In 1828 Owen returned to the United Kingdom and settled in London, where he continued to be an advocate for the working class.In addition to his leadership in the development of cooperatives and the trade union movement, he also supported passage of child labour laws and free, co-educational schools.These principles became the basis for the cooperative shops in Britain, which continue in an altered form to trade today.Owen tested his social and economic ideas at New Lanark, where he won the confidence of his workers and continued to have great success due to the improved efficiency at the mill.In the early 1800s Owen became wealthy as an investor and eventual manager of a large textile mill at New Lanark, Scotland.(He initially trained as a draper in Stamford, Lincolnshire, and worked in London, England, before relocating to Manchester in the 1780s and going into business as a textile manufacturer.) In 1824 Owen travelled to America, where he invested the bulk of his fortune in an experimental socialistic community at New Harmony, Indiana, the preliminary model for Owen's utopian society.In 1792, when Owen was about twenty-one years old, mill-owner Peter Drinkwater made him manager of the Piccadilly Mill at Manchester; however, after two years of working for Drinkwater, Owen voluntarily gave up a contracted promise of partnership, left the company, and went into partnership with other entrepreneurs to establish and eventually manage the Chorlton Twist Mills in the Chorlton-on-Medlock area of Manchester.
Encouraged by his success in the management of cotton mills in Manchester, Owen hoped to conduct the New Lanark mill on higher principles than purely commercial ones.
Robert Owen was born in Newtown, a small market town in Montgomeryshire, Wales, on , to Anne (Williams) and Robert Owen.
His father was a saddler, ironmonger, and local postmaster; his mother was the daughter of a Newtown farming family.
During a visit to Scotland, Owen met and fell in love with Ann (or Anne) Caroline Dale, the daughter of David Dale, a Glasgow philanthropist and the proprietor of New Lanark Mills, a large textile mill in New Lanark, Scotland.
Robert and Caroline Owen were married on 30 September 1799.