Oneida Community

Started by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848, the Oneida Community was a utopian society aimed to redefine traditional roles of women and families. They believed that Jesus had returned to the world and they could achieve a sinless society equal to Heaven, an idea called Perfectionism. Another name for their practices was Bible Communism.

Q- What do you rely upon for the regulation of members?

A- On religious influence, free criticism, and education

Goals and Tactics:

-Improve status of women -> made care of children a communal obligation, allowed freedom in dress and clothing, equal opportunities and freedom as men

- Communalism -> Stripculture (program to create a generation of perfect children who are raised communally and had limited contact with their parents)

-Mutual Criticism (allow community members to be criticized at meetings to promote the discarding of imperfect traits)

-Complex Marriage (no traditional marriage, everyone was free to engage in sexual activity with any other member, freed women of male dominance, and freed children of parental dominance)

-Male Continence (reliance on self-control of the men to limit pregnancies)

-Very religious: "The our only written Constitution...wisdom is the common law"

-Outcome: Noyes tried to pass the leadership of the community to his son, but he wasn't as dominant and a power struggle caused the crumbling of the community. The younger generation began to question the morality of the community and its ideas, such as Complex Marriage

-Oneida Community dissolved in 1881, and eventually became the giant silverware company Oneida Limited


Primary Sources:

The Oneida Association, "An American Utopia as It Saw Itself." Classroom resource.

Noyes, John Humphrey, "Male Continence." (Oneida, N.Y., 1872) Classroom resource

"John Humphrey Noyes: The Oneida Community." Excerpt from the Bible Communism by John Humphrey Noyes, 1848. Classroom resource.

Noyes, John Humphrey. "Bible Communism."

Secondary Sources:

"The Oneida Community."Classroom resource.

Brinkley, Alan. "American History, a Survey"


- "Community Members of Oneida."

"John Humphrey Noyes, 1851."

"Mansion House"