Thousands of women were active in the temperance movement, which aimed to stop or at least reduce the drinking of alcoholic beverages.
Although temperance societies had existed since the early 1800s, the movement really took off in the 1870s.
In 1873-74 a “Woman’s Crusade” was mounted in Ohio, where hands of Protestant women invaded bars, praying and singing until they convinced the men inside to stop drinking. Sometimes they were successful, and bottle after bottle of liquor was poured into the gutters outside.
Soon after the Ohio crusade, Protestant women organized the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union(WCTU) to continue their fight.
This group, which still exists today, grew to include more than 200,000 members by the end of the 1800s. Frances Willard, who became its president in 1879, energetically urged its members to fight not only against alcohol but also for such causes as moral reform and woman’s suffrage.
The WCTU was a major force behind the passage of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited liquor sales, in 1919, just before women won the vote. Not all women supported the WCTU’s efforts, of course, and some were later active in getting the 18th Amendment repealed (in 1933).
Carry Nation was one of the most violent and most well known of the anti-alcohol activists. A newspaper photo shows the devout Nation kneeling and reading her Bible in one of the many jail cells she occupied after destroying bars.