The Temperance Movement

Concerns about alcohol use and abuse grew in the 1800s with the spread of saloons in the new western frontier. A group of reformers banded together with the initial goal of promoting more moderate drinking. Their movement, known as the Temperance Movement (temperance meaning moderation or self-restraint), started as part of a wave of social reforms, including focuses on child labor, women's rights, and the abolition of slavery, and the initial call was for more moderate drinking to avoid excessive drunkenness. By the 1850s, however, the Temperance Movement had sparked the creation of several other groups, such as the Independent Order of Good Templars, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the Anti-Saloon League, all of which publicly proclaimed the evils of liquor. By 1869, many of these groups had banded together to form the National Prohibition Party, a political party that called for making alcohol illegal.

The Prohibition movement became a way for women to begin to exercise some political influence. At the time, women in the United States had no direct political power— they did not have the right to vote, let alone run for office themselves—and many women began to rally around the Prohibition movement as a way to begin to affect the political process. Their forms of protest involved things such as demonstrations, prayer vigils, encouraging people to sign petitions, and even public gatherings during which hymns were sung. The women's goal was to convince people of the evils of saloons and, ultimately, to persuade the people who ran and managed the saloons to destroy their liquor and close their businesses.


The efforts of women around the country ultimately resulted in the Woman's Crusade of 1873-74. One of the leaders of this movement was Eliza Daniel Stewart, a woman who was often referred to as "Mother Stewart." Stewart had worked in the Sanitary Commission (an early forerunner of the Red Cross) during the American Civil War. The experience provided her with a certain amount of leadership skills— skills that she later used during the Women's Crusade as one of its founders and, then as an international speaker on temperance issues. Stewart traveled to Britain, where she helped to form the British Woman's Temperance Association. Still later, she supported the formation of the Prohibition Party, sponsoring several politicians including a candidate for the U.S. presidency. She published her memoirs in a popularly acclaimed book of the time, Memories of the Crusade, A Thrilling Account of the Great Uprising of the Women of Ohio in 1873, Against the Liquor Crime.

The increase in calls for the prohibition (or banning) of the sales of alcohol coincided with the rapid expansion of the American brewing industry in the late 1800s. German immigrants had brought beer (and beer brewing) with them to the United States, and by 1890 beer had become the largest-selling alcoholic beverage in the country. Large American brewers, such as Pabst and Annheuser Busch, shipped their product west by railroad, expanding their markets nationwide by means of saloons. Brewers developed their own saloons, where only their own particular brand of beer was sold. Fierce competition broke out among the

Groups like the Women's Christian Temperance Movement of the late 19th century proclaimed the evils of alcohol use. These women marched on Washington, D.C. in 1909 to present a petition supporting Prohibition.

different brewers, as one saloon after another attempted to win customers.

In an effort to build business, saloons tried to attract customers by offering free lunches (heavily salted, to encourage customers to drink more) and tried to attract younger and younger men into their businesses. The saloon's "business" soon expanded to include gambling and even prostitution.

It is not surprising that many Americans came to view saloons — and the alcohol they sold—with distaste. The Prohibition Party was founded in 1869, created to offer candidates for office who were committed to the banning of alcohol. The party put forward candidates for local, state, and even national office in many parts of the United States, but the party itself suffered from internal divisions, with members split between wanting a party that focused solely on the issue of alcohol to a more broad-based party that offered positions on many national issues.

Nonetheless, the calls for reform grew. By 1919, the reform movements had succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, or sell alcoholic beverages.

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