Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform

Synopsis

Over the past 200 years, a health reform movement has emerged about every 80 years. These "clean living" cycles surged with, or were tangential to, a religious awakening. Simultaneously with these awakenings, out groups such as immigrants and/or youth were seen to exhibit behaviors that undermined society. Middle class fear of these "dangerous" classes and a desire to eliminate disease, crime, and other perceived health or social problems led to crusades in each of the three reform eras against alcohol, tobacco, drugs, certain foods, and sexual behaviors. A backlash began to emerge from some segments of the population against reform efforts. After the dissipation of the activism phase, laws made during the reform era often became ignored or repealed. With a few exceptions, during the 30 to 40 year ebb of the cycle, the memory of the movement disappeared from public awareness.

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