The temperance movement was a social reform campaign that began in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the goal of reducing alcohol consumption.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a variety of problems, including health issues, family conflict, and crime. The temperance movement aimed to reduce these problems by encouraging people to abstain from drinking alcohol.
The temperance movement was successful in changing public opinion about alcohol and helped pave the way for prohibition in the 1920s.
putting an end to alcohol use
to give immigrant social services
about 8 million
to protest the consumption of alcoholic beverages
by physically barricading the doors to bars
These organizations’ work focuses on the principle of assisting those who are less fortunate.
to urge immigrants to become more integrated into American society
It was a person’s moral obligation to help those who were less fortunate.
Between around 1800 and 1933, the temperance movement swept the United States. Many Americans believed that drinking was sinful and that alcohol was a threat to the country’s progress in the early 1800s. Because of these views, there was considerable support for temperance, or avoiding drinking alcohol.
Temperance activists aimed to make it illegal for others to make and drink beer, wine, and liquor in the United States. Ohio was a key location for the temperance movement from the start. In 1920, Ohioans contributed to the success of Prohibition.
Hundreds of temperance societies sprung up across the United States in the 1820s. The American Christian Temperance Union was a significant organization. In 1826, this organization began with 222 local chapters. There were 8,000 chapters by 1835.
Early in the temperance movement, Ohioans founded local temperance societies. Trumbull County, for example, formed a group in 1826, and Summit County did so in 1829. Despite the fact that the number of groups in the United States rose in the 1840s, these small groups mainly worked alone.
American women were expected to have a pleasant home and raise excellent children in the 1800s. When their husbands spent money on alcohol, women didn’t always have enough money to feed and clothe their families. Many women backed the temperance movement because they believed it would address the problem.
However, most temperance organizations were led by men, and many would not let women to join. Women founded their own temperance societies instead. These women’s organizations began cooperating in the early 1850s. Susan B. Anthony, a woman’s rights activist, led the first Woman’s Temperance Convention in New York on January 13, 1853.
The campaign grew as temperance groups collaborated to win support. Many states even enacted prohibition laws, making it illegal to manufacture and use alcohol. The American Civil War (1861-1865) put a stop to these attempts, and alcohol use increased during the conflict.
Following WWII, the US economy switched from agricultural to manufacturing. Cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus grew swiftly as a result of this. Many Americans believed that drinking alcohol was to blame for urban problems like homelessness, unemployment, and crime.
The temperance movement started out as a moral cause. When Ohio founded the Prohibition Party in 1869, temperance became a political issue. Three years later, in Columbus, Ohio, a Prohibition National Convention was held. In the 1872 election, the party fielded candidates for president and vice president.
The temperance campaign shifted for women as a political and moral issue in America. With increasing public attention, women joined the temperance movement as a social movement. Women in Ohio, in particular, were taking more drastic methods to stop drinking.
Women marched through Hillsboro, Ohio, in 1873, stopping at every tavern they passed. They prayed for the souls of those in the bars and forced bar owners to pledge that they would no longer serve alcohol. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was created in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1874, following the Hillsboro march. Similar marches were held in over 130 communities by 1875.
The majority of female temperance activists were white and well-known in their areas. Their social status offered them the most influence over change. Even when there existed racial prejudice, African American women played an essential role in the temperance movement.
African American women joined temperance societies alongside white women in the northern states. They shared the same courses and programs, but their meetings remained separate. Jim Crow laws made it illegal for African American and white women to be members of the same temperance groups in the South.
Hallie Q. Brown, Sarah W. Early, Eliza D. Stewart, and Eliza J. Thompson are among the Ohio women who made significant contributions to temperance. These women and other Ohio temperance enthusiasts experienced challenges. Some women wished for a greater emphasis on women’s suffrage, or the right to vote. Some churches chastised women for not behaving properly. The cities of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati even issued ordinances prohibiting marches because they slowed traffic.
At the start of the century, the temperance movement grew more politically engaged. Supporters of temperance wished for progressive reforms in the United States, including the prohibition of alcohol. The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution entered into force in 1919. This amendment made it illegal to manufacture and sell alcohol in the United States.
Prohibition lasted until the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified in 1933. The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed or terminated by this amendment. After Prohibition ended, organized temperance movements lost popularity and power.
The fight against intoxicating beverages, known as the Temperance Movement, was the most widespread social movement of the early 1800s and also one of the most successful. It was led by conservative Calvinist clergy who were concerned about the social disorder that followed in the aftermath of the Revolution. This disorder was caused by the disruption of household economies during the war, by the deaths of fathers and sons in the war, and by the wild inflation that devastated returning farmers and artisans after the war. It was a response to all of these factors. In a shorter amount of time than any prior movement for change, the movement was able to garner support from a wide variety of people. Temperance supporters came from many walks of life, ranging from devout churchwomen to radical feminists, freethinkers to fundamentalists, high and powerful to low and degraded. In the same way that other early philanthropic organizations and reform movements did, the leadership of this movement transitioned in the 1820s from conservative pastors and lay people to evangelical ministers and lay people. By the year 1834, the United States was home to around 5,000 different temperance groups.
Despite the fact that the movement was most successful in the traditional strongholds of reform—New England, New York, and the Midwest among transplanted New Englanders—it also made progress in the South and the West. The supporters of the temperance movement had such a wide following that, by the middle of the 1830s, they had begun to fractionalize (following numerous agendas), which led to a drop in support for the cause. However, it began to rise once again in 1837 after the financial crisis, and the prolonged downturn that followed only served to exacerbate the social issues that were prevalent at the time.
Students may utilize temperance reform and the causes that led to the movement as a way to discover societal problems and potential solutions in their own environment by using this historical example. Students will benefit from having knowledge of such issues in three ways: (1) they will be able to see the tangible connections between the social conditions of the past and the social conditions of the present; (2) they will be able to understand an issue on both the national and local levels; and (3) they will be able to see the role(s) they can play individually or collectively in addressing the problems of their own times (and in their own lives). Students will have a better understanding of the reasons of social issues and activism in the past as a result of the contextual debate of reform, which will also assist them in identifying the same causes in the present.
The years following the American Revolution and leading up to the American Civil War were a turbulent and controversial time that saw extraordinary development and change. Industrialization, urbanization, and large-scale immigration all brought forth new issues of diversity to the Northeast, in addition to rising levels of poverty and crime. Even while it was being done away with in other parts of the nation, the particular institution of slavery managed to become even more ingrained in the South. As the nation extended westward, serious cultural and political differences developed between the different areas, and new wars emerged as a result of this expansion. People living during the Early Republic were restless as a result of uncontrollable swings in the expanding market economy, internal migration, and the accompanying loss of family and community bonds, as well as rising inequality. Many people had the impression that they were no longer in charge of their own destinies. A number of people were concerned that the democratic experiment being carried out in the nascent country would fail.
Women and men all around the nation, but particularly in the Northeast, organized themselves into reform groups as a response to the instability and upheaval that swept the country. Reformers, who were the social activists of the 1800s, endeavored to put the country back on the right track at a time when it seemed that it was coming apart in ways that could not be controlled. Historians refer to this time period as the “Age of Reform” because of the high level of action that characterizes it.
Religion served as the fundamental impetus for the movement that led to organized reform. Beginning in the 1790s, a widespread religious revival that was known as the Second Great Awakening energized Protestants, particularly women. The religious renaissance known as the Awakening started in small rural settlements in the American West, quickly swept over western New York, and kept expanding far into the 1840s. The influence of the Second Great Awakening brought about a shift in the function that churches and ministers played in the everyday lives of their communities. The Awakening was started by conservative pastors who want to influence and mold the destiny of the fledgling country they were serving. Calvinist clergy delivered sermons in which they emphasized the need of self-improvement, religious philanthropic organizations for women, and temperance groups. By the 1820s, evangelicals who did not speak from the pulpit but rather outdoors beneath tents or in open fields at gatherings that were dubbed revivals took control of the leadership of the Second Great Awakening. These gatherings were named “revivals.” This was a religion of the heart, not the mind, and the services were passionate, with fiery preaching, singing, emotional confessions, joyful conversions, and promises to be active in God’s name. Large numbers of people were drawn to revivals, and those individuals felt compelled to take action to correct the wrongs that had been done in the world.
Even if the desire for change was the most important initial component, the Age of Reform could not have come about without advances in transportation and communications. It was also necessary for there to be a distinct non-agricultural middle class; these were individuals who had some spare time (farm families had almost none) and a degree of economic success that enabled them to devote their lives to a particular cause without having to worry about money. They were the ones who spearheaded the reform movements, while farmers, mechanics, and their wives made up the rank and file of the reform movements.
The spirit of reform entangled itself in a wide variety of problems on a social, moral, intellectual, and political level. The Lyceum movement emphasized the importance of intellectual discussion and stimulation. The practice of hydropathy, often known as water curing, captured the interest of the country. Sylvester Graham devised a novel diet that did not include any meat or inebriating beverages. Clara Barton was the pioneer who established the American Red Cross. Insane patients received better care as a result of Dorothea Lynde Dix’s advocacy for the building of asylums. Phrenology, which is the study of a person’s skull in order to infer aspects of their personality, had widespread appeal. Reforming women’s clothing was a subject that was championed by some (the fashion of tight corsets to create “wasp” waists actually broke womens ribs and constricted their breathing.) Peace societies were founded by the citizens. Missionaries went to great lengths and traveled vast distances in order to rescue souls in other countries. Utopian villages were founded by individuals such as Bronson Alcott and others in an attempt to escape the rapidly commercializing and industrializing world that was occurring all around them. Horace Mann was the driving force behind significant educational change. Mount Holyoke College was the first institution of higher learning in the United States that welcomed young women students when it opened its doors in 1837. Everywhere you looked, people were toiling away to make the world a better place.
The real deal
Was there an issue that required a crusade to be waged against alcoholic beverages? In a single word, yeah. Drinking was a part of life there, and people did it at any time of day and for any reason. It had a far wider distribution than it does now. Drinking was something that males enjoyed doing, especially drinking spirits like whiskey, rum, and hard cider. They drank on all occasions, including whether they were working in the fields, working in the shop or office, building a home, chatting or arguing at the pub, harvesting crops, voting, and celebrating milestones in their history. Women of refined classes had the habit of not drinking in public, but a large number of them routinely used medications that included alcohol. Wine and fortified wines were consumed by people of both sexes at all hours of the day. It was not uncommon to see women from lower strata mimicking masculine behavior when it came to the intake of strong liquors (this is dramatized in the movie Oliver, based on Charles Dickens novel, which students may be familiar with). In addition to cider, both sweet and hard varieties, wine, and a medically recommended quantity of whiskey were consumed by children. (Milk, which is now the typical beverage for children, was only available from the time that calves were born in April until November, when the cows dried up until the next season of calving. At that time, families generally limited their consumption of this beverage at home because butter and cheese made from milk were important market commodities.)
Drinking has always been an important part of life in America, even from the first days of colonization, but the quantity of alcohol drunk considerably increased during the 1780s and 1790s, when out-of-control inflation brought financial upheaval and devastation for many people. As a consequence of their lengthy absence, many soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War returned home with worthless Continental dollars, and many of them also found themselves hopelessly entrenched in debt as a result of their service. In an effort to recoup their losses, creditors foreclosed on farms and sent individuals to jail for debtors, severely eroding both social and economic stability. As a result of the very real pressures that were being applied, public drunkenness increased to an even greater extent, and binge drinking reached new heights. This pattern persisted throughout the majority of the 1800s. In addition, immigration brought to our nation individuals for whom drinking was a regular part of their way of life. According to historians, the early nineteenth century was known as the “Alcoholic Republic” due to the very high levels of alcohol consumption, which reached their highest point in the year 1830.
The early leaders of the temperance movement, who were members of the conservative church and gentlemen of wealth, had the intention of converting people to the concept of moderate use of alcoholic beverages. But as support for the cause grew, the objective of the movement altered, first toward encouraging abstinence on a voluntary basis and then toward outlawing the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages. The temperance movement saw a change in its aims at around the same time as the leadership of the Second Great Awakening shifted from conservative clergy to evangelical preachers. The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance was established in 1826 by supporters of the cause. The society’s mission was to encourage individuals to make a commitment to abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages. The Society quickly transformed into a lobbying organization that advocated for stricter prohibition laws on the state level. By the middle of the 1830s, the nation was home to around 5,000 state and municipal temperance organizations, and the number of people who had signed the pledge had surpassed one million. The message was aimed at individuals of all ages, and as a result, there were hundreds of thousands of youngsters who joined the movement and became members of what was referred to as the “Cold Water Army.”
The reform of temperance was shown to be successful. Alcohol consumption reached its highest point in 1830 (at around five gallons per capita per year), but by the 1840s, it had dramatically decreased (to under two.) The campaign was successful in the courts on a few occasions. By the middle of the 1850s, the states of New England, Ohio and the Northwest territory, New York, and Pennsylvania had all passed laws that made it illegal to manufacture or sell alcohol for any purpose other than medical use. This legislation served as a precursor to the national prohibition that took effect in the early 20th century.
Of course, not everyone who supported temperance reform also advocated absolute abstinence, and not everyone who supported voluntary abstinence also supported the government’s role in dictating moral standards. In addition, there were those who disagreed with the organized movement and advocated for self-controlled, moderate consumption. In addition, proponents of abstinence did not always do what they advocated, especially when they were speaking in public settings such as temperance conferences. It was not a simple case of right and wrong. When the State Temperance Convention was held in Worcester in 1833, Christopher Columbus Baldwin, then a young lawyer and later the librarian of the American Antiquarian Society, explained in a diary entry that when the convention took place, some of the nearly five hundred delegates showed clear signs that they had not converted to the doctrine of abstinence that they professed to believe in. Baldwin later became the librarian of the American Antiquarian Society. In spite of the fact that he was pleased with attempts to change the destructive behaviors associated with excessive drinking, he adhered to the principle that one should drink in moderation. He went on to comment, expressing the thoughts of many others, that:
A movement committed to encouraging moderation and, more often than not, full abstention in the use of intoxicating drinks was referred to as the temperance movement (see alcohol consumption).
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the temperance movement gained prominence in many countries, particularly in English-speaking, Scandinavian, and majority Protestant ones. As a result, it eventually led to national prohibitions in Canada (1918 to 1920), in Norway (spirits only from 1919 to 1926) and in the United States…
However, by the 1820s, the movement had begun to call for full abstinence from all forms of alcohol; more specifically, it was encouraging individuals to give up drinking entirely. Additionally, the movement had a role in the passage of legislation that restricted the sale of alcoholic beverages in a number of states.
The temperance movement was a social reform campaign in the late 1800s and early 1900s aimed at reducing alcohol consumption. The goal of the temperance movement was to improve public health and safety by decreasing the amount of drunk driving, domestic violence, and other negative consequences associated with excessive alcohol use. Thanks for reading!