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The Reform Movements DBQ

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Published: Tue, 09 May 2017

American society has been developed over reforms and revolutions. Within the early 19th century to early 20th century, numerous movements took place that helped to shape American society into what it is today. Reforms such as the women’s rights movement and the temperance movement were significant as they helped to influence today’s society. Both of these reforms had different events that led to the development of the development and each had different outcomes.

Alcohol was a severe issue in America in the 19th century. The temperance reform began as the Civil War approached; economic change and urbanization were accompanied by increasing poverty, ordinances were relaxed and alcohol problems increased dramatically. In some places around the country the issue of alcoholism was extreme to the point of social disruption. ” More than three-fourths of the pauperism (extreme poverty), three-fourths of the crime, and more than half the insanity in the community” were created by people under the influence of alcohol (Document 4) In addition, because of these actions, prison, asylums and locations to hang people were created. This soon got out of hand, with the number of alcoholics rising.

In order to try and fix this problem, the United States government tried prohibition. It was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1920 to 1933. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandated the ban. In addition, on November 18, 1918, before the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, the United States Congress passed the temporary Wartime Prohibition Act. This banned the sale of alcoholic beverages having an alcohol content of greater than 2.75%. Because of this event, the temperance reform was thrown into action, with the prohibition banning the sale and purchasing of alcohol. However, this created more problems. Various images of lawbreaking and local bootleggers were a common thing in everyday society. This generated the conception that a widespread belief that violations were taking place with unacceptable frequency. Furthermore, the weak attempts at trying to regulate bootlegging created an impression that the government was unable to cope with lawbreakers by using traditional methods, which meant that new powers were needed to accomplish (Document 5). Because of this, prohibition soon became ineffective, as the enforcement wasn’t enough to cope.

To a medium extent, the temperance movement was successful. This is because although people still managed to sell and buy illegalized alcohol, the idea of banning alcohol and the reduction of it was able to get spread. Before the movement, people believed that alcohol was a beneficial thing, but after the prohibition, it was discovered that is a poison (Document 6). This helped the public see the dangers of alcohol and the influence of it on the body. Now, although no longer a severe problem, alcohol is still a social problem ins some parts of the country.

In addition to the temperance movement, Women had their own movement. Similar to African-Americans, women had little or no rights in the 1850’s. They were treated differently than men and were viewed as a lower rank in society. The women’s rights movement began during the 19th century where began to agitate for the right to vote and participate in government and law making. They believed that they perform similar tasks to men; they had to care of the family, clean the house, and watch over family affairs. Yet, they weren’t able to participate in political issues. In addition, they didn’t even have custody of themselves, let alone their children or the house. All of these belonged to the husband, yet it was the woman who took care of all these things (Document 1). Women such as Lucy Stone found this to be unbearable and so she took matters into her own hands. She spoke out for women’s rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone was the first recorded American woman to retain her own last name after marriage. She was one of the pioneer activists who sparked the Women’s Rights Movement.

One of the most famous cases of Women’s rights getting recognized was in Seneca Falls. The Seneca Falls Convention was an early and influential women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York. The meeting spanned two days and six sessions, and included a lecture on law, a humorous presentation, and multiple discussions about the role of women in society. An accompanying list of resolutions, to be debated and modified, was crafted to get signatures. This document stated that women wanted suffrage, the right to vote. Although not many states were affected by this convention, in places like Colorado, women were given more rights than in other states. The woman ballot helped to “give women better wages for equal work; second, it led immediately to a number of laws the women wanted…” (Document 2). However, the process was still slow. In 1869 the proposed Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave the vote to black men, caused controversy as it did not give the vote to women. The conflict caused two organizations to emerge, the National Woman Suffrage Association, which campaigned for women’s suffrage. It wasn’t until the Civil Right Act of 1964 was passed until Women got their equal rights as men: voting and equality.

To a medium extent, the women’s rights movement was successful. It helped many inequalities be identified and resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be passed. However, even in modern society, women are still often not considered equals. Even though they got suffrage, discrimination and prejudice didn’t stop. “Women still lacked equal access with men to those professions especially the law…”(Document 3). In addition, when women ran for political office, they had little or no support from the public. This means that they rarely win, unless they are from a high politically ranked family. In today’s society, this has changed quite a bit, but sometimes there are still cases of sexism in offices around the world. Furthermore, women in third-world countries are still mistreated, given little rights, and mishandled by men.


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