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The Second Great Awakening moved west with its followers. Collin McKinney and his family were the first members of the emerging "Church of Christ" to settle in Texas.
One of the first social reform movements to
attract women was the temperance movement.
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The Second Great Awakening
Women's legal status partially stemmed from tradition, in which the man of a farm family would make decisions for the whole family. It also partially stemmed from religion. Many early Americans were Calvinists, descendants of the Puritans. The Calvinist creed was harsh toward women, considering them responsible for the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden. The Calvinist belief in an angry, vengeful God was rigid and not subject to questioning. One Calvinist belief, that of predestination, was of particular torment to women. Predestination taught that a person's fate, including whether they were to be saved or damned in the afterlife, was predetermined and could not be changed by actions here on Earth. In an era of high infant mortality, the idea of babies and young children facing damnation added greatly to the mother's grief.
In the 1830s, a religious revival swept America from New England to the wilds of Texas. Fiery revivalist ministers preached a new gospel. In emotional, ecstatic camp meetings, men and women alike flocked to hear about a loving God who cared about them as individuals. The new Christianity brought particular joy to the lives of women, as it promised them a reprieve from the loneliness and tedium of their lives and offered them a new purpose. According to the new way of thinking, Christ's salvation was potentially open to everyone.
This religious movement, called the Second Great Awakening by historians (the First Great Awakening was in the 1730s in response to the rise of science), empowered men and women to do things that they had never done before. For women in particular, the opportunity to take up causes outside of their family was new. They formed Sunday schools, founded orphanages, started charities to help the poor, and organized mother's clubs to promote education. In Texas, women were especially drawn to the cause of temperance, a movement that sought to combat the destruction caused by alcoholism. For the first time, women were publicly calling their husbands to account for their behavior. In following their hearts in their new faith, women had begun to play a role in public life.
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