The Temperance Act Lyrik Brown

The Temperance Act. A movement led by a crusade of women, with some men following close behind. They cried for the end of alcohol drinking and alcohol abuse. Many wished for prohibition(laws that would ban the making and/or selling of alcohol in the U.S.). Many believed that it was immoral, and believed that it led to crime, negative impacts to families, and poverty.

Temperance was a large issue for late 19th century reform women. They sought to limit and end the amount of alcohol being consumed in America. This issue was popular with many women because alcohol consumption often increased the frequency and severity of domestic violence and abuse. In addition, men would often waste limited household finances on alcohol.


In December of 1873, in Ohio, New York, and other states, women led a revolt against saloon owners. In 1874, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union(WCTU) was founded, and under the leadership of Frances Willard, the WCTU became the most powerful women's organization in the late nineteenth-century. At one point, it united 150, 000 dues-paying members.

Frances Willard

Another group involved in The Temperance Act was the Anti-Saloon League. From 1893 to 1933, the Anti-Saloon League was a major force in American politics. Influencing the United States through lobbying and printed word, it led a moral crusade against the making, sale, and consumption of alcohol.

Under the motto "The Saloon Must Go," the league worked to unify public anti-alcohol sentiment, enforce existing temperance laws and enact further anti-alcohol legislation. At first, the league spoke with local churches to spread their word, but as they became much larger and established a loyal following, the League leaders focused their efforts on getting individual politicians elected who supported the cause.

Congress in 1917 passed a constitutional amendment declaring it illegal to make, transport, or sell alcohol in the United States. States ratified the 18th amendment, also known as the Prohibition Law, in 1919.

John St. John: Kansas Governor(1876-1883)

Six years before Kansas became a state, a group smashed a saloon in Lawrence. Later on, Kansas became the first state to constitutionally outlaw the manufacture or sale of alcohol(38 years before the U.S. amended the U.S. Constitution to prohibit alcohol), and by the mid 1870s, the Kansas Republican Party had taken on many of the values associated with temperance. Kansas voters even elected John St. John as governor, a republican prohibitionist.

Fun Fact: John St. John ran for president of the United States on the Prohibition Party ticket, but didn't win.

"Could we but dry up this one great evil that consumes annually so much wealth, and destroys the physical, moral and mental usefulness of its victims, we should hardly need prisons, poor houses or police" - John St. John

Many saloons refused to close and sold alcohol illegally, other men becoming criminals and selling and consuming alcohol in the forms of trades, gangs, and alliances. Some decided to take this issue into their own hands, such as Carrie A. Nation.

Carrie A. Nation(1846-1911)

Carry A. Nation had a reputation as a lecturer, speaking against tobacco and alcohol. She also helped organize a local Women's Temperance Union, and worked with those in prison and the poor and needy. Nation came to believe that alcohol could rob a man of his money and sometimes push him to a life of crime. It is also believed that Nation blamed alcohol for her first husband's death. She believed that radical actions were necessary.

Nation began smashing saloons as her career. First, her and her followers used stones and bricks. Eventually, she began using a hatchet, which later became known as her trademark. She is also known to walk into bars and greet bartenders with a, "Good morning, destroyers of men's souls."

Fun Fact: Small pins in the shape of hatchets were sold to raise money to pay for Nation's jail fines.

Known as the Volstead act(October, 1919), named after Judiciary Chairman Andrew Volstead of Minnesota, this law was introduced by the House to implement the Prohibition Amendment by defining the process and procedures for banning alcoholic beverages, as well as their production and distribution. When Volstead introduced an earlier version of the law in May of 1919, democrats countered with the "wet law". The battle between the two sides became known as the "wets" against the "bone-drys". The act remained in effect until the 21st amendment repealed it and the 18th amendment.

Daily Mirror Article

Although it took much time and fighting to enact the prohibition laws, they were eventually removed by the 21st amendment in 1993. Utah was the 36th State to ratify the amendment, achieving the precondition three-fourths majority of states' approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier the same day.

Even after the removal of the Prohibition Act, women fought for rights, not just including temperance. Even as men sitting in bars with their drinks taunted these women, they still pushed for progression, and have made it a very long way from where they began.


Appleby, Joyce Oldham, Alan Brinkley, Albert S. Broussard, James M. McPherson, and Donald A. Ritchie. Discovering Our Past: A History of the United States. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education, 2014. Print.

Chinn, Jennie A. The Kansas Journey. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2005. Print.

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “The Volstead Act,” (February 15, 2017)

W., Beth, and Nina T. "Anti-Saloon League Museum." Anti-Saloon League Museum | Westerville Public Library. Westerville Public Library, 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. <>.

"Women in the Progressive Era." Women in the Progressive Era. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. <>.

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