Women & Temperance Societies: Women’s History Month 2022

Did an ancestor of yours have a strong view about the imbibing of alcohol?

The American Roaring 20’s with legal Prohibition imposed by the 18th Constitutional Amendment, (taking effect 17 January 1920), until 5 December 1933, when the 21st Amendment, repealed the 18th Amendment was the pinnacle of success, if one can call it that, for the members of the American Temperance Movement.

The call to abandon the drinking of alcohol was not a new issue in American history. There have always been those who promoted abstention, but there were few, if any, organized efforts until the early 1800s.

Granted, there were men who promoted abstinence from alcohol, but I think membership in temperance societies may have been a much more popular cause for women.

Calais Women’s Temperance Society Picnic, c1890s

This is one of my favorite family photos. See the pole just about in the center of the photo? There are two women, one on each side of the pole. The lady to the left of that pole is my 2X great grandmother, Nellie Tarbox Adams (1856-1927).

Being curious as to whether any records might still exist about the society, I phoned the Calais Free Library. To my surprise, the librarian said they did have some material about the society!

I also contacted the St. Croix Historical Society with the same question.

While pursuing information about the Calais society, I learned that Maine was the first state to try out Prohibition, way back in 1851.

Because temperance societies existed at the local, state and national levels, it would be quite unwieldy to provide a list of links. Instead here are several suggestions about where to search for existing records and historical information:

  1. Search online for either a local town society or state temperance society.
  2. Contact the local public library.
  3. Contact a local or county historical society/museum.
  4. If there is a local genealogy society, it might have information, but I think it is less likely that a genealogy society would have actual records.
  5. Contact the state archives/library.
  6. For general information about temperance society history, search by place + temperance society.
  7. There are also books that have been written about the temperance movement.



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