Patriotic Reformers: "Called by the Spirit of the Lord to Lead the Women of the World"
We are here to-day as the representatives of a great and growing society--a society so large and so far reaching in its influence that its name is a household word wherever the English language is spoken.
-- Annie Wittenmyer, 1878 Presidential Address to WCTU
BY THE FINAL quarter of the nineteenth century, women had firmly established temperance as a woman's issue. Beginning in the 1820s, women had comprised a substantial portion of membership in temperance organizations,1 and since at least the 1830s, they had published fiction presenting temperance as an overwhelming concern for women. From the 1840s, women had organized in independent, exclusively female organizations to fight for temperance, publishing their proceedings and resolutions in state and local newspapers. By the early 1850s, numerous women had begun to speak publicly in support of temperance, some confronting retail dealers and occasionally destroying their wares.
Often men's fiction and speeches helped to solidify this perception of women as the principal movers and beneficiaries of the temperance movement, and laws passed in some states furthered the notion that women were the primary sufferers of intemperance. For example, in 1870, Ohio passed the Adair Law, which permitted wives and children of alcoholic men to bring suit against saloon keepers to recover damages.
By the time women established the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1874, they felt little further need to defend their participation in the temperance cause. In earlier years, they had most often portrayed women as victims in an effort to justify their public action on