Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Temperance Movement: The Encouraging Step Towards a More Equal and Sober Society

Citation: Bloomer, Amelia Jenks, The Lily: Devoted to the Interests of Women (Mount Vernon, Ohio, May 01, 1854), Volume 6, No. 9

During this unit we have been learning about many different reforms in mid- 19th century United States. One of these reforms was called the Temperance Movement. The Temperance Movement promoted the reduction in alcohol consumption because it was causing lots of violence and social problems. The primary source I researched was Amelia Bloomer’s newspaper The Lily which was a newspaper promoting the Temperance movement and the reduction of alcohol consumption. Being a woman during the mid- 19th century was very tough, and women didn’t have a lot of rights. Also, this was at a time where the alcohol consumption was very high, and women often faced domestic violence at the hands of their drunk husbands. Amelia, being a woman of this time, wanted to inspire people to reduce their alcohol abuse, and also promoted women's rights. She thought women needed to be treated equally. The source I looked at was actual articles from The Lily. The website I got it from was the Ohio History Connection website which is a reliable source, and the website provided the typed text that was written in The Lily, so the source is really The Lily newspaper. This is a primary source because it was written during the time of the event, and it was written by someone who was involved in the movement, so it is a trustworthy source. It is very prominent in Amelia’s writing that she is for the Temperance movement and for women’s rights, and she is trying to convince others in her society to support these things as well. Her writing sympathizes with women who don’t have many rights and face violence, and she uses this pathos to try to persuade others to join the movement. Her newspaper was the first U.S. newspaper edited by women and for women which shows how few women felt they could stand up for themselves in a world with not a lot of women’s rights. Amelia uses facts about the laws regarding women and how drunk husbands abuse them to support her claims about women’s rights and about the Temperance movement.

One idea that Amelia brought up in her newspaper was how once a woman was married, she was legally invisible and was under her husband’s rule. She says, a “woman is deprived of certain natural rights, which ought to be [available] from her existence, and is subjected to certain legal disabilities… the personal liberty, the property, and the children of the wife, are legally, and by consequence, actually controlled by the husband...these usages, which are many and grievous, ought to be thoroughly and speedily redressed”. She used this claim that women didn't have many individual rights to support her work with the Temperance movement. Since husbands had full control over their wives and their wives didn’t have many rights to go against them, husbands could do whatever they wanted. Domestic violence became a big issue. She wrote that there was, “sadness fastened upon the heart of the drunkard's wife!...follow the infuriated drunkard to his miserable home. Listen to his horrid imprecations, witness his brutal violence, his beastly, insensibility which follows. Witness the terror of affrighted innocence, and the deep anguish and despair of her who now wishes only for a grave to hide her and her' suffering babes from this husband and father, this victim of Rum”. I think this is very powerful because it shows how terrifying the drunk husbands could be, and their wives couldn’t do anything about it. If the drunk husbands hurt their wives, “By the common law, which prevails in Ohio, the wife could not bring or maintain an action for an injury done to her own person, but the husband could bring such action without the consent of his wife, the same as for an injury inflicted on his beast...the wife or daughter, being a minor, had not then, and have not now, any redress whatever but through the husband or the father.” The wife could only bring their injuries forward with the consent of their husband, but the husbands could bring about their injuries without the consent of their wives. So, women could not speak about their husband’s domestic violence. The essential question for the Temperance movement was: why was the Temperance Movement able to gain activists from all walks of society? I think Amelia’s newspaper definitely shows how activists from women’s rights movements joined in the Temperance movement because it had a lot to do with women standing up to drunk husbands. However activists from other movements such as abolishing slavery joined the Temperance movement as well because it was a movement that focused on standing up for oneself and one's rights, which encouraged many other activists. Also, drunkenness caused many of the social problems in the mid- 19th century, and many people wanted to get rid of it to help turn their society around and improve the world. Drunkenness caused lots of harsh violence which was what many reform movements were trying to get rid of, and the Temperance movement was promoting just that.