Edith Smith Davis: Major Prohibition Leader

Edith Smith Davis contributed greatly to the temperance movement. She was a dedicated and highly effective leader.

Born on a farm near Janesville, Wisconsin, she attended Milton College and Lawrence University. At the latter, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She became superintendent of two departments of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). One was  the powerful Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction. The other was the Bureau of Scientific Investigation. She also held those positions in the World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

In 1907 and 1911, Davis represented the WCTU at the Anti-Alcohol Congress in Europe. Ms. Smith also served as editor of The Temperance Education Quarterly. She did so from 1910 to 1917.

Edith Smith Davis: Prohibition Writer

Ms. Edith Smith Davis authored several books.

    • A Compendium of Temperance Truth. WCTU, 1916.
    • Whether White or Black, a Man. New York: Revell, 1898.
    • Two, and Bits of Life. New York, Burr, 1888.
    • Two. Chicago: New Voice Press, 1901.
    • A Manual for the Public Schools. WCTU, 1913.
    • A Course of Study in Hygiene and Physiology.  WCTU, n.d.

Edith Smith Davis was highly effective in promoting temperance. For this she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.) degree. It was from Lawrence University in 1907.

Her obituary included this.

Edith Smith DavisThe intelligent sentiment for total abstinence and prohibition in the minds and hearts of young men and women of today, who as students in our schools and higher institutions of learning have been trained to a knowledge of the scientific aspects of the liquor question, is the monument built by the tireless efforts of Edith Smith Davis.1

Edith Smith Davis died in 1918. She left a husband, the Rev. J.S. Davis, a son, and three daughters.


1  Mrs. Edith Smith Davis, popular Scientific Temperance Leader and Lecturer, called to her heavenly reward. The Union Signal, March 18, 1918, p. 11.