her report to the Massachusetts legislature in 1843. She stated how “insane persons” are “confined… in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens” and are “chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience”. Dix did not believe it was fair to both the mentally ill and prisoners, that they were confined to the same cells. She protested change and it resulted in correctional facilities and reformatories.

As a result of the antebellum market revolution and the Second Great Awakening, women all around the world were given roles in the family, workplace, and society. These changes resulted in women attaining prominence and respect for their part in everyday life. They also became the front runners for the end of slavery and an increase in the quality of the disadvantaged. From 1815-1860, women stood up for their rights and the rights of others and were honored for their contributions to the family and church. 

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The Role of Women in the Second Great Awakening. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from
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