Title Image Temperance and Women

Women were active in the temperance movement from the early 19th century and became its driving force in the 1870s. Women often made up significant portions of temperance organizations and formed all-female organizations as well. Because women lacked financial autonomy, the problem of male drunkenness was their problem. The temperance cause was an arena in which women could resist vulnerability to their husbands and lack of political and economic freedoms. Many important suffragists got their start in the temperance movement, which became a "legitimate," domestic place for women to enter the public sphere. And, of course, there was also the small but significant problem of female drunkenness.

A Swell Head. Hand-colored woodcut.

Philadelphia: circa 1860's.


How could I ever think, to wed

A man who's always drunken;

Who really has so large a head,

It looks like a ripe pumpkin.

This illustrated comic valentine persuasively suggests that heavy drinkers will have trouble finding love.

Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor, signed the temperance pledge not just once but twice.


Detail from Apologies for Tippling. George Mouton Woodward, artist. Hand-colored engraving. William Charles, engraver. London: 1804.

This cartoon by English caricaturist George Mouton Woodward was engraved by the great cartoonist William Charles shortly before he emigrated to America.

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