Higginson, Thomas Wentworth


Health Reformer and Minister

The Unitarian minister Thomas Wentworth Higginson was among a growing number of nineteenth-century reformers concerned with the health and physical fitness of middle-class American men. As one of the earliest proponents of “muscular Christianity,” Higginson formulated what became a highly influential ideal of middle-class manhood.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Higginson graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1847 and became involved in several antebellum-era reforms, especially abolitionism and women's rights. Like many Unitarian ministers of the period, he emphasized the close relation between nature and human spirituality—an idea closely associated with Romanticism— and like many reformers he promoted the cultivation of moral perfection in both individuals and American society.

By the late 1850s, Higginson was increasingly focused on health reform. He drew inspiration from the ...

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