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The Legacy of Temperance

The Legacy of Temperance

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A brief examination of how the the ideas that urged the temperance movement of the 18th century forward laid the foundations and continue to inform the social conservative movement of today.
A brief examination of how the the ideas that urged the temperance movement of the 18th century forward laid the foundations and continue to inform the social conservative movement of today.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Antonia Elle D'orsay on Jun 18, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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DYSSONANT EXPRESSIONS
The Legacy of Temperance
How the Temperance Movements socialexperiment continues today
Antonia E. D'orsay6/18/2011
[Type the abstract of the document here. The abstract is typically a short summary of thecontents of the document. Type the abstract of the document here. The abstract is typically ashort summary of the contents of the document.]
 
 There are days when it often seems as if those we oppose are "getting desperate", as if theefforts we, as a mass set of collective subgroups in ever diverse and of late ever more fractiousunion out of necessity and common oppression.This is not new, however. It has a long history and this history has shaped the underlying culturalvalues of the US for a hundred years, and it has woven itself tightly into the fabric of the nation.This is about ideas, not people. It is ideas which change and shape things far more and for farlonger than people, so Ive elected to not name people, in order to focus on the ideas.In the mid 1820's, spurred in part by the writings of a Doctor of Medicine, a movement began. Itarose out of the Second Great Awakening, a period from roughly 1820 to 1860 when thenumber of new religious beliefs and the number of religious individuals expanded in a massivewave that was an outgrowth of the urbanization of the east and the expansions in the west.That movement was The Temperance Movement.Initially conceived as a means to promote the idea of abstinence from the ills and dangers of alcohol, it became one of the most powerful social movements ever, with an impact that is stillfelt today in the massive reach that it obtained and still has today.Initially, the movement was seen as a progressive cause -- they were interested in fighting forwomen's rights, they were abolitionists, they sought to promote the improvement of society asa whole.They were, for the most part, "good God-fearing men and women" who believed in strongprinciples and ideas like "Good Moral Character". They had many allies as they grew, utilizingwhat was the first real social reform effort and movement in the United States, and eventuallydeveloping an organization as a clearinghouse for ideas and information. This organization wasthe American Temperance Society.This movement spread throughout the nation, and was instrumental in establishing much of what we are working towards today. Women's rights, especially, were a major focus of many inthis movement, as there was a strong correlation seen between the violence of men againstwomen and the drinking of alcohol.Alcohol was a poison, they would say. It led to disease, to corruption, to loose morals, to sin. Itdestroyed people, and was against God's plan.The ideas about prostitution and prostitutes that we often see stated today are derived fromthe work of this movement. The idea of the prostitute as a person with no self esteem and as anindividual worthy of scorn comes from this period, and the enforcement and creation of lawsagainst prostitution was very much due to their efforts, and they are responsible for such things
 
as the Comstock Law and the Page Act, with the Mann Act the culmination of nearly 80 years of continual effort.Much of the support for this came from the reliance on alcohol as a scourge -- it was a symptomof a deeper ill in society at large.One of the organizations that most typifies this outlook is the still active WCTU, which initiallyattracted more women to the efforts of suffrage than many of the more "strident" and "radical"organizations and groups. They advocated for suffrage on the basis of women being "morallysuperior" and thusly needed to vote in order to protect their homes, families, children, and aidthrough those actions in curing society's ills.The WCTU worked to fight against the exploitation of working girls -- meaning women whoworked in such places as mills and sewing shops. They were also a pro immigrant organization.Along with other organizations and in league with other movements, the Temperancemovement created the concepts of segregated restrooms as "normal", and promoted them withthe idea of drunkard men molesting women in them.They successfully passed the National Prohibition Act, and did indeed succeed in their efforts togrant suffrage to women. They also managed to influence the discourse over thepharmaceutical trade, with 'quacks' peddling various elixirs (often a combination of cocaine orheroin extract with alcohol), and were able to create the controlled substances laws thatdominated the first half of the 20th century.A note about Prohibition -- at the time the 18th Amendment was proposed in the Senate, in1917, at least 17 other states had already passed laws regarding prohibition.The temperance movement was strongly tied to the religious groups that backed it(predominantly Calvinist religious bodies such as the Methodists and Baptists), and these werepeople who were very much aware of the political and social events of the world.The temperance movement included many doctors, as well, who became familiar with a termfrom a work titled
Sexual Psychopathy: a Clinical-Forensic Study 
, which introduced many of them to the concept of homosexual  a term which was applied in a pathological and deeplynegative manner to a certain group of people.This left folks with the sense, justified by medical practitioners of the day, that thishomosexuality was a horrible thing, and led to the inclusion of it as a term into the revisions of the Bible that would become the American Standard Version and the Revised Version (both of which are still significantly influential on the newer books in use today).This early book  written and widely accepted long before Freuds work reached a similarstanding  was created by an individual who felt that the only purpose for sex was strictlyprocreation. As a result, any form of sex that was not strictly for procreation was a perversion 

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