Powerful currents of religious revival and political and social reform swept nineteenth-century America. Many people expressed their radical religious and social ideals by creating or joining self-contained utopian communities. These utopianists challenged the existing social and economic order with alternative notions about religion, marriage, family, sexuality, property ownership, and wage labor.
Between 1787 and 1919, approximately 270 utopian communities existed in the United States. Due to its unique location on the young nation’s frontier, the state of Ohio was the site of much of this activity.
Creating a Perfect World examines Ohio’s utopian movements, both religious and secular. These include the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, or Shakers; the Society of Separatists at Zoar; the Mormons, who stopped in the state for several years on their way west; and several societies based on the philosophies of European social reformers Robert Owen and Charles Fourier.
In this detailed account of a unique and fascinating chapter in Ohio’s history, Catherine M. Rokicky profiles these communities and explores their ideals, how and why they were established, their leaders, and their members’ reasons for joining and sometimes leaving. She also examines the roles men and women played, their approaches to communal living and community property, their economic activities, their relations with surrounding communities and the state, and the various reasons for their success or failure.