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 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. However, within a few years the movement died.
Movement was Successful
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” of the winter of 1873-1874. Initial groups in Fredonia, New York and Hillsboro and Washington Court House, Ohio, after listening to a lecture by Dr. Dio Lewis, began a non-violent protest against alcohol.
Normally quiet housewives 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 Eliza Thompson and her followers was successful. It led to the founding of the powerful Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
1 Eliza J. Thompson. Ohio History Central. Ohio History Central website.
2 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union: Early History.