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ENGL314: The Temperance Movement

Student-created guide on the Temperance Movement for ENGL314: The Rhetoric of Social Movements (Spring 2021).

Summary of the Movement

Women taking part of a prohibition protest.        The Temperance movement was a social movement that started gaining momentum in the 1820s and ended in the 1930s. The movement began when alcohol consumption was on the rise, and people began to form groups dedicated to temperance. The American Temperance Society is one of the earliest temperance groups that led to the future Prohibition movement. Originally the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, the American Temperance Society formed in Boston in 1826. The group focused on moral suasion, believing that people will eventually join the temperance groups after realizing it is the right choice. These ideas, coined “teetotalism” ideas, spread quickly in the next five years, and the idea on temperance started the early beginnings of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) and Anti-Saloon League (ASL).

        The Temperance movement seemed stagnant during the Civil War, as the public was understandably focused on other problems. After the war ended, the temperance movement picked up steam again by becoming more radical. Now temperance groups were insisting that the prohibition of alcohol should occur at a national level. Before this, temperance groups were local, focusing only on their immediate communities. The idea of nationwide prohibition appealed to many people, with most of those people being women and Protestants. Both the WCTU and the ASL were supported by evangelical Protestants, and they began to spread the temperance movement through uses of rhetoric and by influencing the institution. The WCTU used prayer, walk-ins, protests, and songs to support temperance, focusing on how the fight against alcohol was a “Holy War.” The WCTU also laid the ground works for the Prohibition Party to form. The political party was never remarkably successful, but did go on to become the oldest existing third party in the U.S. The ASL, though they did use rhetorical methods, focused on using the institution to achieve prohibition. They pressured politicians through the media and behind-the-scenes deals to make prohibition a reality.

        In the end, the Prohibition movement was a success, and the US government passed the eighteenth amendment. However, the social movement organizations involved in the movement had lost sight of their true goal, so the Temperance movement inevitably failed. Though alcohol was prohibited, people still wanted to drink, so the illegal production and sale of alcohol led to a rise in organized crime. The eighteenth amendment was repealed, and alcohol became legal once again. The goal of achieving temperance had failed, but the ideas behind the movement continued. Even after alcohol was legalized again, people still fought against alcohol in other ways, such as making alcohol ads seem less appealing to youths. 

Timeline of the Movement


Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts attempts to prohibit alcoholic beverages in Boston. This is considered the first moment of the temperance movement. Protestants and other temperance supporters began to preach against alcohol, specifically the "dangerous" spirits, and suggested people instead drink beer and wine. This is the Genesis stage of the movement where new ideas are being introduced to the public.


The American Society of the Promotion of Temperance is formed. Groups began to form, uniting their efforts to form a temperate society. Preachers and supporters of the movement began to travel and included religious figures such as John B. Gough and Father Theobald Mathew, and even included well-known figures like P. T. Barnum. This is the Social Unrest stage of the movement where groups and unions begin to form, and the members begin to form their own identity separate from the rest of society.


Dr. Diocletian Lewis sparks the Women's Crusade. They would walk into establishments that sold alcohol and pray until the establishment ceased their sale of liquor. This three year campaign against alcohol ends with the formation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. This is the Mobilization stage of the social movement where the members began to make public campaigns and symbolic actions to bring about a change to society.


Drafts for the 18th amendment begin to be made. Wayne Wheeler is directly involved with this. In 1920, the 18th amendment goes into effect, enacting a nationwide prohibition. This is the Maintenance stage of the social movement where the members are beginning to work with the institution to bring about change and are mostly trying to keep the support for their movement.


After the rise of organized crime and "speakeasies", the 21st amendment is enacted in 1933, repealing the 18th amendment. Temperance groups see a fall in memberships, and they are less successful in their campaigns. This is the Termination stage of the social movement where the movement begins to fade from the public's sight as a result of losing support and membership.



Key Actors and/or Leaders

Lyman Beecher

Lyman Beecher

- Beecher was one of the founders of the American Temperance Society, along with Justin Edwards.

- Beecher shared his co-founder's dream to let drunkards slowly fade away from society.

- Beecher was very Anti-Catholic and racist.

Dr. Diocletian Lewis

Diocletian Lewis

- Lewis' lectures led to the initial Women's Crusade, and subsequently led to the formation of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

- Lewis was opposed to immigration, seeing immigrants as immoral as a result of their rampant alcohol consumption.

- Lewis was actually against prohibition, believing strongly in personal liberty.

Frances Elizabeth Willard

Frances Willard

- Willard was one of the most well-known leaders of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

- Willard played a pivotal role in the formation of the Prohibition Party.

- In addition to prohibition, Willard fought for women's suffrage, an end to prostitution, and prison reformation.


Howard Hyde Russell

Howard Russell

- Russell was one of the early founders of the Anti-Saloon League.

- Russell believed that the Anti-Saloon League could serve as a way of uniting the churches of America.

- Russell was the one to recruit Wayne Wheeler, an important member of the Anti-Saloon League

Wayne Wheeler

Wayne Wheeler

- Wheeler was one of the most prevalent figures in the Temperance movement, and was a member of the Anti-Saloon League.

- Wheeler believed in the use of "pressure politics" to manipulate government into enacting prohibition nationwide.

- Wheeler targeted and drove out of office seventy Ohio state legislatures that opposed the league during his earlier years in the Anti-Saloon League.

More on Wayne Wheeler

Examples of Movement Rhetoric

Image Text:An alcohol bottle with words depicting the evil that booze can cause. It makes references to statistics related to alcohol.

(Top to Bottom)

"What the Bottle Does."

"On Year's Work."

"Untold crime, misery, woe, want, weeping, wailing, war,  shame, disgrace, disease, degradation, debauchery, destruction, death, riot, revelry"

"Ruin and $2,000,000,000 in cold, hard cash" 

(In the box) 

"Fluid extract of hell." 

"Guaranteed to kill boys." 

(Left of box) 

"100,000 Orphaned Children." 

"40,000 Widowed Wives." 

(Right of Box) 

"100,000 Drunkards die yearly." 

"100,000 Boys Take their place." 

(Under Box) 

"2,500 smothered babies." 

"3,000 murdered wives." 

"6,000 fallen girls." 

"100,000 criminals." 

"10,000 murderers." 

"10,000 paupers." 

"100,000 insane." 

"5,000 suicides." 

(Beneath the Bottle)

"Public Sentiment"

(Left to Right)

"Newspapers, Liquor Dealers, Indifferent Church Members"


Rhetoric Situation:

The temperance groups at the time were pushing hard for the government to prohibit alcohol, so the Anti-Saloon league was trying to influence the publics opinion with this pamphlet. The intended audience were the people in Virginia that were not yet supporting the Anti-Saloon League.

Persuasive Functions:

- Transforming Perceptions of Social Reality

- Legitimizing the Social movement

- Sustaining the Social Movement

Woman's Holy War prohibition cartoon.Image Text:

(Top to Bottom, Left to Right)

"In the Name of God and Humanity"

"Temperance League"

"Wine and Liquor"






"Woman's Holy War."

"Grand Charge on the Enemy's Works."


Rhetoric Situation:

The women's "Crusades" at the time involved going to establishments where liquor was sold and praying. This rhetoric method led to the idea that the women were having a holy war against alcohol. The cartoon works with this concept to inspire more women to "take up arms" in this fight against alcohol. The intended audience is women who are ready to rally together and join the WCTU.

Persuasive Functions:

 - Transforming Perceptions of Social Reality

 - Altering Self-Perceptions of Protestors

 - Sustaining the Social Movement


Symbolism for how alcoholism progresses.Image Text:

(Top to Bottom)

"A glass of wine is not a sin."

"Be moderate."

"Take a little for your stomach's sake."

"You can stop when you please."

"Go slow and there is no danger."

"Stop here."

(The Buildings)


"Social Club."

"Saloon. Ladies' Entrance."


Rhetoric Situation:

The Anti-Saloon League used "Dry Propaganda" to influence the public into supporting the temperance movement. This cartoon was made in response to the public's "ignorance" of the dangers of alcohol. The intended audience was originally the public at large, though the Anti-Saloon League aimed specifically for "unenlightened" civilians.

Persuasive Function:

 - Transforming Perceptions of Social Reality

 - Sustaining the Social Movement


Cover for a list of women's prohibition songs.Image Text:

(Top to Bottom)

"Dedicated to the Women's Crusade"

"Against Liquor Throughout the World."


"Song and Chorus"

"The Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine"

(Left of Box)

"Words by Sam Booth."

(Right of Box)

"Music by Geo. T. Evans."


Rhetoric Situation:

Temperance songs were used to unite protestors during rallies, marches, and protests. Songs may be able to convince the public of the movement's ideology better than other forms of rhetoric. The intended audience were those who supported alcoholism,

Persuasive Function:

 - Transforming Perceptions of Social Reality

 - Altering Self-Perceptions of Protestors

 - Prescribing Courses of Action

 - Mobilizing for Action


Newspaper page with an article on prohibition.Image Text:

(Not a chance. I'm not a masochist.)

Link to the Image: Go to the 3rd Page

The newspaper is an issue of the New York herald, and the newspaper is depicting March 2nd, 1874.


Rhetoric Situation:

Women were doing their praying "Crusades" in New York, and Dr. Diocletian Lewis used this as an opportunity to appeal to the public and legitimize the movement. The intended audience was the public at large, specifically those who opposed the woman's acts of protest.

Persuasive Functions:

 - Transforming Perceptions of Social Reality

 - Legitimizing the Social Movement

 - Sustaining the Social Movement

Rhetorical Analysis of Movement Rhetoric

        The “What the Bottle Does” pamphlet attempts to appeal to the ethos, logos, and pathos of the audience simultaneously. This pamphlet was made somewhere between 1901-1916, a time when temperance groups were in full swing in their attempts to prohibit alcohol.  The “Bottle” appeals to the ethos of the public with its references to the Holy Bible and Hell. The ASL labels alcohol “Fluid Extract from Hell” to suggest that alcohol came from the devil and was nothing more than a tempting sin. It also tries to justify its claim by uses passages from the bible that mention how drinking is sinful and will lead you down an unrighteous path. The “Bottle” appeals to the logos of the audience by having statistics of all the people who suffer as a result of alcohol, and what those people became. This tactic was mostly used to bolster the ASL’s appeal to pathos rather than logos, as there is very little evidence of their claims. The “Bottle” appeals to the pathos of the audience by using ideographs and focusing on the effects on the family. The bottle has a list of ideographs that bring to mind ideas of the hardships those related to alcohol will go through. The emphasize is on the heartache and destruction that alcohol can cause in both relationships and society. The statistics are used to further the idea of devastation, mentioning “smothered babies” and “orphaned children.” 

        The “Bottle” pamphlet’s persuasive functions in this instance were mostly to transform the public's perception of reality. Alcohol is commonplace, a social norm, so the pamphlet tries to portray the environment that has existed as something evil. This way the audience was not “wrong” in their beliefs, but merely ignorant of an ever-present problem. The ASL “enlightened” them with the truth. Other persuasive functions the “Bottle” has include sustaining the movement and legitimizing the movement. The pamphlets are used to spread the ideas of the movement. It is not necessarily recruiting others, but rather making sure the ASL gets their message out. The references to the bible are used to give legitimacy to the pamphlet's claims and, by extension, the movement itself. 

        The temperance cartoon “The Downward Path” depicts the metaphorical slope that alcoholics go down when they drink alcohol. The cartoon appeals to the pathos of the audience by focusing on the rational showcased by the poster-boards and people as they walk down the path. The back of the cartoon has a building labeled home. The poster depicts a very modest drinking habit, and the people are dressed in stately clothes. This highlights the orderly lives of non-alcoholics and makes the lives of these people seem enviable. As the path continues, the posters’ strict ideas on alcohol begins to loosen, and the people walking down the path become more and more wild. The gradual change is very similar to the rational a person would use as they walk down the path towards alcoholism. From the home, the people move onto social clubs and saloons until they finally fall into a pit, unable to stop themselves. The symbolism could be relatable and can cause fear in the audience. The cartoon also appeals slightly to the ethos of the audience. The pit at the end of the path represents Hell, and how drinking will inevitably lead you to damnation. 

        The persuasive functions of “The Downward Path” are the transformation of social perceptions and the sustaining of the social movement. The cartoon symbolizes alcoholism as a growing addiction, that steadily moves from a glass of wine at home to drunkenly going to the saloon. The people’s progress from refined members of society to depraved beasts of revelry can shock the audience. This can cause the audience to reevaluate both themselves and others as they try to avoid going down that path. The fear of having no self-control may be the push the audience needs to support the temperance movement. In this way, the cartoon sustains the movement by making more people aware of the dangers of alcoholism. 

        The song “Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine” appeals to the pathos and ethos of the audience. Based on the poem that shares its name, the “Lips” song describes the wickedness of alcohol, the trails of women, and the women’s strength to prevail. The appeal to the audience’s ethos is achieved through the personification of alcohol as the devil and how God guides the women in their fight against “the Devil of Rum.” This song, used by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), used the idea that the women were crusading in a holy war. The idea that what they were doing was ordained by God gave the movement some legitimacy. The “Lips” song appealed to the pathos of the audience by describing the wasted potential of those affected by alcohol, and how the women were the saviors to those under alcohol’s influence. 

        The song serves many persuasive functions, with the most adamant of them being the altering of self-perception. The “Lips” song describes how women are also victims of alcohol, and how they are the warriors who can unite to defeat alcohol. The song highlights women as having power in this situation, and how women need to take action to change the situation around them. More persuasive functions the song has are prescribing a course of action and mobilizing for action. The “lips” song mentions how the song itself can serve as the women’s weapon against the forces of alcohol. It mentions how the lyrics “Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine” can be used as a motto, banner, and sign. Women could take the song literally and refuse to reciprocate feelings of love toward men who drink. Alternatively, the song could be used to untie the women in public, as mentioned in the previous section. The final persuasive function of the song is how the public would look at the women as saviors rather than victims. The song’s message is more focused on altering their own self-perceptions, but that does not stop the song from transforming the perceptions of others as well. 

Lyrics to "Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine"

Verse 1 

The Demon of Rum is abroad in the land, 

His victims are falling on every hand, 

The wise and the simple, the brave and the fair, 

No station too high for his vengeance to spare, 

O women, the sorrow and pain is with you, 

And so be the joy and the victory too; 

With this for your motto and succor divine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine. 


With this for your motto and succor divine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine. 

Verse 2 

The homes that were happy are ruined, and gone, 

The hearts that were merry are wretched and lone, 

And lives full of promise of good things to come, 

Are ruined and wreck’d by the demon of Rum, 

Wives, maidens, and mothers, to you it is giv’n 

To rescue the fallen and point them to heav’n 

With God for your guide you shall win by this sign, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine. 


With this for your motto and succor divine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine. 

Verse 3 

O mothers, whose sons tarry long at the bowl, 

Who love their good name as you love your own soul, 

O maidens with fathers, and brothers, and beaux; 

Whose lives you would rescue from infinite woes, 

Let war be your watchword, from shore unto shore, 

Till Rum, and his legions shall ruin no more, 

And write on your banners, in letters that shine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine. 


With this for your motto and succor divine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine, 

The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.