Moral and Health Reform

[Photograph of a horse-drawn wagon in parade supporting prohibition, Hawkinsville, Pulaski County, Georgia, 1915]
[Photograph of members of the Toussant L'Overture Chapter of the American Red Cross, Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, 1918]
Clean-up Campaigns
Georgia Training School for Mental Defectives. Dormitory buidling - key plan

In the Progressive Era, female reformers were disturbed by the inequity they witnessed in Georgia’s distribution of public resources. Female reformers were also concerned by the changes they witnessed in living and working conditions of the New South, perceiving urban, industrial environments as threatening to the moral fabric of wholesome, healthy families and safe communities. Southern women responded to these social welfare concerns by creating a dizzying array of programs and services to improve the health and welfare of the community members, sanitize and beautify neighborhoods, and eradicate vice and immorality. In the minds of many southern women, ameliorating the physical environment could also eliminate social problems, ensuring a stable and orderly society with healthy, morally-upright citizens. While white women were able to harness municipal resources and local politics to meet their goals, Black women were often denied access to political spaces and consequently rooted their activism in Black neighborhoods, developing private institutions as a substitute for public services denied to Black communities by the white political establishment. Despite political disenfranchisement, Black female reformers navigated white supremacy in the Jim Crow South and created spheres in which they successfully claimed political power both as civic leaders and as mediators between the white power structure and the Black community.