Robert Dale Owen

On this date in 1801, Robert Dale Owen, oldest son of Robert Owen, was born at New Lanark, Scotland, his reformer father's settlement. When his father bought a town in Indiana for �30,000 to experiment with a model community, Robert accompanied him to New Harmony, where he edited the New Harmony Gazette, with strong freethought overtones. Although the community failed, it introduced Turkish trousers for women (later dubbed "bloomers"). His father returned to England, and Owen became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He worked with Frances Wright on many reforms and enterprises, including abolition, women's rights, pacifism, editing The Free Enquirer, and founding the Workingman Party. In 1835, Owen was elected to the Indiana State Legislature, and in 1843-1847 served in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he played a key role in founding the Smithsonian Institute and promoted public education. Owen represented the United States as a diplomat in Naples for several years. On Sept. 17, 1862, Owen wrote President Lincoln urging him to use his power to end American slavery. Five days later, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. To the concern of fellow freethinkers, Owen toyed with the spiritualism movement but was eventually disillusioned by it. His books include several on abolitionism, and his autobiography, Threading My Way (1874). D. 1877.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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