Born at Newtown, Montgomeryshire, 14 May 1771, his father, Robert Owen, was a saddler and ironmonger in the town, and his mother the daughter of a local farmer named Williams. His only formal education was what he received before he was 10 when he left home to serve four years' apprenticeship to a Scottish draper, James McGuffog, at Stamford, Lines. After a short time as a draper's assistant in London he moved to Manchester where he made rapid progress in cotton-spinning. His business brought him to Scotland where he bought the New Lanark cotton mills for himself and his partners. There he initiated a great experiment in community building on which his fame rests. His work there entitles him to be called the pioneer in factory reform, the father of distributive co-operation, and the founder of nursery schools. His reputation was such that he was invited to advise on what should be done to meet the industrial crisis which followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars. He recommended the setting-up of self-sufficiency communities. For the rest of his life he preached this solution of the social problems and initiated experiments, the more famous of which was that of New Harmony, Indiana, U.S.A. His fundamental tenet was that character is fashioned by circumstances. His declared view that all religions were tainted with error and that men could not live in peace and harmony until they recognised this fact created a strong prejudice against his teaching. He returned to Newtown in 1858 and died there on 17 November. He was buried in the old churchyard, where the Co-operative Movement erected a monument in 1902. When the International Labour Office was founded in Geneva the gift of the people of Wales was appropriately a bust of Robert Owen by Sir William Goscombe John for the library.
Robert Owen married Caroline Dale, daughter of David Dale of Glasgow. Their children settled in America, the eldest, ROBERT DALE OWEN (1801 - 1877) served as the representative of the United States at the Court of Naples; DAVID DALE OWEN (1807 - 1860) made the first geological survey of the Middle West; RICHARD DALE OWEN was professor of natural science in Nashville University and won some distinction in the American Civil War.
Published date: 1959
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