Temperance Movement in the US

temperance movements

temperance movements, organized efforts to induce people to abstain—partially or completely—from alcoholic beverages. Such movements occurred in ancient times, but ceased until the wide use of distilled liquors in the modern period resulted in increasing drunkenness. The stirrings of temperance activity began in the 19th cent. in the United States, Great Britain, and the countries of N Europe, where drinking had greatly increased. Relying on personal appeal, such individuals as Father Theobald Mathew in Ireland and Great Britain and John Bartholomew Gough in the United States secured temperance pledges by preaching that moral degradation, ill health, poverty, and crime were the results of alcoholism. In 1808 a temperance group was formed in Saratoga, N.Y., and in the next few decades societies sprang up in other states and in the British Isles, Norway, and Sweden. International cooperation was begun in the latter half of the 19th cent., one of the most effective groups being the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1874 in the United States. The WCTU and the strong Anti-Saloon League (founded in 1895 and now known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems) wielded significant political power in the United States and, turning from moral appeals for moderation and abstinence, demanded government control of liquor. Backed by church groups and some industrialists, they influenced the passage of many liquor laws and eventually succeeded in securing federal prohibition (1919–33). Among the outstanding women temperance workers of the period were Frances Elizabeth Willard, Susan B. Anthony, and Carry Nation. Among the effects of temperance agitation were the stimulation of interest in the scientific study of alcoholism, general instruction in the schools on the effects of alcohol, and government regulation. Unlike later temperance movements, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, these earlier movements did not view alcoholism as a disease and relied on government regulation and suppression of the liquor business to control the problem.

See J. A. Krout, The Origins of Prohibition (1925); H. Asbury, The Great Illusion (1950); J. R. Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement (1963); J. H. Bechtel, Temperance Selections (1893, repr. 1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Woman's World/Woman's Empire: The Woman's Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880-1930
Ian Tyrrell.
University of North Carolina Press, 1991
Well-Tempered Women: Nineteenth-Century Temperance Rhetoric
Carol Mattingly.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
Alcohol, Reform, and Society: The Liquor Issue in Social Context
Jack S. Blocker Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1979
The New Temperance: The American Obsession with Sin and Vice
David Wagner.
Westview Press, 1997
Frances Willard: A Biography
Ruth Bordin.
University of North Carolina Press, 1986
Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: Temperance Reform, Legal Culture, and the Polity, 1880-1920
Richard F. Hamm.
University of North Carolina Press, 1995
The City on the Hill: Temperance, Race, and Class in Turn-of-the-Century Pasadena
James, Michael E.
California History, Vol. 80, No. 4, Winter 2001
No Saloon in the Valley: The Southern Strategy of Texas Prohibitionists in the 1880s
James D. Ivy.
Baylor University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Frances Willard's 1882 Texas Tour"
Cross Currents in the International Women's Movement, 1848-1948
Patricia Ward D'Itri.
Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Frances Willard and the Women's Christian Temperance Union"
The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition
Herbert Asbury.
Doubleday, 1950
Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800-1930
John J. Rumbarger.
State University of New York Press, 1989
Prohibition, An Adventure in Freedom
Harry S. Warner.
World League Against Alcoholism, 1928
FREE! Light and Love: A Sketch of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Justin Edwards, D. D., the Evangelical Pastor; the Advocate of Temperance, the Sabbath, and the Bible
William A. Hallock.
The American Tract Society, 1855
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