The Temperance Movement attempted to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed within a community or society in general -- and even to prohibit its production and consumption entirely. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union is a prominent example of a religion-based temperance movement.
Most of its main supporters (in all countries) have been women, often as part of what some describe as feminism[ref?]. The strong temperance movements of the early 20th century found support from women who were opposed to the domestic violence associated with alcohol abuse, and the large share of household income it could consume, which was especially burdensome to the low-income working class.
In colonial America, informal social controls in the home and community helped maintain that the abuse of alcohol was unacceptable. As the colonies grew from a rural society into a more urban one, drinking patterns began to change. As the American Revolution approached, economic change and urbanization were accompanied by increasing poverty, unemployment, and crime. These emerging social problems were often blamed on drunkenness. Social control over alcohol abuse declined, anti-drunkenness ordinances were relaxed and alcohol problems increased dramatically.
In this environment many people began seeking explanations of and a solution for drinking problems. One suggestion came from one of the foremost physicians of the period, Dr. Benjamin Rush. In 1784, Dr. Rush argued that the excessive use of alcohol was injurious to physical and psychological health (he believed in moderation rather than prohibition). Apparently influenced by Rush's widely discussed belief, about 2000 farmers in a Connecticut community formed a temperance association in 1789. Similar associations were formed in Virginia in 1800 and New York State in 1808. Within the next decade, other temperance organizations were formed in eight states, some being state-wide organizations.
The future looked bright for the young movement, which advocated temperance or moderation rather than abstinence. But many of the leaders overestimated their strength; they expanded their activities and took positions on profanation of the Sabbath, and other moral issues. They became involved in political in-fighting and by the early 1820s their movement stalled.
But some leaders persevered in pressing their cause forward. Americans such as Lyman Beecher, who was a Connecticut minister, had started to lecture his fellow citizens against all use of liquor in 1825. The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and benefited from a renewed interest in religion and morality. Within 12 years it claimed more than 8,000 local groups and over 1,500,000 members. By 1839, 18 temperance journals were being published. Simultaneously, many Protestant churches were beginning to promote temperance.
While it began by advocating the temperate or moderate use of alcohol, the movement now insisted that no one should be permitted to drink any alcohol in any quantity. It did so with religious fervor and increasing convictions.
The Maine law, passed in 1851 in Maine, was one of the first statutory implementations of the developing temperance movement in the United States. Temperance activist Neal Dow helped force the law into existence. The passage of the law, which prohibited the sale of all alcoholic beverages except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes," quickly spread elsewhere, and by 1855 twelve states had joined Maine in total prohibition. These were "dry" states; states without prohibition laws were "wet."
By the turn of the century, Mary Hunt’s efforts along with Elizabeth's and the other teacher's proved to be highly successful. Virtually every state, the District of Columbia, and all United States possessions had strong legislation mandating that all students receive anti-alcohol education. Furthermore, the implementation of this legislation was closely monitored down to the classroom level by legions of determined and vigilant WCTU members throughout the nation.
Temperance writers viewed the WCTU's program of compulsory temperance education as a major factor leading to the establishment of National Prohibition with passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Other knowledgeable observers, including the U.S. Commissioner of Education, agreed.
Because of the correlation between drinking and domestic violence -- many drunken husbands abused family members-- the temperance movement existed alongside various women's rights and other movements, including the Progressive movement, and often the same activists were involved in all of the above. Many notable voices of the time, ranging from Lucy Webb Hayes to Susan B. Anthony, were active in the movement. In Canada, Nellie McClung was a longstanding advocate of temperance. As with most social movements, there was a gamut of activists running from violent (Carrie Nation) to mild (Neal S. Dow).
Many former abolitionists joined the temperance movement and it was also strongly supported by the second that began to emerge after 1915.
For decades prohibition was seen by temperance movement zealots and their followers as the almost magical solution to the nation's poverty, crime, violence, and other ills. On the eve of prohibition the invitation to a church celebration in New York said "Let the church bells ring and let there be great rejoicing, for an enemy has been overthrown and victory crowns the forces of righteousness." Jubilant with victory, some in the WCTU announced that, having brought Prohibition to the United States, it would now go forth to bring the blessing of enforced abstinence to the rest of the world.
The famous evangelist Billy Sunday staged a mock funeral for John Barleycorn and then preached on the benefits of prohibition. "The reign of tears is over," he asserted. "The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs." Since alcohol was to be banned and since it was seen as the cause of most, if not all, crime, some communities sold their jails. One sold its jail to a farmer who converted it into a combination pig and chicken house while another converted its jail into a tool house.
There was often considerable overlap in membership in these organizations, as well as in leadership. Prominent temperance leaders in the United States included Bishop James Cannon, Jr., James Black, Ernest Cherrington, Neal S. Dow, Mary Hunt, William E. Johnson (known as "Pussyfoot" Johnson), Carrie Nation, Howard Hyde Russell, John St. John, Billy Sunday, Father Mathew, Andrew Volstead and Wayne Wheeler.
In March 1832 Joseph Livesey started his Temperance Movement in Preston requiring followers to sign a pledge of total abstinence. The term Teetotal is derived from a speech by John Turner, a follower of Livesey, in Preston in 1833. The British Association for the Promotion of Temperance was established by 1835. Within a few years the Temperance movement was advocating complete teetotalism rather than moderation.
In 1847 the Band of Hope was founded in Leeds, to save for working class children from the perils of drink. The members had to pledge to abstain "from all liquors of an intoxicating quality, whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine
In 1853, inspired by the Maine law in the USA, the United Kingdom Alliance led by John B. Gough was formed aimed at promoting a similar law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the UK. This hard-line group of prohibitionists was opposed by other temperance organisations who preferred moral persuasion to a legal ban. This division in the ranks limited the effectiveness of the temperance movement as a whole. The impotence of legislation in this field was demonstrated when the Sale of Beer Act 1854 which restricted Sunday opening hours had to be repealed, following widespread rioting. In 1859 a prototype prohibition bill was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons.
Despite this setback Quakers and the Salvation Army (founded in 1865) still lobbied parliament to restrict alcohol sales. Nonconformists were active with large numbers of Baptist and Congregational ministers being teetotal. In Wales Lady Llanover closed all the public houses on her estate and was an outspoken critic of the evils of drink.
The League of the Cross was a Catholic total abstinence organisation founded in 1873 by Cardinal Manning. In 1876 the British Women's Temperance Association was formed to persuade men to stop drinking and in 1884 the National Temperance Federation, associated with the Liberal Party was founded.
The temperance movement received an unexpected boost due to state intervention when the Liberal government passed the Defence of the Realm Act in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War. According to the provisions of this act pub hours were licensed, beer was watered down and was subject to a penny a pint extra tax.This situation was maintained by the subsequent establishment of the State Management Scheme in 1916 which nationalised breweries and pubs in certain areas of Britain where armanents manufacture was taking place.
However in the end the dismal example of the complete failure of National Prohibition in America in the 1920's put paid to any remote chance that the temperance lobby would succeed in achieving its aims in the UK
In New Zealand at the end of the 19th Century it became apparent that problems associated with settlement, such as larrikinism and drunkenness, were growing in society. Increasing urbanisation heightened public awareness of the gap between social aspirations and reality of the young colony. Generalisations from newspapers, visiting speakers & politicians in the 1890s allowed development of large public overreaction and fervour to the magnitude of the problem of alcohol. It became the firm opinion of a number of prominent New Zealanders that the colony’s problems were associated with alcohol.
Despite the efforts of the temperance movement, the rate of convictions for drunkenness remained constant in New Zealand. The rapid increase in the number of convictions for public drunkenness was more a reflection of the growing population rather than social denigration.
In 1834, the first recorded temperance meeting was held in the Bay of Islands (Northland). The 1860’s saw the foundation of a large number of temperance societies. Many provinces passed licensing ordinances giving residents the right to secure, by petition, the cancellation or granting of liquor licenses in their district. The Licensing Act of 1873 allowed the prohibition of liquor sales in districts if petitioned by two-thirds of residents. In 1886 a national body called the New Zealand Alliance for Suppression and Abolition of the Liquor Traffic was formed pushing for control of the liquor trade as a democratic right. In 1893 the Alcoholic Liquors Sale Control Act aligned licensing districts with parliamentary electorates. In 1894 Clutha electorate voted ‘no-license’ and in 1902 Mataura and Ashburton followed suit. In 1905 Invercargill, Oamaru and Greylynn voted ‘no-license’. In 1908 Bruce, Wellington suburbs, Wellington South, Masterton, Ohinemuri and Eden voted ‘no-license' and many wine makers were denied the right to sell their wines locally and were forced out of business.
In 1911 the Liquor Amendment Act provided for national poll on prohibition and the New Zealand Viticultural Association was formed to “save this fast decaying industry by initiation of such legislation as will restore confidence among those who after long years of waiting have almost lost confidence in the justice of the Government. Through harsh laws and withdrawal of government support and encouragement that had been promised, a great industry had been practically ruined.”
In 1914 sensing a growing feeling of wowserism, Prime Minister Massey lambasted Dalmatian wine as "a degrading, demoralizing and sometimes maddening drink."
On April 10, 1919 a national poll for continuance was carried with 51%, due only to votes of Expeditionary Force soldiers returning from Europe. On December 7 a second poll failed by 3363 votes to secure prohibition over continuance or state purchase and control of liquor. Restrictive legislation was introduced on sale of liquor, and by 1928 the percentage of prohibition votes begin to decline.