Advocate of the Moral Reform, January 1839
Document 4: Excerpt from the Annual Report of the Auxiliary in Mt Morris,
Genesee County, Michigan, Advocate of Moral Reform, 1 January 1839, p. 7.
Involvement in moral reform necessitated overcoming ingrained notions of female delicacy.
As "C. P." noted in her essay (Document 2 above), for some women this was an intense personal
struggle. But the following paragraph from a report from the auxiliary in Mt. Morris, Michigan,
indicates that there was a class dimension to this struggle. Moral reformers were not only up
against personal inhibitions or the objections of conservative clergy, but the notions of female
delicacy held by "the highest class in society." At issue in the argument against "fastidious
delicacy," then, was the definition of middle-class "respectability" as against upper-class
In creating the space in public and private discourse in which their cause could
go forward, moral reformers were seeking to position "respectability" on the side of true
morality and against a genteel "delicacy" that masked, and so permitted, sexual immorality.
Mt Morris, Genesee Co., Mich.
This society now numbers 43 members. In our own town public sentiment is with us.
The Advocate we intend to send into every family, and we find in every instance where we can
get prejudiced minds to give it an attentive perusal, their feelings are soon enlisted in
our cause. We are often met with this objection to reading the paper, that its tendency is to
familiarize the mind with vice, and on that account some refuse to receive it, lest their
children should be contaminated. As a society we have endeavored to do away this impression,
but we find it very difficult, as those who offer it are generally among what is called, the
highest class in society. These little winged messengers of yours are flying all around this
section of country, and are awakening an interest in the cause of purity and virtue.