Hopedale Community

A pioneering experiment in Practical Christianity and utopian living, rooted in abolitionism, temperance, and gender equality.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Universalist
Founder: Adin Ballou
Founded: 1841
Ended: 1856
Location: Hopedale, Massachusetts, United States
Other Names: Hopedale Community, Hopedale Parish, Hopedale Community of Practical Christians

The Hopedale Community, also known as Fraternal Community Number One, was established in 1842 in present-day downtown Hopedale, Massachusetts, by Reverend Adin Ballou. This utopian society was founded on the principles of Practical Christianity, a part of the Transcendental Movement that embraced human perfectibility. Ballou, along with 170 followers, sought to create a community that blended the aspects of a religion-based commune with those of a factory town, ensuring it was not isolated from the rest of society. They constructed 30 homes, workshops, and a church to practice and live by their new faith. This intentional community stood for temperance, abolitionism, women’s rights, spiritualism, and education, aiming for a society where equality, love, and sharing were more important than religious dogmas​​​​.

Ballou envisioned a community where everyone invested their property into the collective, with credits allocated annually based on this investment. Should anyone decide to leave, they were entitled to receive either their initial investment back or ninety percent of what was credited to them. Despite striving for gender equality, with both men and women participating in democratic processes, traditional gender roles were somewhat maintained, as men generally took on governmental leadership roles while women were often given domestically oriented jobs. Nevertheless, several women did take on governmental roles and were vocal about equal rights and work compensation, highlighting the community’s progressive stance for its time​​.

conomically, Hopedale functioned through a combination of agriculture, handicrafts, and, eventually, industrial production. The community emphasized self-sufficiency, with members working in various capacities such as farming, weaving, and carpentry. The profits from these endeavors were used to support the community and its social programs.

Upon joining the community, members invested their property into it and were credited annually based on this amount. If they left, they could reclaim their initial investment or ninety percent of the amount credited to them. Ballou’s Universalist Christian beliefs strongly influenced the community’s focus on equality, love, and sharing, rather than religious dogma​​​​.

Socially, the Hopedale Community was progressive for its time. It promoted women’s rights universal education, and the abolition of slavery. Members practiced pacifism, refusing to participate in war or violence. The community also held regular religious services and educational meetings, emphasizing moral and spiritual development.

The Hopedale Community made efforts to create equality among members. While Ballou stated that men and women were equal, he believed that their roles were set by the creator, resulting in more domestically oriented roles for women and governmental leadership roles for men. However, women were involved in democratic processes and some took on government roles. A notable member, Abby H. Price, acted as a spokeswoman for equal rights and work compensation​​.

Members of Hopedale practiced Christian nonresistance, a strict adherence to non-violence, and lived according to the teachings of Jesus about peace, care for the hungry and sick, and loving one another. Ballou and his wife, Lucy, along with other community members, provided support to those in need, including meals and shelter. The community also operated a boarding school that was attended by many, including children who had escaped from slavery​​.

The community was founded on Ballou’s Universalist beliefs about Christianity, which emphasized living a good life on Earth as exemplified by Jesus Christ. It advocated for theological truths such as the existence of an all-perfect God, divine revelations, and the immortal existence of spirits. Personal righteousness and social order principles underscored the importance of reverence, justice, truth, love, purity, patience, and ongoing progress towards perfection. The community’s ultimate goal was to exemplify the supreme fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, advocating for a society built on perfect love and unity among the righteous​​.

By the late 1850s, the community began to falter. The industrial enterprise, which had become the main source of income, required more capital investment and a hierarchical structure, conflicting with the community’s original principles. Additionally, the onset of the American Civil War and the increasing industrialization of the surrounding area put further strain on the community.

Hopedale Community lasted for about fifteen years, going bankrupt fourteen years after the land was purchased. The intentional community was then converted into a textile factory town, with the factories purchased by George and Ebenezer Draper of the Draper Corporation. Despite its eventual dissolution, Ballou’s efforts left a lasting impact through his writings on Christian nonresistance and his work towards creating a peaceful society​​​​.

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