one house, five families, 200 years of history

The Home of Reformers

The Caldwells used their home to promote the most controversial social reforms of their day, abolishing slavery throughout the nation .

Josiah and Lucy Caldwell bought this house on Elm Street in 1822. They had no children. In 1836, they took their three-year-old niece Margaret Ann into their home and later adopted her.

Many middle-class and prosperous Protestants like the Caldwells were influenced by a religious revivalism and a new ideal that stressed the moral power of home and family. For a few, these ideas inspired a radical mission. They believed that ordinary families who joined  together could change the world. The Caldwells' house in Ipswich became part of an international struggle to end slavery.

A Reformer's Parlor

For Lucy, Josiah, and Margaret Caldwell-and for many middle-class and prosperous people in the mid- l 800s-a parlor like this was the center of the family's religious and social life. Its warm stove, comfortable furnishings, lamps, and abundance of goods provided an idealized setting for a home life that nurtured "good morals and steady habits."

The Caldwells' parlor was also a center for antislavery activity in the community. Here Lucy held meetings of the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society, one of the many groups organized in the 1830s to work for the immediate abolition of slavery.

What social issue was important to the Caldwells?

Lucy Caldwell would have discusses abolition with her family or with her friends when the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society met in this parlor. 

Items decorating the Caldwell parlor would have conveyed the family's beliefs through religious imagery, moral messages, or other uplifting advice. The parlor table was a place for the family to sit together to converse or read from the Bible or popular periodicals. Lucy might have discussed the abolitionist literature with her family, or with her friends when the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society met here.