Diocletian Lewis (Dr. Dio Lewis)

Diocletian Lewis (1823-1886), commonly known as Dr. Dio Lewis, was a temperance leader, preacher, feminist, social reformer, food/health faddist and considered by some to have been an eccentric. His father had been a "notorious drunkard," a fact that may have led to his strong belief that alcohol was a great evil. Lewis used the title Doctor and sometimes illegally practiced medicine, although he only had a degree in homeopathic studies. Nevertheless, he used his title and oratorical gift to good effect in promoting temperance.

In the 1880's, Lewis and his mother, Delecta, began leading groups of followers into saloons to pray for their closure as well as for the souls of the owners and bartenders. He later lectured in churches claiming almost miraculous results from conducting such "Visitation Bands."

Lewis' actions and lectures inspired others to similar action, thus initiating the Women's Crusade against alcohol. This crusade revitalized the moribund temperance movement and the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was later established.

Dio Lewis published books and tracts on a variety of subjects. A common theme in his writing was the "evil" of even moderate alcohol consumption. And because southern European men and women both tended to drink widely and frequently, he was hostile to immigrants from that region. He and many other prohibitionists viewed them as immoral and degenerate:

And what is the secret of their demoralization? The women drink!!! Every woman, as well as every man; and during the time I was there, I never heard a woman decline to drink, except because of sickness; and one hour after dinner you could see the effects of wine-drinking in the face and eye of every women of the company.1

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was a major supporter and defender of Prohibition.

For this reason, Dio Lewis and many other prohibitions opposed immigration. Their hostility typically extended to Italians, Jews, Irish, Germans and many other groups.


  • 1. Eastman, Mary F. The Biography of Dio Lewis. NY: Fowler & Wells, 1891.
  • Behr, Edward. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. NY: Arcade, 1996.
  • Burns, Eric. The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2004.
  • Eastman, Mary F. The Biography of Dio Lewis. NY: Fowler & Wells, 1891.
  • Rose, Kenneth D. American Women and the repeal of Prohibition. NY: New York University Press, 1996.

Readings about Dr. Dio Lewis:

  • Dr. Dio Lewis' School for Young Ladies. Second Anniversary of Dr. Dio Lewis' School for Young Ladies: Lexington, Mass. Tuesday and Wednesday, June 5 and 6, 1866. Day Exercises to Begin at 9 a.m.; Evening Exercises at 6 p.m. Lexington, MA: 1866.
  • Dr. Dio Lewis' School for Young Ladies. Catalogue and Circular of Dr. Dio Lewis' Family School for Young Ladies: Concord, Mass. 1867. Cambridge, MA: Welch, Bigelow, and Co., 1867.
  • Eastern Book Co. Dio Lewis' Weekly for Jolly Folks. Boston,MA: Eastern Book Co.
  • Leonard, Thomas F. Selections in Reading for Dr. Dio Lewis's Yong Ladies' School, Lexington. Lexington, MA: 1865.
  • Natterson, Paul D. Dio Lewis and Physical Fitness: A Social Innovator in a Scientific Sphere. Thesis. Harvard University, 1985.
  • Newcomb, Henry. A Review of Dio Lewis' Objections to Prohibitory Liquor Laws, on the Ground of the Restriction of Personal Liberty. Hyde Park, MA: Norfolk County Gazette, 1874.
  • Vest, Eugene B. When Dio Lewis came to Dixon. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 40, 298-312.
  • Welch, P. Dio Lewis' Normal Institute for Physical Education. Journal of Physical Education and Recreation, 1994, 65(3), 29.

Publications by Dio Lewis

  • Dio Lewis. Dio. Lewis' New Temperance Movement Astonishing Results. Boston, 1874.
  • Dio Lewis. In a Nutshell: Suggestions to American College Students / by Dio Lewis. NY: Clarke Brothers, 1883.
  • Dio Lewis. The Dio Lewis Treasury. NY: Canfield Pub., 1887.
  • Dio Lewis. Dio Lewis' Nuggets. Periodical. NY: Dio Lewis Pub. Co. 1883-1885.
  • Dio Lewis. Dio Lewis' Monthly. Periodical.
  • Dio Lewis and A.M. Leffingwell. Order Book of Dr. Dio Lewis' New System of Musical Gymnastics for Schools and Gymnasiums. Watertown, NY: Lyttle & Hanford, 1866.
  • Dio Lewis, et al. The New Gymnastics for Men, Women, and Children. Boston: Tichnor and Fields, 1862.
  • Dio Lewis. Catalogue and Circular of Dr. Dio Lewis's Family School for Young Ladies. Lexington, Mass.,1865. Boston: J. Wilson and Sons, 1865.

Filed Under: Biography