Woman’s New York State Temperance Society

Woman’s New York State Temperance Society is the correct name of the society. However, people often mis-spell it the  Women’s New York State Temperance Society. In addition, its  moniker is often the Woman’s Temperance Society of New York. Or the Women’s Temperance Society of New York. Sometimes it’s the Women’s State Temperance Society. Occasionally, it’s the Woman’s State Temperance Society.

Woman's New York State Temperance SocietyThe organizational meeting of the Woman’s New York State Temperance Society was on April 20 and 21, 1852. It was in Rochester, New York. The members formed it because existing temperance groups did not accept women as members.

Over 500 women attended the founding conference called by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The women voted her president. Other prominent women elected to leadership positions in the Woman’s New York State Temperance Society  were Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Bloomer.

Women generally lacked access to positions of public power and the ballot-box. Therefore, the group chose public education as its primary mode of influencing policy. It decided to use lectures, tracts, newspapers and discussion to raise awareness. In addition, the Society urged members to divert their financial support from religious purposes to those of the new organization.

The Woman’s New York State Temperance Society  urged women married to “confirmed drunkards” to divorce them. To live with them was a disservice “to the cause of humanity, and to the dignity of true womanhood.”1

Amelia Bloomer said that the law should require women to divorce drunkard husbands. She asked “Can it be possible that the moral sense of a people is more shocked at the idea of a pure-minded, gentle woman sundering the ties which bind her to a loathsome mass of corruption, than it is to see her dragging out her days in misery, tied to his besotten and filthy carcass?”2

Elizabeth Cady Stanton addressed the first annual meeting of the Woman’s New York State Temperance Society. In doing so, she defended the group. Ms. Stanton argued against those who said the group attacked religion. Her view was that the Society merely defended itself against attacks.

The leader claimed that the Bible the Society used taught love, compassion, justice, mercy and truth. But that the Bible its opponents used taught violence, oppression, slavery, war and drinking alcohol.3

The Woman’s New York State Temperance Society had prominent leaders. But it failed to have much impact on temperance in New York State or elsewhere.  Subsequently, it increasingly devoted itself to suffrage, abolitionism, and other causes.4

References

1. Cullen-DuPont, K. Woman’s New York State Temperance Society. In: Encyclopedia of Women’s History in America. NY: Facts On File, 2000.

2. Cullen-DuPont, ibid.

3. Stanton, E. Stanton Address, First Annual Meeting of the Woman’s State Temperance Society, Rochester, NY, June 1, 1853.

4. Neumann, C. Prohibition. In: Eisenstadt, P., and Moss, L-E. (Eds.) The Encyclopedia of New York State. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse U Press, 2005, p. 1,543.