Dr. Dio Lewis (Diocletian Lewis) Major Temperance Leader

Dr. Dio Lewis, birth name Diocletian Lewis, lived from 1823 until 1886. He a was temperance leader. But he was also a preacher, feminist, social reformer, and food/health faddist. And many considered Lewis to be an eccentric.


 Dr. Dio Lewis

Dr. Dio Lewis
Diocletian Lewis

His father had been a “notorious drunkard.” Perhaps that led to his strong belief that alcohol was a great evil.

Lewis illegally used the title Doctor and sometimes practiced medicine. But he only had a degree in homeopathic studies. Yet 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 into saloons. There they prayed for their closure as well as for the souls of the owners and bartenders. He later preached in churches claiming almost miraculous results from such “Visitation Bands.”

Dr. Dio Lewis

Revitalized Temperance Movement

Lewis’ actions and lectures inspired others to similar action. This led to the Women’s Crusade against alcohol. The crusade revitalized the moribund temperance movement. In turn, some of the women in the Crusade later formed the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

Lewis published books and tracts on a variety of subjects. A common theme in his writing was the “evil” of even moderate alcohol drinking. Southern and eastern Europeans tended to drink widely and often. Therefore, he was hostile to immigrants. He and many other temperance supporters 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

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

Much later, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was a major supporter and defender of Prohibition. But Lewis strongly supported personal liberty and opposed imposing alcohol prohibition.

Major Sources
By Lewis
About Lewis
    1. Eastman, M. The Biography of Dio Lewis.