19th Century Reform
America, in the early 19th century, as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of major metropolitan cities, instigated the rabid deterioration of public housing and instigated the rise of urban crime. With the lack of Federal Government Relief, the prosperous middle classes assumed the responsibility of caring for the underprivileged and desolate, such as the poor, the ill, the insane, the criminal, and most often the immoral.
Many reform groups were essentially based on pious view of charity and morality, often basing their movements on philosophical and religious elements, such as optimism, Evangelism, moralistic dogmatism, temperance, and fundamental belief of the value of human nature. Also, these reform groups were based on like-minded people with the same values, with sanguinity for creating the “moral government of God.” As such, charities set out to create large-scale institutions for the luckless, streaming away from previous private institutions. Religious morals were even executed by organizations with their employees, enforcing temperance in the belief that drunken workers were unreliable, as well as immoral. The other more pessimistic side of these reform movements was demonstrated in the rough and punitive line of action of U.S.
prisons and polices forces. Reformatories, such as Sing Sing, were particularly known for their harsh disciplines, exhibiting techniques such as silent periods and isolation in efforts to prevent “immorality” of the prisoners to connect and surge, often inevitably instead causing depression and madness. Other pessimistic views were made by those acknowledged the desolate reality of the unfortunate, rather than just focusing on moral optimism, like Dorothea Dix who worked to improve the conditions of female asylums and the Female Morale Reform Society, an unusual group of high society who recognized the desperate financial state of prostitutes.