Sunday, June 16, 2024

Temperance Notes


Rochester Historical Society Collection. Gift of Mary & Joe Koval.
Fundraiser by members of the Rochester Independent Order of Good Templars,
a temperance organization, about 1900.

Quilts were part of the widespread temperance movement's fundraising and consciousness raising efforts. A few quilts and accounts....


The Women's Christian Temperance Union was the largest of
the organizations.

WCTU quilt with names from Liverpool, Ohio

1909 Harper, Kansas
The W.C.T.U. encouraged fundraising quilts covered with names. One paid a dime or more to have one's name embroidered on the piece, which then might be raffled to raise more money.

Two New York quilts

Raffles were an affront to antigambling sensibilities but they went on despite
 laws prohibiting any kind of gambling. (I believe still on the books in Kansas.)


The Water Glass, a temperance symbol

Tennessee State Museum Collection

Chester, Pennsylvanians with a WCTU quilt. The white ribbon
in the center was one of the group's symbols.

New York project & the Quilt Index. West Groton, New York

UPDATE: Louise sent a 1903 reference to raising $ with quilts. Same design but in red.

It's a good time to recall the WCTU and its goal of prohibiting alcohol in the U.S. They succeeded in their crusade only to watch Prohibition encourage a new attitude that increased acceptance of drinking alcohol with new cocktail recipes to hide the taste of bootleg liquor.

Post-prohibition bar with my mother and Aunt having a
Manhattan with the boys. Their generation learned to drink
during Prohibition.

Legislating morality, particularly religious morals, is a foolhardy goal. The 18th Amendment was a "failed experiment,” says Samuel Freeman, a professor of philosophy and law at the University of Pennsylvania in an Atlantic article. “They did make an amendment that had to do with a matter of private morality, and it didn’t work.”

Collection of the New York State Museum

Protestant religious sentiments in a WCTU quilt
made in Schenectedy in 1904.


  1. I’m glad to see some light shone on the WCTU which, at one time, was the largest organization, by number of members, on earth. The temperance movement is a largely forgotten chapter in US history. A couple points:
    * Temperance quilts were part of a larger class of political quilts — a way for women to express political beliefs before they couple legally vote.
    * The temperance movement, while ultimately unsuccessful, was a significant catalyst for women’s suffrage, and proved again, if more proof were needed, women’s ability to organize for a cause.

    Tangentially, my grandmother was a temperance woman. One reason she married my grandfather was that he’d taken the pledge and he never had a drink in his life due to a traumatic childhood event. Both my grandparents were born in 1870.

  2. Barb, just sent you a clipping of a 1903 wheel pattern possibly used for the NY quilt project quilt. Cheers, Louise