Robert Owen –A man ahead of his time
Yesterday on our first visit to New Lanark, a World Heritage Site, Danny, Doreen and I learned about an incredible man named Robert Owen. New Lanark was a Milltown which operated for nearly 200 years. In researching Robert Owen I am amazed that neither of us knew anything about him. New Lanark is only 30 miles from Glasgow.
Robert Owen was born in Wales in 1771, the son of a saddler and ironmonger. A highly intelligent and progressive-thinking man, he was influenced by the Scottish enlightenment.
Robert Owen purchased the New Lanark Mills from his father-in-law in 1799 and managed it from 1800-25. New Lanark became a model community and gained a reputation for its social and educational reforms. Owen began the first infant school in the world, a crèche for working mothers, free medical care, free education for the children and evening classes for adults. Children under 10 were not allowed to work in the mill and this was at a time when it was common for very young children to work. Owen also realized leisure and recreation were important and there were concerts, dancing, music, and a beautiful landscaped area for use by the members of the community. Owen also opened a store for the workers with lower prices and higher quality. The profits paid for the school.
Owens was a feminist, believed in equality for all no matter what their class, race, religion, and his work inspired fair working practices, the Co-operative Movement, and trade unions.
Extract from Robert Owen’s "Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark"
New Year’s Day, 1816
"What ideas individuals may attach to the term "Millennium" I know not; but I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment except ignorance to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal.”
Robert Owen - Utopian Socialist
Robert Owen Museum, Wales
Robert Owens and New Harmony, Indiana
Interesting note: All of Robert Owen’s four sons became US citizens. His eldest, Robert Dale Owen became a congressman and drafted the bill to found the Smithsonian Institution.
Doreen in the 200 year old New Lanark classroom