Skip to main content
Evanston and the Fight for the Vote

On Crusade

Certificate, WCTU, EHC 422.1.2.jpg

This certificate acknowledges an individual's pledge to abstain from alcohol or other intemperate activities.

Temperance was not a new idea in the winter of 1873-4. Activists had been advocating for temperance as a solution for many social vices for many years. Dr. Dio Lewis, a Boston physician and preacher, gave a series of lectures in 1873 which called for women to occupy saloons, hotel bars, and use the power of prayer and song to block men from entering these spaces and to encourage their committment to give up alcohol completely. 

After Dr. Lewis gave a series of such lectures in Ohio, networks of Protestant missonaries and reformers came together in towns across the state to combat the "saloon problem." Women gathered in and around saloons, hotels, and drug stores, praying out loud and singing hymns. Doing this blocked customers from getting into the saloons to purchase alcohol in the first place. These women hoped to both stop the sale of drink and encourage men to turn to religion rather than the bottle. This frenzy of temperance activity was known as the Crusades. 

Though the Crusades were unsuccessful in affecting any permanent change in Ohio, they had a significant impact on the women who participated in them. For many of these middle-class women, the Crusades were the first time they had participated in a public action. These women learned their own power to create change, and in entering the public sphere, were also exposed to the social problems in the world around them. Many of these middle-class women had never encountered poverty, and the Crusades became an important crucible for many social activists. 

The women who participated in the Crusades also learned about the importance of organization. Instead of one church group acting alone, Protestant women joined together across denominational lines, and this ecumenical effort was a good trial run for things to come. They realized that by joining together, they could be far more effective. The lessons of the 1873-4 Ohio Crusades culminated in the formation of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which held its first convention in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 1874.