Mary Paul

ImageMary Paul (1830-unknown)

Jersey gem: Lived in utopian community in Red Bank (photo above)

Mary Paul was one of a few young single women to reside at Red Bank’s North American Phalanx, a middle-class utopian community. It was founded in 1843 by Rebecca Buffum Spring and her husband Marcus Spring based on the teachings of Charles Fourier.

The Phalanx was organized as a cooperative venture. Around 100 members invested in the stock of the community. As a reward for their participation, members received food, clothing and shelter. Single women like Paul lived in a dormitory building called the Phalanstery. The residential space included a communal dining room and recreational areas.

The philosophy of this kind of utopian community was centered on the division of work, which was organized according to 4 groups; manufacturing, agriculture, domestic and festal. Paul was one of the few women to belong to the manufacturing group. Members worked for only 4 hours each day and spent the rest of their time engaging in intellectual, recreational and artistic projects.

The experimental community was plagued by controversy. Its ideas about the female roles of wife, mother and spiritual center of the family did not align with the beliefs of those outside the community. Consequently, Phalanx received a lot of negative press in newspapers and magazines for its unconventional structure.

Paul remained in the community for one year. No matter how strange the Phalanx sounds to modern readers, its members took a risk by becoming involved in what was at that time a new and experimental venture.

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