Susan B. Anthony: Pioneer Temperance Leader

Early Life

Susan B. Anthony was born into a temperance family. Her immediate family practiced total abstinence from alcohol. Her prosperous father organized a temperance society. It was for the men and women in his cotton mill and mill town in rural New York State.

In her mid-twenties, Ms. Anthony joined a temperance society, the Daughter’s Union. This was an auxiliary of the Sons of Temperance. Most women opposed the Union as not for proper women. Their main activity was holding suppers to raise funds for the Sons of Temperance. At one such fund-raising supper, she arose and gave a public address. It created a sensation. Later, in Rochester, she organized a Daughter’s Union. As its president, she organized a large festival at which the mayor presided.


In 1852, Susan B. Anthony represented her Union at a meeting of the Sons of Temperance. They had invited the Daughter’s Unions to send delegates. When she rose to speak, they told her they hadn’t invited her there to speak. They said she was there to listen and learn.

Ms. Anthony then left the meeting, followed by several other women. They decided to have a meeting of their own. It was the first state women’s temperance society in the U.S. ¬†Anthony and a few members made a petition for a law prohibiting alcohol. It had 28,000 signatures. Then they presented it to the state legislature in person.

Susan B. AnthonyA wealthy sarsaparilla soft drink maker had been in the legislative audience. He sponsored the appearances of Susan B. Anthony and two other women in New York City. Thousands of people crowded into a major venues to hear them. The trio then went on a speaking tour to the other major cities in the state. This promoted temperance and, implicitly, sarsaparilla.

Conflict and Departure

A severe conflict occurred during the first annual convention of the New York State Woman’s Temperance Society. This caused Ms. Anthony to leave the group. She then abandoned the temperance movement. Anthony turned exclusively to women’s rights, especially suffrage.

Susan B. Anthony died in 1906 at the age of 86.

See Also

American National Biography