Mary Paul (1830-unknown) was one of a handful of young single women to live at Red Bank’s North American Phalanx, a middle-class utopian community.
Established in 1843 by Associationist Rebecca Buffum Spring and her husband Marcus Spring the community’s creation relied on the teachings of Charles Fourier.
Organized as joint-stock, cooperative venture members of the community Phalanx invested in stocks. As a reward for their participation received food, clothing, and shelter. Single women like Paul lived in a dormitory building called the Phalanstery. The residential space included a communal dining room and recreational areas. The philosophy of this kind of utopian community centered on the division of work, which and was organized according to groups; manufacturing, agriculture, domestic, and festal. Paul was one of the few women to belong to the manufacturing group. Members worked for only 4 hours each day and spent the rest of their time engaging in intellectual, recreational, and artistic projects.
The community had begun to suffer a decline in numbers by the time Paul had become a member in 1854. Plagued by the controversy the group had accepted female roles of wife, mother, and spiritual center of the family. Members of Phalanx questioned this because it did not align with the beliefs of those outside the community. Phalanx received a lot of negative press in newspapers and magazines for its unconventional structure. Paul remained in the community for one year, as Phalanx crumbled in 1855.