As the Reconstruction Era came to a close in the United States in 1877, social and political concerns began to shift to alternative ideas. One of the largest social debates that came about in the time era after Reconstruction was the Temperance Movement. With the increase in industrialism and urban living in America, alcoholism became a concern among many Americans at the time. “Saloons became centers of urban political life, and breeding grounds of “corruption, crime, and vote-buying.”” (USHistoryScene) Saloons and alcoholism in general were viewed as unlawful and harmful to society as a whole by many of the radical Christian religious groups across America, the Protestants in particular. Most of the support of the Temperance movement, in fact, came out of the more marginalized parts of society in the early years, garnering very little support from middle-class to upper class white males. In the second wave of the Temperance movement, there was a focus on the differences in those who consumed alcohol, and those who were primarily calling for Prohibition. Many researchers began to “explore the broader contours of working class life, including the family, patterns of sociability, belief systems, religiosity… and the lives of all citizens.” (Barrows) As saloons were all across the nation in the post Reconstruction period, as was the opposition to these establishments. The WCTU was one of the major groups to come out and support the movement of the time and was helpful in facilitating and building the support of Christian women in favor of the movement, as it operated under the platform that women were the main sufferers of alcohol related crimes, because of the alcoholic tendencies of men at the time. The temperance movement sought out to eradicate society of the evils of alcohol, and it wasn’t until the formation of the ASL in the late 1800’s that the movement gained major political ground through lobbying and non-partisan support. The temperance movement in America was responsible for things such as Temperance fountains, which provided alcohol for those who drank it for health, rather than social reasons, and the formation of the American Temperance University in 1893, which provided education on the topic of temperance to college aged students. (Temperancetour) The temperance movement of the late 19th century set an important foothold in the prohibition efforts that would come in a few short years.
Barrows, Susan. Drinking: Behavior and Belief in Modern History.