Throughout history, mankind has had the ever-recurring dream of creating perfection. In America, many of these dreams were put to the severe test of reality. More than 100 religious and socialistic communities were formed in the nineteenth century alone, in a widespread movement that involved over 100,000 men, women, and children. Though nearly all the communities were bitter failures and many seem to us today extremely naïve, they nevertheless made valuable contributions to American life — particularly in the fields of education, women's rights, and the abolition of slavery. For these contributions, as well as the communities' own great intrinsic interest, they deserve and repay our consideration.
This book gives a fascinating account of the history of several dozen of the most important and typical American utopian communities, emphasizing the Shaker communities, New Harmony, Brook Farm, the Fourieristic phalanxes, and the Oneida settlements in particular. The book is crammed with details of human interest and material on daily life, often quoted directly from the writings of residents and visitors. There are descriptions and accounts of the constitutions, revelations, beliefs, tenets, etc., of the communities; their customs as dictated by religious belief or social principle; the physical appointments of living quarters, dining rooms and work areas; the arrangements for care of children; community dances, songs, and other amusements; the communities' attitudes toward sex; the character and personality of the leaders and founder; and much, much more.
Stimulating and fascinating from beginning to end, this book is a popular but accurate study of one of America's most engrossing adventures. As interesting to the lay reader as it is to the historian or the sociologist, it promises absorbing reading and presents many ideas well worth mulling over long after the book is back on the shelf.
"An entertaining and in some ways a very instructive book." — Times
(London) Literary Supplement.
Reprint of the first, 1951 edition.
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