Prohibition: Brewing of a Temperance Movement cover

Prohibition: Brewing of a Temperance Movement

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The seeds of the temperance movement were sown by one of the Founding Fathers when he published an essay detailing his belief that heavy alcohol consumption could damage physical and psychological health. This NoteStream explores the motivations leading to the temperance movement, the formation of the temperance societies, and the crossover with other reform movements.





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Prohibition: Brewing of a Temperance Movement

Seeds of Temperance

The seeds of the temperance movement were sown by one of the Founding Fathers when he published an essay detailing his belief

that heavy alcohol consumption could damage physical and psychological health. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a physician, turned public opinion regarding the “medicinal benefit” of alcohol on its head.

During the time Rush was writing his essay, a revival known as the Second Great Awakening was going strong, and led directly to support of temperance for religious reasons. Protestant churches took the lead, and The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826.

Temperance Parade

Temperance Parade

Temperance Parade, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1910.

Courtesy of Hennepin County Library, James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"Smash, ladies smash!"

By the 1870s, women had joined the call for temperance. The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) increased its power and influence

as it allied itself with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women battling for the right to vote. Perhaps the name most closely associated with the temperance movement is Carrie Amelia Moore Nation, also known as “Carry A. Nation.”

A Kentucky native and vehement supporter of temperance, she was known for vandalizing saloons with her hatchet, and encouraging her temperance sisters to do likewise, crying, “Smash, ladies, smash!”

Doctors Weigh In...

Doctors Weigh In...

"What the Doctors Say About Beer," a publication from the National Temperance Society.

Courtesy of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library.

Early Efforts

Following the Revolutionary War, alcohol consumption grew to the point where drunkenness was met with increasing disapproval

and abuse of alcohol was seen as a cause of poverty, crime, disease, spousal abuse and family neglect. The widespread availability and low cost of rum and whiskey contributed to the epidemic of alcoholism during this period; by 1830 the per capita consumption of American adults was estimated to be seven gallons of pure alcohol annually.

The first prominent temperance advocate was Dr. Benjamin Rush, whose 1784 pamphlet, “An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Minde and Body,” strongly influenced public opinion.

Temperance Celebration

Temperance Celebration

Broadside advertising a temperance celebration in Charleston, South Carolina, 1848.

Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.

American Temperance Society

Temperance associations were formed in several states before 1820, and the movement flourished with the formation of the American Temperance Society in 1826,

which counted over 1.5 million members within 12 years. The Protestant revival movement adopted temperance and clergy warned congregations against the evils of distilled spirits. By 1849, consumption of pure alcohol by American adults had dropped 75% per capita. The early temperance movements declined by the Civil War as the country focused on the issue of slavery and the threat of dissolution of the nation.

Crossover

The temperance movement was one of several reform movements underway during the antebellum and post-Civil War era in America, and at times the movements

and their leaders united. The religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening occurred throughout the U.S. and was characterized by evangelical Protestant preachers who reached beyond the elite parishioners of New England to the less wealthy and less educated. Their hell-and-damnation sermons produced new denominations, communal societies and reform.

The temperance, abolition, and women’s rights movements grew at this time; other reformers supported dietary reforms, restrictions on the use of tobacco, and dress reforms.

Women's Prohibition Parade

Women's Prohibition Parade

Women's Prohibition Parade; Glendale, Kane County, Utah, 1917.

Courtesy of Sherratt Library, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah.

Motivation

Women who would otherwise not speak out in public were empowered by their motivation to speak against the consumption of alcohol

in order to protect their homes and family. This activism resulted in the entry of some into the political arena where they advocated as well for increased marital rights, universal suffrage, and abolition of slavery.

Brewers and the liquor industry opposed giving the vote to women on economic grounds, believing that they would enact prohibition. Members of the reform movements differed in approach and philosophy and were far from united in thought or action.

William Abijah White

William Abijah White

Portrait of William Abijah White (1818-1856), a leader in the temperance and anti-slavery movements.

Courtesy of the Watertown Free Public Library, Watertown, Massachusetts.

Maria White Lowell

Maria White Lowell

Image of Maria White Lowell, a leader in the temperance, women's rights, and anti-slavery movements.

Courtesy of the Watertown Free Public Library, Watertown, Massachusetts.

Temperance Societies

Temperance movements began in the late 1700s, initially as movements to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption.

By the 1800s, temperance societies in America were promoting abstinence and working toward legislation aimed to curb drinking. The spread of the temperance movement was in response to high alcohol consumption during this period, especially by men, at a time when women had few legal rights and were dependent on the support provided by their husbands.

One of the leading temperance societies in the US was the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU grew from the “Women’s Crusades” of the 1870s, where groups of women walked to saloons and drug stores where alcohol was sold, to sing and pray. The goal of these events was to decrease attendance at saloons and increase attendance at church. The WCTU furnished “temperance fountains” in some cities to encourage the drinking of water instead of spirits.

Temperance Fountain

Temperance Fountain

Women's Christian Temperance Union Fountain, 1909.

Temperance fountains provided locals with a source of safe drinking water, thus offering an alternative to alcohol. Courtesy of the Watertown Free Public Library, Watertown, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Beatrice Cooke Fouse

Elizabeth Beatrice Cooke Fouse

Elizabeth Beatrice Cooke Fouse in a group photo in front of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union Administration Offices in Evanston, Illinois, 1924.

Courtesy of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library.

Sacramental Wine

Sacramental Wine

"Sacramental Wine Seized," 1921 newspaper article.

Courtesy of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library.