The Temperance Movement in Chicago

In Chicago, along with the rest of the United States, due to the problematic increase in alcohol consumption in the nineteenth century, temperance and the rise of institutions against the sale and consumption of alcohol took form. The Chicago Temperance Society, a subcommittee of the American Temperance Society, began to protest alcohol in 1833 and by 1898, 18,000 people in Chicago and the surrounding areas took part of the temperance movement pushing for prohibition.[1] Primarily religious groups comprised of both women and men, pushed for lawmakers to stifle the distribution of alcohol and dry up the streets of Chicago.[2]


In a pamphlet released by the Dry Chicago Federation in 1910, it demonizes saloons and their placement in Chicago society: “The saloon builds nothing. Its mission is to destroy. It creates an appetite for drink that makes a living from the appetite that it creates.”[3] On both the pro-temperance and anti-temperance sides, propaganda literature flourished and added intensity to the debate in the war on alcohol.


The women’s role in the temperance movement is notable because of their growing outspoken nature in the political sphere. Women officially earned their right to vote in 1920, the same year the Volstead Act passed.[4] The impact of women, religion, and their temperance societies had a decisive role in politics in the early nineteenth century. However, the rise in organized crime existed with the prohibition era is especially noticeable in Chicago. Those that were against the passage of Volstead Act spoke out against the “Carrie Nationites” and felt that if prohibition came to fruition in Chicago it would cause, “an increase in the misuse of alcoholic stimulants, drive the city to the brink of bankruptcy, and would add to all this the increase of vice by innumerable crimes such as perjury, bribery, and the corruption of officials, and so on.”[5] Many Americans were upset with the passing of the law and were more inclined to break it fueled by their dissatisfaction and thirst for liquor.

[1] Scott Schaeffer, “The Legislative Rise and Fall of the Eighteenth Amendment: Chicago and the Failure of Prohibition,” The Journal of Law and Politics, Inc. (Spring 2011).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Campaign Manual for a Dry Chicago,” Chicago, IL: Dry Chicago Federation, 1915. Hathi Trust.

[4] Schaeffer.

[5] Chicago Eagle. (Chicago, Ill.), 26 March 1910. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>