The Laurel Hill Association of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, generally considered the first village improvement society in the country, was founded in 1853 at the urging of a local citizen and native of the town, Mary G. Hopkins. This paper examines the discussions among members of her generation and class that set the stage for Hopkins’ promotional campaign and, eventually, the wide acceptance of her ideas as village improvement spread through New England and then across the United States. Specifically, this study delves into a history of social activism, moral reform, and theories about taste occurring in Stockbridge, the Berkshires, and New England between 1800–1853. Life histories of several members of Hopkins’ family, friends, and associates are described, helping to shape a picture of the values, philosophical perspectives, and activities that surrounded this pioneer of landscape reform. This essay traces village improvement’s origins in the fields of scientific farming, landscape gardening, sermons from the pulpit, and literary arts.


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