The Appeal of Female Moral Reform, Bibliography

What Was the Appeal of Moral Reform to Antebellum Northern Women?

Annotated Bibliography

Belyea, Marlou. "The New England Female Moral Reform Society, 1835-1850: Put Down the Libertine, Reclaim the Wanderer, Restore the Outcast.'" Typescript. 1976. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.

This brief paper is the only institutional study of the NEFMRS available. Especially helpful are the tables listing biographical data and affiliations of the leadership.
Berg, Barbara J. The Remembered Gate: Origins of American Feminism: The Woman and the City, 1800-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
This work and those of Carroll Smith-Rosenberg were the first to put female moral reform in New York on the map of U.S. women's history. Though her command of NYFMRS /AFMRS discourse is unmatched, Berg stresses overmuch the radical, feminist potentialities of the movement.
Boylan, Anne M. "Timid Girls, Venerable Widows and Dignified Matrons: Life Cycle Patterns Among Organized Women in New York and Boston, 1797-1840." American Quarterly 38 (Winter 1986): 779-97.
In this pair of articles, Boylan identifies the socio-economic parameters of the urban leadership of moral reform in comparison with other women's organizations. She finds that moral reform encompassed both young, unmarried and older women, and they came, not from the mercantile elite, but the emerging middle class.
________. "Women in Groups: An Analysis of Women's Benevolent Organizations in New York and Boston, 1797-1840." Journal of American History 71 (December 1984): 497-523.

Dubois, Ellen. "Women's Rights and Abolition: The Nature of the Connection." Antislavery Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Abolitionists, ed. Lewis Perry and Michael Fellman, 238-51. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979.

Dubois argues that the nascent women's rights movement found a more congenial affiliation with abolitionism than moral reform, although women in both movements clung to notions of gender difference.
Ginzberg, Lori D. Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
In this study of the intersection of ideology and activism of middle class women reformers, Ginzberg finds that the doctrines of true womanhood could both empower and subvert women's activism.
Hansen, Debra Gold. Strained Sisterhood: Gender and Class in the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.
This analysis of the class and ideological divisions among Boston abolitionist women throws important light on the BFMRS/NEFMRS leadership, since there was considerable overlap of personnel between the latter and the lower class, evangelical wing of the former. For a similar analysis of New York female abolitionists in a useful collection, see the Amy Swerdlow article below.
Hewitt, Nancy A. Women's Activism and Social Change: Rochester, New York, 1822-1872. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.
This seminal work identifies three groups of activist women in antebellum Rochester. Moral reformers were an important element of the middle, "perfectionist," group. Thus Hewitt calls into question Berg and Smith-Rosenberg's interpretations stressing the feminist content of moral reform.
Hill, Marilyn Wood. Their Sisters Keepers: Prostitution in New York City, 1830-1870. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
This is one of several works which view moral reform in terms of its contribution to developing legal, public policy, and law enforcement approaches to urban prostitution.
Hobson, Barbara Meil. Uneasy Virtue: The Politics of Prostitution and the American Reform Tradition. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1987; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
In the same category as Hill's book above, the early pages of this work focus on the NEFMRS. Particularly helpful is Hobson's reading of moral reform discourse. "True womanhood" ideology, which saw women only as victims, blinded moral reformers to the possibility of prostitution as a rational choice for young women.
Morantz, Regina. "Making Women Modern: Middle Class Women and Health Reform in 19th Century America." Journal of Social History 10 (June 1977): 490-508.
Though she does not mention moral reform societies, Morantz explains the appeal of health reform to antebellum women, which in turn helps explain why it was such an important part of moral reform advocacy.
Ryan, Mary P. Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Along with Nancy Hewitt's, this is a community study in which moral reform women play a significant part. Incorporating research from an earlier article (see endnote 47), Ryan argues that the moral reform society was part of a web of female networks in which women learned a Victorian ideology of domesticity which ultimately retired them to their middle class homes.
Scott, Anne Firor. Natural Allies: Women's Associations in American History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Scott has the best brief overview of female moral reform in a survey work. She views the contributions of women's associations in a generally positive light.
Smith, Daniel Scott, and Michael S. Hindus. "Premarital Pregnancy in America 1640-1971: An Overview and Interpretation." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 4 (Spring 1975): 537-70.
This seminal article, and others by Smith, presents data for the major demographic change that substantiates the shift from patriarchal to "republican" family formation and that underlies legal changes favoring women and moral reform's appeal to women.
Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. "Beauty, the Beast, and the Militant Woman: A Case Study in Sex Roles and Social Stress in Jacksonian America." American Quarterly 23 (1971): 562-84. In Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America, 109-128. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
This article, together with Barbara Berg's The Remembered Gate above, was the first to put female moral reform in New York on the map of U.S. women's history. Lacking the class analysis of later studies, Smith-Rosenberg presented the movement as another antecedent of women's radicalism, along side the more well known woman's rights movement.
________. Religion and the Rise of the American City: The New York City Mission Movement, 1812-1870. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971.
In this book based on her Ph.D. dissertation and incorporating the above article, Smith-Rosenberg presents in a later chapter the new institutional direction in which the New York society, renamed the American Female Guardian Society, went after 1846.
Swerdlow, Amy. "Abolition's Conservative Sisters: The Ladies' New York City Anti-Slavery Societies, 1834-1840." In The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women's Political Culture in Antebellum America, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin and John C. Van Horne, 31-44. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
This analysis of female abolitionists in New York is similar to Debra Gold Hansen's of Boston abolitionists (see above). In fact, this collection includes an article by Hansen encapsulating her findings on Boston women.
Walters, Ronald G. The Antislavery Appeal: American Abolitionism After 1830. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
Several chapters of this study of antislavery writing are useful for interpreting moral reform discourse. Especially insightful are Walters' search for commonalities between the Garrisonian and political factions of antislavery and his arguments about the nexus of power and sexuality, and the rift between revivalism and reform, in the perception of abolitionists.
Whiteaker, Larry Howard. "Moral Reform and Prostitution in New York City, 1830-1860." Ph.D. Dissertation. Princeton University, 1977.
Among the values of this full-length study, Whiteaker sees the origins of the NYFMRS in the context of, and in reaction to, rescue work with prostitutes, and he emphasizes the role of male supporters and opponents in the shaping of female moral reform.

Endnotes Document