Temperance Educational Quarterly: Teaching Prohibition

Mary Hunt
Temperance Educational Quarterly
Mary H. Hunt

The Temperance Educational Quarterly was founded by Mary H. Hunt. She was head of the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction. That was an important part of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and its mission.

For its first 15 years the magazine was the School Physiology Journal, designed for teachers.  Mary Hunt had wanted to create “trained haters of alcohol to pour a whole Niagara of ballots upon the saloon”1 upon reaching voting age. Hers was a long-term goal.

Mary Hunt died in 1906. At that time her secretary, Cora F. Stoddard, assumed editorship of the School Physiology Journal. In 1909, the title became the Temperance Educational Quarterly. In announcing the name change, the journal said it sought to expand readership to ministers, editors, social, and temperance workers, and others. Edith Smith Davis was editor from 1910 to 1917.

Cooperating in publishing the magazine were two other bodies. One was the WCTU’s Bureau of Scientific Temperance Investigation. It was headed by Edith Smith Davis The other was the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WWCTU). Ms. Davis also held leadership positions in the WWCTU.

Scientific Temperance Instruction

What the WCTU called Scientific Temperance Instruction had been strongly criticized by many. They included scholars and educators. The prestigious Committee of Fiftywas formed in 1893. It was to study the “liquor problem.”2  A subcommittee of university scholars was then formed. It criticized Scientific Temperance Instruction as being “‘scientific temperance’ propaganda.”3 The scholars described it as “neither scientific, nor temperate, nor instructive.”4

This had no apparent impact on Scientific Temperance Instruction. Ms. Hunt insisted that drinking any amount of alcohol was very harmful. She referred to the great “harvest of death that might result from the universal teaching that the drinking of one or two glasses of wine is not ‘very dangerous.'” She asserted that “such teaching would be nothing less than crime.”5


The Temperance Educational Quarterly continued to print exaggerations, distortions, and inaccuracies. This was designed to frighten pupils into lifelong abstinence. And to have them become lifelong temperance activists.

Scientific Temperance Instruction replaced true education in public schools. It replaced it with propaganda and indoctrination. The Temperance Educational Quarterly furthered that change. Each issue had a detailed lesson plan on alcohol for teachers. One issue listed “Thirty Scientific Facts” for teachers to have students memorize. The “scientific facts” included these.

    • Alcohol ruins the character.
    • Alcohol prevents men from getting good jobs.
    • Nearly all businesses refuse to hire drinkers. That is because they can not be trusted. They are careless, dull and irresponsible.6

But the magazine had many more for general readers. There were reports of studies showing the harmful effects of alcohol. It had stories of the horrible tragedies caused by even sipping a little alcohol.

There were temperance poems and quotations. There were programs for Frances Willard Day. (The fourth Friday in October. Often called Temperance Day.) There were pledge forms for lifelong abstention from alcohol. And there were anecdotes presented as evidence for abstention.

The tone of the magazine was one of absolutism.

Upon Stoddard’s death in 1917, the Temperance Educational Quarterly was absorbed by The Union Signal. That magazine has been published by the WCTU since 1883. It continues today.

Temperance Educational Quarterly



1  Sinclair, A. Prohibition. Boston: Little, Brown, pp. 43-44.

2  Furnas, J. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum, p. 330.

3  Billings, J., et al. Physiological Aspects of the Liquor Problem, 1903, p. 25.

4  Billings, ibid., p. 44.

5  Hunt, M. Reply. Wash: 58th Congress, 2nd Session. Sen Doc No. 171, 1904, pp. 17-18.

6  Tyack, D., and James, T. Moral majorities and the school curriculum. Teach Coll Rec., 1985, 86, 513-537. P. 518.