Revised by Rebecca J Frey

WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION The nineteenth century was a time of drastic changes in the way many Americans viewed Alcohol. Early in the century, on average, U.S. citizens each consumed approximately 7 gallons of alcohol annually, the equivalent of about 2.5 ounces of pure alcohol daily. Concern that the United States would turn into a ''nation of drunkards'' led to the Temperance Movement of the early nineteenth century. This movement was loosely organized, consisting of the following diverse factions: (1) the neorepublicans, who were concerned with a host of problems that threatened the nation's security; (2) temperance societies, such as the Washingtonians, which served as the forerunners of modern-day self-help groups; and (3) physicians, who came to view habitual drunkenness as a disease. The goals of these groups varied; they ranged from helping habitual drunk ards, to discouraging the use of alcoholic beverages, to advocating the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

This first wave of temperance activists met with some success—thirteen states passed prohibition laws by 1855, and average alcohol consumption rates dropped to less than 3 gallons per person annually—but this was stopped by the growing national concern surrounding the approaching Civil War. Although the role of women was nearly nonexistent during this first temperance movement, the early movement set the stage for the postCivil War temperance movement, in which women played a crucial part.

The years following the Civil War were a somewhat chaotic time. With the onset of the urban-industrial revolution and the concomitant changes witnessed in postbellum America, many people sought what Lender and Martin (1982, p. 92) term ''a search for order.'' This search found a home in various social-reform movements. Broad-based reform movements attacked a number of issues thought to threaten American society, including education reform, women's rights, and intemperance.

Aaron and Musto (1981) refer to this period as the second great prohibition wave. Many local temperance societies survived the Civil War, as did the American Temperance Union. In 1869, the National Prohibition party was formed. This group supported the abolition of alcohol and recruited women into the anti-liquor fight. The National Prohibition party advocated complete and unrestricted suffrage for women, and their enlistment of women into the temperance movement marked the first public involvement of women in the temperance effort.

The post-Civil War Progressive movement also influenced the issue of temperance. The Progressives believed that alcohol was ''the enemy of industrial efficiency, a threat to the working of democratic government, the abettor of poverty and disease'' (Bordin, 1981, p.xvi). To the Progressives, temperance reform was a means for confronting genuine social problems. Business leaders increasingly came to view the use of alcohol as incongruous with the new technological society that America was becoming. Alcohol symbolized wastefulness, rampant pluralism, individualism, and potential social disorder.

Frances Willard, the most influential leader of the temperance movement, served as president of the WCTUfrom 1879 until her death in 1898. (The Library of Congress)

At the same time, a growing number of physicians and temperance workers were coming to regard habitual drunkenness as a disease. At the core of the conception of this disease was its inherently progressive nature. Moderate drinking inevitably led to addiction, according to temperance workers, who proposed that as long as liquor was available to entice people to drink, and as long as moderate drinkers were around to act as models, then there would be drunkards. Increasingly, the blame for such addiction to alcohol was placed less on the individual and more on the society that permitted the sale of liquor and condoned drinking.

Some of the other factors that contributed to the milieu in which the women's temperance movement developed included better education for women, fewer children to care for, and the growing urbanization of America. As more household appliances became available and fewer women had to work around the clock at home or on the farm, they gained more leisure time. In addition, women came to be viewed as the protectors of the home—while, increasingly, alcohol was seen as a threat to the security of the home. These factors, in combination with an increased middle class and better communications, set the stage for the first mass movement of women into U.S. politics.

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