Ohio History Journal

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edited by

edited by



Annie Wittenmyer and

the Women's Crusade



The Women's Temperance Crusade, a spontaneous non-violent

movement against the saloon, involved at least 56,000 women in 912 places

in 26 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia. It came to a focus in

the creation of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union in

Cleveland, Ohio, 18-20 November 1874. At that convention Annie Turner

Wittenmyer (also spelled "Wittenmeyer") of Philadelphia was elected the

organization's first president.

Historians' picture of Wittenmyer is based largely upon Mary Earhart's

unsympathetic portrait in her biography of Wittenmyer's rival and

successor, Frances E. Willard. Earhart portrays Willard's attempts to

commit the WCTU to woman suffrage, the most radical demand of

nineteenth-century feminism,1 as the principal basis for conflict between

Willard and Wittenmyer.2 But Willard's commitment to woman suffrage

was in fact more equivocal than Earhart admits,3 while the mass appeal of

nineteenth-century feminism stemmed not from its radicalism but from its

diversity.4 The background and ideas of Annie Wittenmyer, elected as

leader of their new organization by activist women meeting together for the

first time, can illuminate one important segment of this diverse movement.

Annie Turner was born in 1827 in a small Ohio River town. After



Jack S. Blocker Jr. is Associate Professor of History at Huron College, London, Ontario,




1. Ellen DuBois, "The Radicalism of the Woman Suffrage Movement: Notes Toward the

Reconstruction of Nineteenth-Century Feminism ," Feminist Studies 3 (Fall, 1975), 63-71.

2. Mary Earhart, Frances Willard: From Prayers to Politics (Chicago, 1944), 151-172.

3. Jack S. Blocker Jr., Retreat from Reform: The Prohibition Movement in the United

States, 1890-1913 (Westport, Conn., 1976), 42, 55-56.

4. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "Beauty, the Beast, and the Militant Woman: Sex Roles and

Social Stress in Jacksonian America." American Quarterly 23 (1971), 562-584; Daniel Scott

Smith, "Family Limitation, Sexual Control, and Domestic Feminism in Victorian America,"

in Clio's Consciousness Raised: New Perspectives on the History of Women, eds. Mary

Hartman and Lois W. Banner (New York, 1974), 119-136.