“Women will be no longer made the slaves of, or dependent upon men…They will be equal in education, rights, privileges and personal liberty.”
Robert Owen, (1771-1858) Book of the New Moral World: Sixth Part, 1841
Robert Owen was a change agent, by words and actions. Born in Newtown, a small market town in Montgomeryshire, Wales, he became a social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. He believed that when people cared about each other it would generate extraordinary outcomes for society.
At the young age of 29, Robert was part-owner of a Manchester cotton mill. Soon he took over cotton mills in New Lanark in Scotland. His priority was the workers whose livelihoods depended upon employment within his mills. He enhanced their housing and sanitation, provided medical supervision, and set up a cooperative shop that sold provisions near cost. His greatest dream was to educate children. He established the first infant school in Great Britain based on his deeply held belief that improved circumstances would act as a beacon of hope.
Robert’s ideas remain remarkably relevant for us today. In his words, “To train and educate the rising generation will at all times be the first object of society, to which every other will be subordinate”. (The Social System, 1826)
Robert’s life was dedicated to building a fairer society where all could live without fear of hunger or want, secure in the knowledge that their children would be educated and that their efforts would be valued. Both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels paid tribute to Robert, as the man who gave them the basis for their theories.
“Eight hours’ daily labour is enough for any human being, and under proper arrangements sufficient to afford an ample supply of food, raiment and shelter, or the necessaries and comforts of life, and for the remainder of his time, every person is entitled to education, recreation and sleep”.
From the Foundation Axioms of Owen’s “Society for Promoting National Regeneration”