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

The women leaders of temperance and prohibition worked hard to promote their vision of a better world. They believed that temperance would lead to better family life. To stronger morals. To improved behaviors. And to greater prosperity.


I.   Background

II.  Women Leaders

III. Other Noteworthy Women

IV.  Resources

I. Background: Women Leaders

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

There were women leaders of temperance from a very early period. But their power and influence had little to do with their recognition. On one hand, probably the most well-known woman linked 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 the women of temperance is virtually unknown today. This incredible person was Mary H. Hunt.

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. Therefore, 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. It 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.

Third, temperance 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 Europe.

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 also tended to be Catholics and Jews. And their cultures were largely foreign to the established order. So it viewed them as a threat.

Cultural War

Alcohol played a large role in the cultures of the new immigrants. But it did not in that of the existing order. So a cultural war against the newcomers began to emerge. And 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. As a result 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. That was within five years. In addition, its second national head 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.

Ku Klux Klan

women leaders of temperance
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK)

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. In fact, some held leadership positions in both groups.

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 head of the WCTU. Later she became a leader in the WKKK. Elizabeth Tyler, another early leaders of the WKKK. She 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 powerful in the WCTU.

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. Of course that was also true of both 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. Her name known by most people. 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 head of a roughly quarter million members of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). Barr was also a powerful member of the WCTU.

Learn more about the Quaker and Klan leader, the Rev. Daisy Douglas Barr.

Ella Boole

The former head of the WCTU, 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. She did so 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 US. She did so in 1924 on the ticket of the Prohibition Party. Learn her highly unusual legal first name at Marie Brehm. Hint. It wasn’t Marie.

Martha McClellan Brown

Martha McClellan Brown was one of the organizers of the WCTU. She was also a leader in the  Prohibition Party. Learn 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. Yet see why very few people could outshine Mamie White Colvin. She was a major figure in the prohibition movement.

Mary Hunt

women leaders of temperance
Mary H. Hunt

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

Lulu Markwell

Lulu Markwell (Lulu Alice Boyers Markwell). Ms. Markwell was the first leader of the national Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). She was also head of the Arkansas WCTU. Learn 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 WCTU. But 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. Discover more about the complex Carry Nation.

Lillian Sedwick

Lillian Sedwick held leadership positions in two temperance groups. First was in the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). Second was in the WCTU. 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 group led by Cora Stoddard.

Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson”)

The charismatic Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson”) led groups of women to saloons. Once there they would sing and pray that the venues would close. The movement led to the founding of the WCTU. 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 who is widely-known. She was clearly one of the most important women leaders of temperance. 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 WCTU following Repeal. At that time she led unsuccessful attempts to bring back Prohibition. And she did so for decades. Learn more about the efforts of Ida B. Wise-Smith.

III. Other Noteworthy Women Leaders of Temperance


  • Jessie Ackerman (The second world missionary for the WCTU.)
  • Isabella MacDonald Alden
  • Mary Long Anderson (MT journalist and temperance activist.)
  • Mary Harris Armor (WCTU activist in GA.)


  • Hannah Johnston Bailey (Head of the WCTU Dept of Peace and Arbitration.)
  • Lepha Dunton Bailey (A speaker for the WCTU.)
  • Helen Morton Barker (Formed hundreds of WCTU unions in the Dakotas.)
  • Anna Smeed Benjamin (Head of the WCTU Dept of Parliamentary Usage.)
  • Annie Bidwell (Temperance reformer in CA.)
  • Ada Cole Bittenbender (Nat WCTU officer. Also Prohibition Party candidate for NE Supreme Court judge.)
  • Carolyn Brown Buell (Corresponding secretary of the nat WCTU for decades.)
  • Helen Chapel Bullock (Early WCTU leader in NY State.)
  • Adda Grace Burch
  • Nelle Lemon Burger
  • Lillian Jeffords Burt
  • Mary Towne Burt (Head of the NY State WCTU. Also second corresponding secretary of the nat WCTU.)
  • Lucy Wood Butler


  • Emor Luthera Calkins (MI temperance organizer. Also political activist.)
  • Matilda Bradley Carse (Head of Woman’s Temperance Publishing Assn.)
  • Sallie Moore Chapin (Long-time head of the SC WCTU. Also a WCTU organizer from the Gulf to Canada.)
  • Fannie Du Bois Chase
  • Anneta Biggs Chipp
  • Laura Rooke Church (Legislative head of the World Prohibition Fed.)
  • Mamie Perkins Chaflin
  • Anna Gardiner Clark
  • Clara Rankin Coblentz (Temperance leader in PA).
  • Julia Coleman  (Early worked with Mary Hunt in developing Scientific Temperance Instruction for schools.)
  • Varilla Barton Cox
  • Saha Jane Crafts
  • Ella Donalson Crawford
  • Nanni Webb Curtis


  • Edith Smith Davis (Head of the Bur of Scientific Investigation. Also head of the Dept of Scientific Temperance Instruction. And this was in both the U.S and the World’s WCTU.)
  • Lella Augusta Dillard
  • Sara Josephine Dorr
  • Cornelia Maynard Dow


  • Martha Greer Edgar (Head of the natl WCTU 1980-1988.)


women leaders of temperance
Judith Horton Foster
  • Rebecca Latimer Felton (First woman to serve in the U.S. senate. Also worked to bring state-wide prohibition to GA.)
  • Judith Horton Foster (Head of the Non-Partisan WCTU. Also early woman lawyer.)
  • Susanna Davidson Fry (A major worker in the WCTU. Also an intimate friend of Frances E. Willard.)
  • Minnie Rutherford Fuller (Legislative chair for AR 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 as head of nat WCTU in 1925. That was to devote her efforts to the World’s WCTU)
  • Helen Jackson Gougar (Owned temperance newspaper. Also ran as on Prohibition Party ticket for public office)


  • Charlotte Abbott Hardy
  • Margaret Keenan Harris (Head of ID WCTU. Also early WCTU leader in AK.)
  • Mary Rider Haslup (Head of Maryland WCTU)
  • Cornelia Templeton Hatcher (Suffragette and temperance activist. Also in the AK Women’s Hall of Fame.)
  • Antoinette Arnold Hawley (A leader in nat WCTU. Also ran  on Prohibition Party ticket for public office.)
  • Agnes Dubbs Hayes (Head of nat WCTU 1953-1959.)
  • Lucy Webb Hayes (First Lady known as “Lemonade Lucy.” She banned alcohol from White House.)
  • Rozette Hendrix (Head of MN WCTU.)
  • Serepta Irish Henry
  • Margaret Peck Hill (An organizer for the WCTU.)
  • Mary Antoinette Hitchcock (Head of IA WCTU.)
  • Mary Barnes Hitchcock-Wakelin
  • Emily Chandler Hodgin
  • Clara Cleghorn Hoffman (Longtime head of MO WCTU.)
  • Sara Smith Hoge
  • Lillian Bates Hollister
  • Jennie Hurd Holmes
  • Esther Stewart House
  • Callie Hoovler Howe
  • Auretta Hoyt (Was one of IN’s most important temperance workers.)
  • Adrianna Baldwin Hungerford
  • Elizabeth Otis Hutchinson


  • Eliza Buckley Ingalls
  • Stella Blanchard Irvine (Head of CA WCTU. Also head of world Sunday school of the nat WCTU.)


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


  • Rachel Bubar Kelly (Head of nat WCTU 1986-1988.)


  • Mary Clement Leavitt (Established WCTU unions in over a dozen countries.)


  • Josephine Ralston Nichols (Head of the Exposition Dept of the nat WCTU.)
  • Hardynia Katherine Norville


  • Sara Vickers Oberholtzer
  • Martha Barnum O’Donnell


  • Bertha Rachael Palmer  (Author of books and other WCTU publications)
  • Frances Pride Parks (Head of WV WCTU. Also nat corresponding secretary of the WCTU.)
  • Minnie Williams Pearson
  • Beaumelle Rockwell Peet
  • Sarah Clinton Perkins
  • Eliza Eubank Peterson
  • Ellen Johnston Phinney (Head of Non-Partisan WCTU.)
  • Jennie Wayte Phinney
  • Ludie Day Pickett (Longtime head of KY WCTU.)
  • Jennie Carr Pittman
  • Merry Lee Powell (Head of nat WCTU 2019 – present.)
  • Emma Stockwell Price
  • Esther Pugh
  • Mary Chamberlain Purington


  • Althea Coffin Quimby


  • Louella Stoner Ramsey
  • Lodie Elizabeth Reed
  • Mary Ann Reese
  • Florence Donaldson Richard (Head of the OH WCTU)
  • Ellen Ruddick Richardson (Head of the NH WCTU) from 1899 to 1918
  • Annie Almira Robbins (Head of OR WCTU.)
  • Ethelyn Cargill Roberts
  • Abby Winchester Rolfe
  • Jennie Williamson Rooke
  • Louise Jones Rounds (Head of IL WCTU from 1886 to 1901.)


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


  • Ruth Tibbits Tooze (Head of nat WCTU 1959-1974.)


women of temperance
Sarah Frances Ward
  • Sarah Frances Ward (Head of nat WCTU 1996-2006 and 2014-2019.)
  • Rita Kaye Wert (Head of nat WCTU 2006-2019.)
  • Mary Allen West (One of the founders of the WCTU.)
  • Annie Turner Wittenmyer (First head of nat WCTU.)

IV. Resources

Bio Info

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


Readings about Women Leaders of Temperance. Listed by Author.

  • You know more about women leaders of temperance and prohibition than most people!