Mary Paul (1830-unknown) was one of a handful of young single women to reside at Red Bank’s North American Phalanx, a middle-class utopian community. It was founded in 1843 by Associationist Rebecca Buffum Spring and her husband Marcus Spring and based on the teachings of Charles Fourier.
The Phalanx was organized as a joint-stock, cooperative venture. Around 100 members in total invested in the stock of the community and 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 was centered on the division of work, which 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. The group had been plagued by controversy; the accepted female roles of wife, mother and spiritual center of the family, which were questioned by members of Phalanx, did not align with the beliefs of those outside the community. Consequently, 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.