Water Drops from Women Writers: A Temperance Reader

Water Drops from Women Writers: A Temperance Reader

Water Drops from Women Writers: A Temperance Reader

Water Drops from Women Writers: A Temperance Reader


The temperance movement was the largest single organizing force for women in American history, uniting and empowering women seeking to enact social change. By the end of the century, more than two hundred thousand women had become members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and numerous others belonged to smaller temperance organizations. Despite the impact of the movement, its literature has been largely neglected.

In this collection of nineteen temperance tales, Carol Mattingly has recovered and revalued previously unavailable writing by women. Mattingly's introduction provides a context for these stories, locating the pieces within the temperance movement as well as within larger issues in women's studies.

The temperance movement was essential to women's awareness of and efforts to change gender inequalities in the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In their fiction, temperance writers protested physical and emotional abuse at the hands of men, argued for women's rights, addressed legal concerns, such as divorce and child custody, and denounced gender-biased decisions affecting the care and rights of children. Temperance fiction by women broadens our understanding of the connections between women's rights and temperance, while shedding light on women's thinking and behavior in the nineteenth century.

Water Drops from Women Writers features biographical sketches of each writer as well as thirteen illustrations.


he abuse of alcohol in the nineteenth century and its subsequent effect on women led many to write in support of temperance. My title reflects the tendency of these women to speak of their temperance writing as “water drops” because they promoted the drinking of water in place of alcohol. In most of the fiction that follows, I have remained true to the original text, maintaining nineteenth-century conventions for spelling and punctuation. Occasionally, however, in cases that might create confusion for today's readers, such as spacing within contractions, I have silently emended text.

Compiling this anthology has been a pleasure, partly because of the fascinating authors and stories but also because of the support of colleagues, friends, and family. During the early stages of this project, Angeletta Gourdine and Robin Roberts, my colleagues at Louisiana State University, read headnotes and stories and offered suggestions. As I completed the manuscript, Karen Chandler, Ben Hefbauer, and Susan Ryan, my colleagues at the University of Louisville, gave invaluable advice.

Janine Conant provided a variety of assistance and support as I compiled the manuscript, as did the staff at the microfilm reading room at LSU. Claire Schlect helped to proof stories and gave suggestions about their inclusion, and Judi Kemerait and Irv Peckham kindly retrieved copies of illustrations for me.

I appreciate as well suggestions from two outside readers for Southern Illinois University Press, Jamie Barlowe and Shirley Samuels . . .

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