Document 1: Oberlin Female Moral Reform Society
Annual Report, 18401

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The following is a transcription of the 1840 Annual Report of the Oberlin Female Moral Reform Society, written by Secretary L.K. Gillett. The report, which takes ample opportunity to thank God for the many blessings bestowed upon the Society and to warn against the threat of "monsters," actually outlines very few accomplishments the society had achieved in 1840. It includes many references to the fact that the group had "done very little" in that year. Instead, the document provides a powerful insight into the prominent role religion and humility played in the moral reform movement. The report also includes an approximation of membership, a brief summary of important visitors from the American Female Moral Reform Society in New York, and the total amount of money donated to their cause in 1840.

Document Text:

Annual Report

Through a merciful providence this society has been brought to the close of another year of its existence. We feel that as an association we have cause of deep gratitude to our Father who has poured so many rich blessings upon us during the past year.

He hath caused us to part with but one of our members although our association is so large. And in that (although we mourn the loss of our dear Sister) we can rejoice for her sake that she is now in full enjoyment of that blessed promise which was left to "the pure in heart." We have been cheered and refreshed by a visit from the Editress of the Advocate,2 and the Secretary of the American Society,3 and feel that we have a special cause of Thanksgiving to Him who hath raised up and placed in those responsible stations those who both spiritually and intellectually are so eminently qualified for them.

But it would be impossible to recount all our blessings. Yet above all we would acknowledge the blessing of the Holy Spirit -which has been so graciously shone down upon us and which has enabled many we trust to search their hearts and to flee to Him who alone can cleanse them from every stain. Truly when we look at the Lord we can say that he hath done all things well but when we look at ourselves we feel that we have cause of deep humiliation that we have done so little to advance this glorious cause. We fear that some have felt that in this place there was little to be done as the vicious did not seek a home here. May this not be the reason why the Lord permitted those monsters of impurity to come to and prowl in our midst. To awaken us to more energy in this cause and to show us that we are not safe from the intrusion and polluting influence of even the most degraded. Indeed we feel that this is a loud call for us to be up and doing for we know not but others of the same stamp may be even now in our midst breaking out their poison and death upon the boys and youth of this place.

This society was founded in 1835. There has been connected with it some 380 members, a number have left, a few have been removed by Death, but the precise number we have not been able to ascertain, not the precise number of our society at present. There are 71 numbers of the Advocate taken in this place many of them are sent out and increasingly circulated through the county and will no doubt accomplish much good, may we not do so much more in this way. There has been but $2.22 cents paid into the society the past year although there has been some private donations from individual members of this society to the parent society. We have done very little truly. But may this year be indeed the commencement of a new Era to this society, one in which, through the strength of the Lord, we may accomplish much.

In behalf of the Society,
L. K. Gillett, Sec,y.

[1] Transcribed by Kitt Disston

[2] The Advocate of Moral Reform published by the New York Female Moral Reform Society, Sarah T. Smith Martyn was its editor 1836-1845. Following this visit she was offered a position in Ladies Department at Oberlin College, which she declined. (Lori Ginzberg, Women and the Work of Benevolence (Michigan: Yale University Press, 1990), 113.)

[3] Reference to the American Female Moral Reform Society, Sarah Ingraham was the member visiting. (Ibid, 113).