Utopian Societies Essay

708 words - 3 pages

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the woman’s sphere was expanding through social movements to remake and reform mainstream American society as a whole. No group of women, however, expanded to new territory as much as certain utopian societies allowed them to. These settlements sprang up in the 1830s and 1840s and called for radical changes in women’s sexual and reproductive lives. These societies were not based on the nuclear family and posed challenges to conventional notions of marriage. These utopian societies were the Shakers, the Oneida community, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. These three groups were all inspired by ...view middle of the document...

In the Oneida community, property was owned collectively and children were raised communally. Men and women rejected monogamy and practiced a strict contraceptive regime. Men were required to withhold ejaculation through sexual intercourse. Oneida had deep Christian beliefs and justified all of their practices in biblical terms. Although there was much sexual freedom, Noyes retained authority over all community life, including assigning members their sexual partners. This gave the community a “deep patriarchal air”, but nonetheless, it offered alternatives to women that were available nowhere else - housework was collectivized, males were responsible for contraception and women could have multiple sexual partners without being alienated from the community.
The third large utopian society that sprang up in the mid 1800s was the Mormons. The Mormons founded their community in 1830 in Palmyra, New York. In 1839, the Mormons numbered fifteen thousand members. The groups were eventually driven out west due to their acceptance of polygamy. Polygamy became an open practice when they migrated out west. In 1870, women were given the right to vote in Utah in response to federal pressures against polygamy in Mormon communities....

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