The Third Great Awakening
In 1847 in the British industrial city of Leeds, a new approach in the battle against alcohol was formed which was called the Band of Hope. A Baptist minister and advocate for total abstinence from alcohol named Jabez Tunnicliff decided that the way to achieve total abstinence was to begin with children, teaching them the moral failings from its use and the godliness of teetotalism. Band of Hope was pointedly directed at the children of drinking men. Band of Hope soon expanded into the salvation of adults and other temperance activities, including issuing a card for those who signed a pledge to abstain from alcohol.
In the United States another religious revival swept the country, tied to the three great social reforms of the period, which were women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery, and prohibition of alcohol. The Third Great Awakening straddled the American Civil War, and reformed drunkards were expected to use local churches and other evangelical means to reform other drunkards. In New England these groups were known as ribbon clubs, and they spread the word through the mid-west and after the Civil War throughout the South. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded primarily to provide an alternative urban destination for young men besides the bar or the brothel.
In urban areas the first Gospel missions began to appear around this time, offering the homeless and displaced food and shelter in exchange for sobriety and a pledge for abstinence. Though these movements were less coercive than some of the earlier Christian temperance movements, they still emphasized that the drunkard was trapped in the ravages of sin and as man was helpless against the devil alone, the only path to sobriety was through salvation, and the only means of staying on the path to true salvation was complete abstinence. For the first time the proponents of prohibition began to be called “drys”.
The drys scored some victories against the “wets” during this period, including local restrictions on where and when alcoholic beverages could be sold. An 1845 Michigan law gave municipal governments the authority to regulate or ban sales of alcoholic beverages. In 1851 Maine passed a law prohibiting alcohol, the first of several such laws passed before the Civil War. States became known as wet or dry. Under Maine’s law, alcohol was only allowed for “medicinal, mechanical, or manufacturing”, and the law was met with strong opposition, including rioting. The law was repealed in 1856, but the earlier victory redoubled the efforts of the temperance movements.
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, founded in Ohio in 1874, became an international organization in 1875, and in its constitution explained its goal as, “entire prohibition of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage”. The WCTU viewed (and still views) alcohol as a societal ill rather than a weakness of an individual, a position it also adopted over the use of tobacco. Besides taking the position of prohibition (which it still advocates) the WCTU became an active proponent of the women’s suffrage movement, since in its official view women were morally superior to men, who needed the influence of their votes to stave off social evils.