The Utopian communities existed in the 19th century and were considerably new civilizations. Often led by compelling leaders with secular or religious moral ideals, Utopian communities experimented much with different models of governance, wealth, labor, and marriage. Many of such communities existed in the early 1800 but later disappeared not to be traced. Most of the utopian communities were formed with an idea of creating a perfect society. Among such communities was the Oneida community.
The Oneida colony was established in 1848 by “John Humphrey Noyes” in New Yolk. Humphrey combined the marriage taboo ideals of the Shakers community with the cooperative ideals of the Fourierist to form the Oneida community. Existing in the years 1848-1880, the Oneida community was a religious, social group with a dedication to sharing all things including love, work, and property. Religiously, the community alleged that Jesus had returned in 70AD making it possible to form a millennial perfect kingdom with no sin. The community practiced communism, male continence, complex marriages, ascending fellowship, and mutual criticism.
All the members of the Oneida community were anticipated to work as per their abilities. The domestic duties were done by the women while the men handled other jobs. The skilled jobs were done by individuals with the skills. The unskilled jobs were done by the members in a rotation manner. However, as the community developed and thrived, it started to hire outsiders to work in the unskilled jobs. The Oneida was the major employer in the area in the 1870s with 200 outside employees. The community acquired a population of 300 with a complex system of government of 48 administrative areas and 27 committees.
The community had a strong belief in free love referred as complex marriage. Any community member was free to engage sexually with any other willing member. The idea of an exclusive and possessive relationship was ultimately frowned upon. The community however did not seek sex for pleasure without consequences since they understood the outcomes such as pregnancy. It was the responsibility of the whole community to raise children. To control the population, women over 40 years acted as sexual mentors to young boys since such relationships had minimal chances of pregnancy. Noyes mostly encouraged the devout and non-devout to date with the belief that that the devout would change the non-devout. The community also practiced mutual criticism. Any community member could be criticized by the whole community openly during a meeting. The desired effect of mutual criticism was to eliminate the undesirable character traits in the members. Though Noyes was criticized in most of the cases, the criticism was less severe as compared to other community members.
It was not until Noyes tried to pass the leadership to his son did the community fall. Noyes son, Theodore lacked the talent to lead. This move ended up dividing the community as another community member wanted to be the leader. With the founding members of the community growing old, the younger generation wanted to return to the old way of marriage. Following external pressures, the mixed marriages idea was deserted in 1879, and the colony soon broke apart. Some members reorganized themselves and formed a joint stock company. Marital partners engaged in traditional marriages with partners they were engaged with before the reorganization. This resulted in over 70 traditional marriages. The last member of the Oneida community died in 1950 in the New yolk.
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