The reformer’s pulpit
DOI link for The reformer’s pulpit
The reformer’s pulpit book
During the forty years before the Civil War, many women channeled their spiritual energy through voluntary associations, particularly those focused upon reform. From the beginning of the century, various societies and associations arose to solve particular problems, largely in towns growing so quickly that government could not adequately address the needs of the population. Initially these groups included organizations dedicated to services such as fire protection, charitable associations working to facilitate poor relief, and mutual benefit societies providing widows’ pensions, insurance, and burials for subscribing members. With the spread of evangelical culture, new associations arose to further the cause of religion, including Bible societies, tract societies, and Sunday school unions. The associations were connected in hierarchical networks of local, state, and national groups and managed by officers and trustees, usually ministers and prominent laymen. Though men retained the decision-making authority, the work was conducted by massive numbers of female volunteers who sold bibles, distributed tracts, and taught Sunday school classes. They also did much of the actual fund-raising, providing money for male officers to spend, as they saw fit, on projects that women would then complete. By the end of the 1820s, women and men were devoting greater efforts to reform, and women were expanding their autonomy. Women formed their own societies, elected own officers, and made policy decisions about goals, methods, fund-raising, and expenditures.