Brewing of a Temperance Movement

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Temperance Parade, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1910. Courtesy of Hennepin County Library, James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The seeds of the temperance movement were sown by one of the Founding Fathers when he published an essay detailing his belief that heavy alcohol consumption could damage physical and psychological health. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a physician, turned public opinion regarding the “medicinal benefit” of alcohol on its head.

During the time Rush was writing his essay, a revival known as the Second Great Awakening was going strong, and led directly to support of temperance for religious reasons. Protestant churches took the lead, and The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826.

 By the 1870s, women had joined the call for temperance. The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) increased its power and influence as it allied itself with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women battling for the right to vote. Perhaps the name most closely associated with the temperance movement is Carrie Amelia Moore Nation, also known as “Carry A. Nation.” A Kentucky native and vehement supporter of temperance, she was known for vandalizing saloons with her hatchet, and encouraging her temperance sisters to do likewise, crying, “Smash, ladies, smash!”