Temperance Movement

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Temperance Crusaders Outside Family Groceries.jpg
A large group of women and some men gathered outside of Family Groceries in Waynesville, Ohio during the Women's Temperance Crusade of 1873-1874. The women were protesting the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The Temperance Movement was an organized effort during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to limit or outlaw the consumption and production of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

During the early nineteenth century, many citizens of the United States became convinced that many Americans were living in an immoral manner. These people feared that God would no longer bless the United States and that these ungodly and unscrupulous people posed a threat to America's political system. To survive, the American republic, these people believed, needed virtuous citizens.

Because of these concerns, many people became involved in reform movements during the early 1800s. One of the more prominent was the temperance movement. Temperance advocates encouraged their fellow Americans to reduce the amount of alcohol that they consumed. Ideally, Americans would forsake alcohol entirely, but most temperance advocates remained willing to settle for reduced consumption. The largest organization established to advocate temperance was the American Temperance Society. By the mid-1830s, more than 200,000 people belonged to this organization. The American Temperance Society published tracts and hired speakers to depict the negative effects of alcohol upon people.

Many Ohioans participated in the temperance movement. In 1826, residents of Trumbull County formed a temperance society, and Summit County residents followed suit three years later. Many of the earliest temperance advocates were women. Most men believed that women were best suited for the home. It was, according to the men, a woman's responsibility to raise virtuous children. Many women used this argument against the men. If women were responsible for raising virtuous children, women, they contended, should also play a role in helping those people who have become consumed by immoral acts redeem themselves.

For the most part, temperance efforts in Ohio remained haphazard. Localities might form their own temperance societies, but the various groups did not make a united stand against alcohol usage. A statewide effort against alcohol did not happen until the early 1850s. On January 13, 1853, temperance advocates held a woman's temperance convention. The participants drafted a constitution and created the Ohio Women's Temperance Society. Josephine Bateman, editor of the Ohio Cultivator's "Ladies Department," served as the organization's first president. For the first time in Ohio, a statewide temperance organization existed.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) weakened the temperance movement both nationally and within Ohio, but concerns regarding alcohol usage quickly returned upon the war's conclusion. During the late 1800s, the United States was shifting from a national economy based principally on agriculture to a more industrialized one. As a result of this shift, urban areas, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Canton, Akron, and Columbus experienced tremendous growth. Many Americans, including Ohioans, believed the social ills of the cities, including homelessness, high crime rates, and joblessness, all resulted from alcohol usage. Ohio temperance advocates, like others across the United States, began to use more radical tactics to stop the consumption of alcohol. For example, in Hillsboro, Ohio, in 1873, women marched through the town. They stopped at every saloon, approximately twenty of them, and prayed for the souls of the barkeepers and their patrons. The women also demanded that the owners sign a pledge to no longer sell alcohol. By 1875, there were marches in more than 130 other communities.

The temperance advocates faced some opposition for their activities. Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati city governments passed laws forbidding the marches, claiming that they impeded traffic. Ministers of some churches chastised the women for not acting in a lady-like manner.

The temperance movement continued through the late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Advocates during this time period became much more politically active, primarily through their support of the Progressive Movement. In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution went to effect. This amendment outlawed the production and the sale of alcohol in the United States. Prohibition remained in effect until the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933. With the Eighteenth Amendment's repeal, organized temperance movements declined in popularity and in power.

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