Ohio History Journal

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Temperance, Benevolence, and the

City: The Cleveland Non-Partisan

Woman's Christian Temperance

Union, 1874-1900



Here they come now, fifty redoubtable and respectable women,

prayer books in one hand and umbrellas in the others, for it looks

like rain on this March morning of 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio. They

are striding vigorously down Euclid Avenue, headed for the several

saloons on Public Square, which they intend to close down with

their hymns and fervent prayers. They are the Woman's Temper-

ance League of Cleveland.1 By 1885 this pious praying band will

have become the Non-Partisan Woman's Christian Temperance Un-

ion. They will designate themselves "Non-Partisan" to disassociate

themselves from the national Woman's Christian Temperance Un-

ion's endorsement of the Prohibition Party,2 but they will become

increasingly active in Cleveland politics. These women will main-

tain three temperance "friendly inns" with inexpensive lodgings

and reading rooms for men, "mothers' meetings" for women, sewing

classes for little girls, hygiene talks for boys, and gospel meetings

for all; they will conduct missionary services and an employment

bureau at a refuge for homeless women and unwed mothers; they

will visit jails and the city infirmary and furnish food, clothing, and

sometimes funds for the needy. The Cleveland Non-Partisan Union




Marian J. Morton is Professor of History at John Carroll University.


1. This description is compiled from first-hand accounts in Works Progress Admin-

istration of Ohio, Annals of Cleveland, 1818-1935, Vol. LVII (1874) (Cleveland, 1937),

750-56, and from Mary Ingham, Women of Cleveland and Their Work: Philanthropic,

Educational, Literary, Medical, and Artistic (Cleveland, 1893), 168-69.

2. Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-

1900 (Philadelphia, 1981), 129, describes these Non-Partisan WCTU's as insignifi-

cant in number and influence and Republican in their political sympathies. The

Cleveland group was probably Republican in sympathies but was by no means insig-

nificant on the local level.