Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson”: Temperance Leader)

Eliza Thompson became active in leading groups of women to saloons to close them down. It occurred in 1873 after she and others heard a lecture by Dr. Dio Lewis.

Eliza J. Thompson’s Method

 “Dr. Lewis had suggested that women should organize to protest against saloons and to pray for the bars’ closing. Thompson took Lewis’s advice. She and seventy-five other women in the community marched on the saloons….”1

There Eliza Thompson and her followers sang hymns and prayed that the saloons would be closed. They did so inside the saloon when possible. If not, these “Visitation Bands” stationed themselves outside the business.

“Mother Thompson” and others claimed conversions by some saloon owners. Sometimes, the saloons went out of business after being picketed for weeks by the women.

This non-violent technique seemed effective. Soon “Visitation Bands” were found across the country. The movement was known as the Women’s Temperance Crusade. But within a few years the movement died.

Movement was Successful

eliza thompson
Eliza Thompson

But the movement was not a failure. It revitalized the temperance movement. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) traces its origins to it. The WCTU explains that it grew out of the “Woman’s Crusade.” Those were in the winter of 1873-1874. After listening to  lectures by Dr. Dio Lewis. women began a non-violent protest against alcohol. The First groups in Fredonia, New York and Hillsboro, Ohio.

Normally quiet women dropped to their knees in pray-ins in local saloons. They demanded that saloons stop selling alcohol. In just three months the women had driven liquor out of 250 communities. The women discovered for the first time what thet could accomplish by standing together.2

So, the brave effort of Ms.Thompson and her followers was successful. It led to the founding of the powerful Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

Eliza Thompson



1 Eliza Jane Thompson.

2 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union