Women Leaders of Temperance & Prohibition in the U.S.

The women leaders of temperance and prohibition worked hard to promote their vision of a better world.


I.   Background

II.  Women Leaders

III. Other Noteworthy             Women

IV.  Resources

They believed that temperance would lead to better family life, improved behaviors, and greater prosperity.

I. Background: Women Leaders of Temperance

The temperance movement began before women the right to vote. But it gave opportunities to develop leadership skills, political savvy, organizational skills, and experience promoting public policy. It also gave public speaking experience  and confidence working in public life.

There were women leaders of temperance from a very early period. However, the level of their power and influence has little to do with their recognizability. Probably the most well-known woman associate with temperance was Carry A. Nation. But she largely brought ridicule rather than followers to the cause.

On the other hand, the most powerful of all the women of temperance is virtually unknown today. The name of this incredible person was Mary H. Hunt. More about her later.

Goals Changed

Groups opposed to drinking alcohol arose in the US  in the early 1800s. They first began by calling for voluntary abstinence.  But over time they began to work for laws prohibiting drinking by everyone. The Civil War (1861-1865) severely disrupted the country and the movement languished. Later, the movement for prohibition reemerged and grew in the 1880s.

Several factors helped propel the drive for alcohol prohibition. First, a growing women’s movement that was largely concerned with the protection of the family. It saw drinking by men as a threat to the wellbeing of wives and children. Second, a number of major Protestant churches increasingly came to view drinking as sinful.

The third factor was a cultural war. The population of the country consisted largely of Protestants living in small towns and rural areas. Their ancestors had come mainly from northern European countries. But the country was quickly changing. Tens of millions of people from eastern and southern Europe were pouring into the country. They generally settled in large cities. They tended to be Catholics and Jews. Their cultures were largely foreign to the established order. It viewed them as a threat.

Cultural War

Alcohol played a large role in the cultures of the new immigrants. It did not in that of the existing population. So a cultural war against the newcomers was beginning to emerge. It focused on alcohol. Prohibiting alcohol would be a cultural victory over the new arrivals. This cultural war permeated the anti-alcohol views of both the women’s movement and the Protestant churches.  So the temperance movement tended to be anti-foreign, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic.

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was one of the major players in the drama. It began in 1874 and grew rapidly. It had a network of over 1,000 local chapters or unions within five years. Its second national president was the famous Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard. The WCTU also created the World’s Woman’s Christian temperance Union (WWCTU).

The WCTU had chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. But for years it did not accept as members Catholics, Jews or African-Americans.  Nor women who had not been born in North America. Consistent with this views, the WCTU also promoted eugenics or selective breeding of people.

women leaders of temperance
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK)

Ku Klux Klan

A new Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged largely to promote and enforce prohibition. But only men could join. Women had the Women of the KKK (WKKK). A number of women were members of both the WCTU and the WKKK. Some held leadership positions in both organizations.

Lulu Markwell was one of the first leaders of the national WKKK. She also led the Arkansas chapter of the WCTU for 20 years. Lillian Sedwick was state superintendent of the WCTU and later an important leader in the WKKK. Elizabeth Tyler, another early leaders of the WKKK was also active in the Anti-Saloon League. Daisy Douglass Barr was the leader of the quarter-million member WKKK in Indiana and seven other states. She was also powe

Over the decades, millions of women across the country participated to varying degrees in the temperance and prohibition movements. The issue of alcohol elicited strong emotions. So people in polite society did not generally discuss it. That was also true of religion and politics.

Following are resources for just a few of the many women leaders of temperance and prohibition. They worked tirelessly for their beliefs about alcohol issues. They believed that temperance would create a better world. These leaders appear alphabetically by last name.

II. Women Leaders of Temperance & Prohibition

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony was a famous feminist and prohibitionist whose name known by virtually everyone. But how did sarsaparilla greatly promote the temperance work of Susan B. Anthony?

Daisy Douglas Barr

Daisy Douglas Barr was a Quaker minister. She was the Imperial Empress of a roughly quarter million member section of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). Barr was also a powerful member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.  Learn more about the Quaker Klan leader, the Rev. Daisy Douglas Barr.

Ella Boole

The former president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Ella Boole insisted that National Prohibition had been a great success. But did Ella Boole accidentally give Repeal an enormous boost?

Evangeline Booth

Evangeline Booth’s  birth name was Eva. But she later changed it to Evangeline in the belief that it sounded more impressive. Learn why this leader of the Salvation Army, Evangeline Booth, was impressive without the name change.

Marie C. Brehm

Suffragette Marie C. Brehm was the first female candidate to run legally for the vice-presidency of the United States. She did so in 1924 on the ticket of the Prohibition Party. Learn her highly unusual legal first name at Marie Brehm.

Martha McClellan Brown

Martha McClellan Brown was one of the organizers of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She was also a leader in the  Prohibition Party. Discover some of the other achievements of Martha McClellan Brown.

Mamie White Colvin (Mrs. D. Leigh Colvin)

Mamie White Colvin preferred being Mrs. D. Leigh Colvin.  This desire made it appear she wanted to be in his shadow. However, see why very few people could outshine Mamie White Colvin. She was a major figure in the prohibition movement.

women leaders of temperance
Mary Hanchet Hunt

Mary Hunt

Few people today have heard of Mary Hunt. Yet she was the single most important of the women leaders temperance. She promoted her Scientific Temperance Instruction for school students. Hunt wanted to create “trained haters of alcohol.” Find out more about the powerful Mary Hunt.

Lulu Markwell

Lulu Markwell (Lulu Alice Boyers Markwell). Ms. Markwell was the first Imperial Commander or leader of the national Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). She was also president of the Arkansas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Discover more about the life of Lulu Markwell.

Caroline Merrick

Caroline Merrick was an amazing woman. She was president of the New Orleans union (chapter) of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. From there she went directly to the presidency of the national WCTU. Learn more about the leadership of  Caroline Merrick.

women leaders of temperanceCarry A. Nation

Carry A. Nation (Carrie is also a correct spelling). People think of Nation for attacking saloons and bars with a hatchet. They would probably name her as the most important of all women leaders of temperance and prohibition. Discover more about the complex Carry Nation.

Lillian Sedwick

Lillian Sedwick held leadership positions in two temperance organizations. One was in the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). The other was in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Learn more about the ardent prohibitionist Lillian Sedwick.

Cora F. Stoddard

Cora Stoddard was head of the Scientific Temperance Federation for 30 years. Discover the big secret that led to establishing the organization led by Cora Stoddard.

Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson”)

The charismatic Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson”) led groups of women into saloons. They would sing and pray that the drinking establishments would close. The movement led to the founding of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Eliza Thompson was another of the major women leaders of temperance. Learn more about the brave Eliza Thompson.

Frances Willard

Frances Willard is one of the few names of prohibitionists that is widely-known. Here’s the chance to find out what you didn’t know about Frances Willard.

Wise-Smith, Ida B.  (Ida B. Wise)

Ida B. Wise-Smith was a resourceful leader of the  Woman’s Christian Temperance Union following Repeal. She led unsuccessful attempts to bring back to Prohibition for decades. Learn more about the efforts of Ida B. Wise-Smith.

III. Other Noteworthy Women Leaders of Temperance and Prohibition


  • Jessie Ackerman (The second world missionary for the WCTU)
  • Isabella MacDonald Alden
  • Mary Long Anderson (Montana journalist and temperance activist)
  • Mary Harris Armor (Methodist evangelist and WCTU temperance activist in Georgia)


  • Hannah Johnston Bailey (Superintendent of the WCTU Department of Peace and Arbitration)
  • Lepha Dunton Bailey (A speaker for the WCTU)
  • Helen Morton Barker (Organizer of hundreds of WCTU unions in the Dakotas)
  • Anna Smeed Benjamin (Superintendent of the WCTU Department of Parliamentary Usage)
  • Annie Bidwell (Temperance reformer in California)
  • Ada Cole Bittenbender (National WCTU officer and Prohibition Party candidate for Nebraska Supreme Court judge)
  • Carolyn Brown Buell (Corresponding secretary of the national WCTU for decades)
  • Helen Chapel Bullock (Early WCTU leader in New York State)
  • Adda Grace Burch
  • Nelle Lemon Burger
  • Lillian Jeffords Burt
  • Mary Towne Burt (President of the New York State WCTU and second corresponding secretary of the national WCTU)
  • Lucy Wood Butler


  • Emor Luthera Calkins (Michigan temperance organizer and political activist)
  • Matilda Bradley Carse (President of Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association)
  • Sallie Moore Chapin (Lifelong president of the South Carolina WCTU and WCTU organizer from the Gulf to Canada)
  • Fannie Du Bois Chase
  • Anneta Biggs Chipp
  • Laura Rooke Church (Legislative Superintendent of the World Prohibition Federation)
  • Mamie Perkins Chaflin
  • Anna Gardiner Clark
  • Clara Rankin Coblentz (Temperance leader in Pennsylvania)
  • Julia Coleman  Early collaborator with Mary Hunt in developing Scientific Temperance Instruction for use in schools)
  • Varilla Barton Cox
  • Saha Jane Crafts
  • Ella Donalson Crawford
  • Nanni Webb Curtis


  • Edith Smith Davis (Superintendent of the Bureau of Scientific Investigation and the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction. This was in both the U.S and the World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union.)
  • Lella Augusta Dillard
  • Sara Josephine Dorr
  • Cornelia Maynard Dow


  • Martha Greer Edgar (President of the WCTU 1980-1988)


  • Rebecca Latimer Felton (First woman to serve in the U.S. senate and successfully worked to bring state-wide prohibition to Georgia)
  • Judith Horton Foster (Early woman lawyer and  leader of the WCTU)
  • Susanna Davidson Fry (A “prominent worker in the Women’s Christian TemperanceUnion, and an intimate friend of Frances E. Willard”)
  • Minnie Rutherford Fuller (Legislative chair for Arkansas WCTU)
  • Ella Martin George


  • T(herese) Adelaide Goodno  (A U.S. delegate to the World’s WCTU)
  • Anna Adams Gordon  (Frances Willard’s companion. She resigned presidency of national WCTU IN 1925 to devote her efforts to the World’s WCTU)
  • Helen Jackson Gougar (Owned temperance newspaper and ran as on Prohibition Party ticket for public office)


  • Charlotte Abbott Hardy
  • Margaret Keenan Harrais (President of Idaho WCTU and early WCTU leader in Alaska)
  • Mary Rider Haslup (President of the Maryland WCTU)
  • Cornelia Templeton Hatcher (Suffragette and temperance activist; member of the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame)
  • Antoinette Arnold Hawley (A leader in national WCTU and ran  on Prohibition Party ticket for public office)
  • Agnes Dubbs Hayes (President of the WCTU 1953-1959)
  • Lucy Webb Hayes (First Lady known as “Lemonade Lucy” for banning alcohol from White House)
  • Rozette Hendrix (President of the Minnesota WCTU)
  • Serepta Irish Henry
  • Margaret Peck Hill (An organizer for the WCTU)
  • Mary Antoinette Hitchcock (President of the Iowa WCTU)
  • Mary Barnes Hitchcock-Wakelin
  • Emily Chandler Hodgin
  • Clara Cleghorn Hoffman (A  “longtime president of the Missouri Woman’s Christian Temperance Union”)
  • Sara Smith Hoge
  • Lillian Bates Hollister
  • Jennie Hurd Holmes
  • Esther Stewart House
  • Callie Hoovler Howe
  • Auretta Hoyt (Was one of Indiana’a most important temperance workers.)
  • Adrianna Baldwin Hungerford
  • Elizabeth Otis Hutchinson


  • Eliza Buckley Ingalls
  • Stella Blanchard Irvine (President California WCTU and world Sunday school superintendent of the national WCTU)


  • Mary Thomas Jeffries
  • Georgina Spence Jobson
  • Mary Coffin Johnson


  • Rachel Bubar Kelly (President of the WCTU 1986-1988)


  • Mary Clement Leavitt (Helped establish WCTU unions in over a dozen countries)


  • Josephine Ralston Nichols (Superintendent of the exposition department of the national WCTU)
  • Hardynia Katherine Norville


  • Sara Vickers Oberholtzer
  • Martha Barnum O’Donnell


  • Bertha Rachael Palmer  (Author of books and other WCTU publications)
  • Frances Pride Parks (President Of the West Virginia WCTU; national corresponding secretary of the WCTU)
  • Minnie Williams Pearson
  • Beaumelle Rockwell Peet
  • Sarah Clinton Perkins
  • Eliza Eubank Peterson
  • Ellen Johnston Phinney (President of the Non-Partisan WCTU)
  • Jennie Wayte Phinney
  • Ludie Day Pickett (Longtime president of the Kentucky WCTU)
  • Jennie Carr Pittman
  • Emma Stockwell Price
  • Esther Pugh
  • Mary Chamberlain Purington


  • Althea Coffin Quimby


  • Louella Stoner Ramsey
  • Lodie Elizabeth Reed
  • Mary Ann Reese
  • Florence Donaldson Richard (State president of the Ohio WCTU)
  • Ellen Ruddick Richardson (President  of the New Hampshire WCTU) from 1899 to 1918
  • Annie Almira Robbins (President of the Oregon WCTU)
  • Ethelyn Cargill Roberts
  • Abby Winchester Rolfe
  • Jennie Williamson Rooke
  • Louise Jones Rounds (President of the  Illinois WCTU from 1886 to 1901)


  • Etta Sadler Shaw
  • Emma Sanford Shelton
  • Eva Marshall Shonts
  • Jane Thomas Sibley
  • Jennie Hart Sibley
  • Edith Kirkendal Stanley (President of the WCTU 1974-1980)
  • Lilian M.N. Stevens (President of the WCTU 1898-1914)


  • Ruth Tibbits Tooze (President of the WCTU 1959-1974)


  • Sarah Frances Ward (President of the WCTU 1996-2006)
  • Rita Kaye Wert (President of the WCTU 2006 to present)
  • Mary Allen West (One of the founders of the WCTU)
  • Annie Turner Wittenmyer (First president of the WCTU)

IV. Resources

Biographica Information

Information about each of these and other women leaders of temperance is also on the internet. Especially useful resources readable online include these.

Internet resources

Readings about Women Leaders of Temperance & Prohibition

  • Asbury, H. Carry Nation. NY: Knopf, 1929.
  • Beals, C. Cyclone Carry: The Story of Carry Nation. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1962.
  • Becker, S. Review of American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. J Am Hist, 1996, 83(3), 1057-1058.
  • Blee, K. Women of the Klan. Berkeley: U California Press, 1991, pp. 27, 31, 35 and 85.
  • Blee, K. Women in the 1920s Ku Klux Klan movement. Fem Stud, 1991, 17, 57-77.
  • Blocker, J. “Give to the Winds thy Fear.” The Women’s Temperance Crusade, 1873-1874. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1985.
  • Bordin, R. Woman and Temperance. Philadelphia: Temple U Press, 1981.
  • Cook, S. “Through Sunshine and Shadow.” The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s U Press, 1995.
  • Cora Frances Stoddard. American National Biography, Vol 20 NY: Oxford U Press, 1999, 816-817.
  • Cora Frances Stoddard. Notable American Women 1607-1950, Vol. 3. Belnap, 1971, 380-381.
  • Dublin, T., and Scheuerer, A. Why did African-American women join the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1880-1900? Binghamton: State U NY, 2000.
  • Epstein, B. The Politics of Domesticity. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U Press, 1981.
  • Erickson, J. Making King Alcohol tremble. The juvenile work of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1900. J Drug Ed, 1988, 18, 333-352.
  • Fletcher, H. Gender and the American Temperance Movement of the Nineteenth Century. NY: Routledge, 2008.
  • Giele, J. Two Paths to Women’s Equality. NY: Twayne, 1995.
  • Gordon, E. Women Torch-Bearers. Evanston, IL: WCTU, 1924.
  • Hoover, D. Daisy Douglass Barr. Indiana Mag Hist, 1991, 87(2).
  • Kyvig, D. Review of American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. Am Hist Rev, 1997, 102(2), 538.
  • Kyvig, D. Women against Prohibition. Am Q, 1976, 28(4), 465-482.
  • Kyvig, D. Review of American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. Am Hist Rev, 1997, 102(2), 538.
  • Kyvig, D. Women against Prohibition. Am Q, 1976, 28(4), 465-482.
  • Kerbawy, K. Knights in White Satin. Women of the Ku Klux Klan. Marshall U, 2007.
  • Hunt, M. A History of the First Decade of the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction. Boston: Wash Press, 1892.
  • Hunt, M. An Epoch of the Nineteenth Century. Boston: Foster, 1897.
  • Hunt, M. “Not a book job”; Mrs. Mary H. Hunt on Ainsworth school physiology law. New York Times, Aug 21, 1895. (Hunt falsely denied getting money for endorsing textbooks.)
  • Mamie White Colvin. American Women. The Official Who’s Who among the Women of the Nation. 1935-1936. Los Angeles: Blank, 1936.
  • McGehee, M. Beneath the Sheets. An Intellectual History of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), 1923-31. U Mississippi, 2000.
  • Marshall, M. and Marshall, L. Silent Voices Speak. Women and Prohibition in Truk. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1990.
  • Mattingly, C. Water Drops from Women Writers. Carbondale: Southern Illinois U Press, 2001.
  • Murdock, C. Domesticating Drink. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U Press, 1998.
  • Nation, Carry. The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation. Topeka: Steves, 1905.
  • Neumann, C. The end of gender solidarity. J Women’s Hist, 1997, 9.
  • Ohles, J. The imprimatur of Mary H. H. Hunt. J School Health, 1978, 48, 477-478.
  • Pauly, P. The struggle for ignorance about alcohol. Bull Hist Med, 1990, 64, 366-392.
  • Root, G. Women and Repeal. NY: Harper, 1934.
  • Rose, K. American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. NY: NYU Press, 1996.
  • Seaver, Darcy L. Women in the Hood. Women in 1920s Ku Klux Klan Publications. U Wisconsin at Madison, 1992.
  • Schrems, S. The Ultimate Patriots? Oklahoma Women of the Ku Klux Klan. In Who’s Rocking The Cradle?. Norman, OK: Horse Creek, 2004.
  • Sheehan, N. The WCTU and education. J Midwest Hist Ed Soc, 1981, 115-133.
  • Tyrrell, I. Women and temperance in antebellum America, 1830-1860. Civil War Hist, 1982, 28, 29-34.
  • Whitaker, F. A History of the Ohio Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Ohio State U, 1971.
  • Willard, F., and Lathbury, M. Woman and Temperance. Chicago: Goodman, 1883.
  • Wittenmeyer, A., and Willard, F.  History of the Woman’s Temperance Crusade. Boston: Earle, 1882.
  • Zimmerman, J. “The Queen of the Lobby.” Mary Hunt. Hist Ed Q, 1992, 32, 1-30.