Historic Northampton

Historic Highlights

Northampton Association of Education and Industry

Northampton Association of Education and Industry

In 1842, members of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry established a utopian community organized around a communally owned and operated silk mill. Those who were drawn to this community sought to challenge the prevailing social attitudes of their day by creating a society in which "the rights of all are equal without distinction of sex, color or condition, sect or religion." They were especially united around the issue of the abolition of slavery. Most were followers of William Lloyd Garrison. Sojourner Truth was a member of the community and visitors like Frederick Douglass were regular lecturers.

Truth came to Northampton in 1843 to join the Northampton Association for Education and Industry. Though living conditions at the Northampton Association were spartan, no other place, Truth later recalled, offered her the same "equality of feeling," "liberty of thought and speech," and "largeness of soul." It was in Northampton that Truth came into contact with abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and Wendell Phillips. Through them and other members of the Association, Truth was introduced to a wider world of nineteenth century reform. Thereafter, Truth would become well known not only in anti-slavery circles, but in the women's rights and temperance movements as well.

Though the community was dissolved by 1846, its legacy lived on in the reforms that it fostered. In particular, Samuel Hill, one of the original founders of the association lived to become a major philanthropist for Northampton and Florence, establishing the Hill Institute, America's first free kindergarten, which exists to this day.

For more information, please see: An Abolitionist Utopia: Northampton Association of Education and Industry (1842-1846).