Woman's Christian Temperance Union

From Ohio History Central

Temperance Crusaders in the Snow.jpg
Four women huddled under blankets and umbrellas outside a business that sold liquor on Ward's Block in Mount Vernon, Ohio during the Women's Temperance

Crusade of 1873-1874.

In 1874, a group of Cleveland women established the Women's Christian Temperance Union. This organization pressured the Ohio and federal governments to implement Prohibition. Prohibition would outlaw the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol. Numerous groups had supported the temperance movement before the Women's Christian Temperance Union, but this organization was one of the first ones to seek the complete end to alcohol consumption. Earlier groups focused more on convincing people to reduce their consumption, although these organizations would not have objected to complete abstinence.

From the mid 1870s to the early 1890s, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was the major organization within the United States seeking Prohibition. Its members utilized rather extreme tactics to convince Americans to abstain from alcohol. Members picketed bars and saloons. They prayed for the souls of the bar patrons. They also tried to block the entryways of establishments that sold liquor.

In 1883, Charles Foster, Ohio's governor, encouraged the state legislature to submit to constitutional amendments to Ohio voters for approval. Foster was a member of the Republican Party, and Republicans controlled the legislature. Republicans generally supported legislation designed to limit alcohol consumption. These amendments would permit individual communities to decide whether to allow liquor sales and consumption. They also allowed government entities to tax the transportation and the sale of alcohol. The Women's Christian Temperance Union played a major role in trying to secure adoption of these amendments. They covered Ohio's communities with temperance tracts. One supporter claimed that the organization had "sowed Ohio streets knee deep" with these tracts. Despite their efforts, Ohio voters, by a narrow margin, failed to endorse these amendments.

By the 1890s, groups such as the American Anti-Saloon League had joined the Women's Christian Temperance Union in its push for Prohibition.

See Also


  1. Cook, Sharon Anne. "Through Sunshine and Shadow": The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Evangelism, and Reform in Ontario, 1874-1930. N.p.: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995.
  2. Epstein, Barbara Leslie. The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America. N.p.: Wesleyan, 1986.