Where the temperance movement was a middle-class reform movement, because it articulated the theme of self-control that was central to the middle-class ideology of the nineteenth century, some members of the working class also supported reform (Blocker, 1989). An ideology of Abstinence became a rallying point for middle-class people who saw the rich as greedy, the working class as increasingly restless, and the poor as uneducated immigrants. Thus, they felt the need to restore a coherent moral order, especially after the upheaval of the Civil War and the ensuing period of industrial greed. At this time, the United States was undergoing economic expansion and deepening division along class lines. Other reform groups, such as the Progressive political party, joined the prohibitionists in their commitment to rid cities of saloons so that the United States could move toward becoming a virtuous and moral republic. At the end of the nineteenth century, Americans seemed to be more receptive to moral than scientific arguments for temperance reform and abstinence from alcohol.

Members of the temperance movements were concerned not only with changing the behavior of other social classes and groups but also about changing themselves (Levine, 1978). They were concerned that the pernicious effects of alcohol were also destroying the lives of Protestant middle-class people. While some of these reform groups were not complete supporters of an abstinence ideology, they were concerned with rebuilding a national community and promoting the common welfare. Abstinence became the governing ideology of the many diverse groups that had mobilized to promote a new social order.

As more scholars turn their attention to the study of the temperance era and the various temperance movements and societies, additional knowledge and interpretations will continue to be published. The bibliography that follows provides examples of some new interpretations of this period.

(See also: Alcohol; Prohibition: Pro and Con; Treatment)


Blocker, J. S., Jr. (1989). American temperance movements: Cycles of reform. Boston: Twayne Publishers. Blumberg, L. U., withPittman, W. L. (1991). Beware the first drink! The Washingtonian temperance movement and Alcoholics Anonymous. Seattle, WA: Glenn Abbey Books.

Bordin, R. (1981). Women and temperance: The quest for power and liberty, 1873-1900. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Clark, N. (1976). Deliver us from evil. New York: Norton. Dictionary of American temperance biography. (1984). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Epstein, B. (1981). The politics of domesticity: Women, evangelism and temperance in nineteenth-century America. Middletown, CT. Wesleyan University Press. Gusfield, J. R. (1986). Symbolic crusade: Status politics and the American temperance movement, 2nd ed. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Hofstader, R. (1955). The age of reform. New York: Vintage.

Lender, M., & Houston, J. K. (1982). Drinking in

America: A history. New York: Free Press. Levine, H. (1978). The discovery of addiction: Changing conceptions of habitual drunkenness in America. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 39, 143-174. Rorabaugh, W. (1979). The alcoholic republic: An American tradition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tyrell, I. R. (1979). Sobering up: From temperance to prohibition in antebellum America, 1800-1860. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Phyllis A. Langton

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