Washingtonian movement

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The Washingtonian movement (Washingtonians, Washingtonian Temperance Society or Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society) was a 19th-century temperance fellowship founded on April 2, 1840 by six alcoholics (William Mitchell, David Hoss, Charles Anderson, George Steer, Bill M'Curdy, and Tom Campbell) at Chase's Tavern on Liberty Street in Baltimore, Maryland. The idea was that by relying on each other, sharing their alcoholic experiences and creating an atmosphere of conviviality, they could keep each other sober. Total abstinence from alcohol (teetotalism) was their goal. The group taught sobriety and preceded Alcoholics Anonymous by almost a century. Members sought out other "drunkards" (the term alcoholic had not yet been created), told them their experiences with alcohol abuse and how the Society had helped them achieve sobriety. With the passage of time the Society became a prohibitionist organization in that it promoted the legal and mandatory prohibition of alcoholic beverages. The Society was the inspiration for Timothy Shay Arthur's Six Nights with the Washingtonians and his Ten Nights in a Bar-Room.

Temperance movement 19th- and 20th-century global social movement

The temperance movement is a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Participants in the movement typically criticize alcohol intoxication or promote complete abstinence (teetotalism), with leaders emphasizing alcohol's negative effects on health, personality, and family life. Typically the movement promotes alcohol education as well as demands new laws against the selling of alcohols, or those regulating the availability of alcohol, or those completely prohibiting it. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the temperance movement became prominent in many countries, particularly English-speaking and Scandinavian ones, and it led to Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933.

Abstinence self-enforced restraint from indulging in bodily activities

Abstinence is a self-enforced restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to sexual abstinence, or abstinence from alcohol, drugs, or food.

Alcohol (drug) active ingredient in alcoholic beverages

Alcohol, also known by its chemical name ethanol, is a psychoactive substance that is the active ingredient in drinks such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits. It is one of the oldest and most common recreational substances, causing the characteristic effects of alcohol intoxication ("drunkenness"). Among other effects, alcohol produces a mood lift and euphoria, decreased anxiety, increased sociability, sedation, impairment of cognitive, memory, motor, and sensory function, and generalized depression of central nervous system function. Ethanol is a type of chemical compound known as an alcohol, and is the only type of alcohol that is found in alcoholic beverages or is commonly used for recreational purposes; other alcohols such as methanol and isopropyl alcohol are toxic.


The Washingtonians differed from other organizations in the temperance movement in that they focused on the individual alcoholic rather than on society's greater relationship with liquor. [1] In the mid-19th century, a temperance movement was in full sway across the United States and temperance workers advanced their anti-alcohol views on every front. Public temperance meetings were frequent and the main thread was prohibition of alcohol and pledges of sobriety to be made by the individual.

Liquor alcoholic beverage that is produced by distilling

Liquor is an alcoholic drink produced by distillation of grains, fruit, or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation. The distillation process purifies the liquid and removes diluting components like water, for the purpose of increasing its proportion of alcohol content. As liquors contain significantly more alcohol, they are considered "harder" – in North America, the term hard liquor is used to distinguish distilled alcoholic drinks from non-distilled ones.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

The Inebriate Home of Long Island, detail from the Taylor Map of New York (1879) Taylor Map - The Inebriate Home.jpg
The Inebriate Home of Long Island, detail from the Taylor Map of New York (1879)

Concurrent with this movement, a loose network of facilities both public and private offered treatment to drunkards. Referred to as inebriate asylums and reformatory homes, they included the New York State Inebriate Asylum, The Inebriate Home of Long Island, N.Y., the Home for Incurables in San Francisco, the Franklin Reformatory Home in Philadelphia and the Washingtonian Homes which opened in Boston and Chicago in 1857.

New York State Inebriate Asylum

The New York State Inebriate Asylum, later known as Binghamton State Hospital, was the first institution designed and constructed to treat alcoholism as a mental disorder. Located in Binghamton, NY, its imposing Gothic Revival exterior was designed by New York architect Isaac G. Perry and construction was completed in 1864. In 1993 the main building was closed due to safety concerns. The asylum appears on both the state and national lists of Historic Places, but it is currently in a state of disrepair and is one of the most endangered historical places in the nation, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Washingtonians at their peak numbered in the tens of thousands, possibly as high as 600,000. [2] However, in the space of just a few years, this society all but disappeared because they became fragmented in their primary purpose, becoming involved with all manner of controversial social reforms including prohibition, sectarian religion, politics and abolition of slavery. It is believed that Abraham Lincoln attended and spoke at one of the great revivals, presumably not for treatment, but out of interest in various issues being discussed. [2]

Abolitionism in the United States Movement to end slavery in the United States

Abolitionism in the United States was the movement before and during the American Civil War to end slavery in the United States. In the Americas and western Europe, abolitionism was a movement to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. In the 17th century, enlightenment thinkers condemned slavery on humanistic grounds and English Quakers and some Evangelical denominations condemned slavery as un-Christian. At that time, most slaves were Africans, but thousands of Native Americans were also enslaved. In the 18th century, as many as six million Africans were transported to the Americas as slaves, at least a third of them on British ships to North America. The colony of Georgia originally abolished slavery within its territory, and thereafter, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in the Thirteen Colonies.

Abraham Lincoln 16th president of the United States

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman, politician, and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

The Washingtonians drifted away from their initial purpose of helping the individual alcoholic, and disagreements, infighting, and controversies over prohibition eventually destroyed the group. The Washingtonians became so thoroughly extinct that, some 50 years later in 1935 when William Griffith Wilson ("Bill") and Dr. Robert Smith ("Dr. Bob") joined together in forming Alcoholics Anonymous, neither of them had ever heard of the Washingtonians. Although comparisons are made between the Washingtonians and Alcoholics Anonymous, in some respects they have more in common with modern secular addiction recovery groups. The Washingtonians were so non-religious and non-spiritual that religious critics accused them of humanism and placing themselves before the power of God. [3]

Bob Smith (doctor) American physician and surgeon

Robert Holbrook Smith, also known as Dr. Bob, was an American physician and surgeon who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Bill Wilson, more commonly known as Bill W.

Addiction recovery groups

Addiction recovery groups are voluntary associations of people who share a common desire to overcome drug addiction. Different groups use different methods, ranging from completely secular to explicitly spiritual. Some programs may advocate a reduction in the use of illegal drugs rather than outright abstention, although this is typically not a sustainable treatment plan in the long term. One survey of members found active involvement in any addiction recovery group correlates with higher chances of maintaining sobriety. The survey found group participation increased when the individual members' beliefs matched those of their primary support group. Analysis of the survey results found a significant positive correlation between the religiosity of members and their participation in twelve-step addiction recovery groups and SMART Recovery, although the correlation factor was three times smaller for SMART Recovery than for the twelve-step addiction recovery groups. Religiosity was inversely related to participation in Secular Organizations for Sobriety.

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Alcoholics Anonymous mutual aid movement

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. Their stated purpose is to enable “members to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, and apolitical. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. The AA program is set forth in the Twelve Steps and discussed at AA group meetings.

Prohibition the outlawing of the consumption, sale, production etc. of alcohol

Prohibition is the act or practice of forbidding something by law; more particularly the term refers to the banning of the manufacture, storage, transportation, sale, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The word is also used to refer to a period of time during which such bans are enforced.

Neal Dow American Prohibition advocate and politician

Neal Dow was an American Prohibition advocate and politician. Nicknamed the "Napoleon of Temperance" and the "Father of Prohibition", Dow was born to a Quaker family in Portland, Maine. From a young age, he believed alcohol to be the cause of many of society's problems and sought to ban it through legislation. In 1850, Dow was elected president of the Maine Temperance Union, and the next year he was elected mayor of Portland. Soon after, largely due to Dow's efforts, the state legislature banned the sale and production of alcohol in what became known as the Maine law. Serving twice as mayor of Portland, Dow enforced the law with vigor and called for increasingly harsh penalties for violators. In 1855, his opponents rioted and he ordered the state militia to fire on the crowd. One man was killed and several wounded, and when public reaction to the violence turned against Dow, he chose not to seek reelection.

Sobriety continued abstinence from alcohol and other psychoactive substances

Sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from alcohol or drugs. Sobriety is also considered to be the natural state of a human being given at a birth. A person in a state of sobriety is considered sober. In a treatment setting, sobriety is the achieved goal of independence from consuming alcohol. As such, sustained abstinence is a prerequisite for sobriety. Early in abstinence, residual effects of alcohol consumption can preclude sobriety. These effects are labeled "PAWS," or "post acute withdrawal syndrome." Someone who abstains, but has a latent desire to resume use, is not considered truly sober. An abstainer may be subconsciously motivated to resume alcohol consumption, but for a variety of reasons, abstains. Sobriety has more specific meanings within specific contexts, such as the culture of many substance use recovery programs, law enforcement, and some schools of psychology. In some cases, sobriety implies achieving "life balance."

Neo-prohibitionism is a current movement to attempt to stop consumption of alcohol in society through legislation and policies which further restrict the sale, possession, and marketing of alcohol in order to reduce average per capita consumption and change social norms to reduce its acceptability.

The repeal of Prohibition in the United States was accomplished with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 5, 1933.

The American Temperance Society (ATS), also known as the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, was a society established on February 13, 1826 in Boston, Massachusetts. Within five years there were 2,220 local chapters in the U.S. with 170,000 members who had taken a pledge to abstain from drinking distilled beverages. Within ten years, there were over 8,000 local groups and more than 1,250,000 members who had taken the pledge.

The Martha Washingtonians were a group of working class women of the early 19th century committed to the idea of encouraging temperance. The organization was an outgrowth of the Washingtonian temperance movement. As an organization, it was composed of wives, sisters, aunts, daughters and other female relatives of drunken men.

Christian views on alcohol

Christian views on alcohol are varied. Throughout the first 1,800 years of Church history, Christians generally consumed alcoholic beverages as a common part of everyday life and used "the fruit of the vine" in their central rite—the Eucharist or Lord's Supper. They held that both the Bible and Christian tradition taught that alcohol is a gift from God that makes life more joyous, but that over-indulgence leading to drunkenness is sinful or at least a vice.

The prohibition of alcohol in Canada arose in various stages, from local municipal bans in the late 19th century, to provincial bans in the early 20th century, and national prohibition from 1918 to 1920. The relatively large and powerful beer and alcohol manufacturing sector, and the huge working class that purchased their products, failed to convince any of the governments to reverse their stance on prohibition. Most provinces repealed their bans in the 1920s, though alcohol was illegal in Prince Edward Island from 1901 to 1948. By comparison the temperance act in Ontario ran from 1916 to 1927.

The effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous in treating alcoholism is a subject of ongoing interdisciplinary research and debate in a multitude of academic and non-academic contexts.

LifeRing Secular Recovery Addiction and recovery organization

LifeRing Secular Recovery is a secular, non-profit organization providing peer-run addiction recovery groups. The organization provides support and assistance to people seeking to recover from alcohol and drug addiction, and also assists partners, family members and friends of addicts or alcoholics. It is an abstinence-based recovery program with three fundamental principles: sobriety, secularity and self-empowerment. The motto of LifeRing is "empower your sober self."

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), also known as Save Our Selves, is a non-profit network of autonomous addiction recovery groups. The program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety and uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. The Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety emphasize rational decision-making and are not religious or spiritual in nature. SOS represents an alternative to the spiritually based addiction recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). SOS members may also attend AA meetings, but SOS does not view spirituality or surrendering to a Higher Power as being necessary to maintain abstinence.

Prohibition in the United States constitutional ban on alcoholic beverages

Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.

Temperance – moderation, self-restraint, esp in eating and drinking, moderate use of, or total abstinence from, alcoholic liquors as beverages; ~ society etc. for restriction or abolition of use of alcoholic drinks. L temperantia.

Temperance movement in the United States

The Temperance movement in the United States is a movement to curb the consumption of alcohol. It had a large influence on American politics and society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, there are organizations that continue to promote the cause of temperance.

Temperance movement in the United Kingdom

The Temperance movement in the United Kingdom originated as a mass movement in the 19th century. Before this, though there were diatribes published against drunkenness and excess, total abstinence from alcohol was very rarely advocated or practised. The earliest temperance societies, inspired by the Belfast professor of theology, and Presbyterian Church of Ireland minister John Edgar, who poured his stock of whiskey out of his window in 1829, concentrated their efforts on spirits rather than wine and beer. Joseph Livesey was another British temperance advocate who financed his philanthropic work with the profits attained from cheese production, following an introduction to the food product by a doctor he had consulted with regards to a serious ailment in 1816. The term teetotal is derived from a speech by Richard (Dickie) Turner, a follower of Livesey, in Preston in 1833. Livesey opened the first temperance hotel in 1833 and the next year founded the first temperance magazine, The Preston Temperance Advocate (1834–37). The British Association for the Promotion of Temperance was established by 1835.

Teetotalism Practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages

Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices teetotalism is called a teetotaler or is simply said to be teetotal. The teetotalism movement was first started in Preston, England, in the early 19th century. The Preston Temperance Society was founded in 1833 by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author of The Pledge: "We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine."

Norman Kerr Scottish physician and temperance advocate

Norman Shanks Kerr M.D.,F.L.S. was a physician who is remembered for his work in the British temperance movement. He originated the Total Abstinence Society and was founder and first president of the Society for the Study and Cure of Inebriety which was founded in 1884.


  1. Fletcher, Holly Berkley (2007). Gender and the American Temperance Movement of the Nineteenth Century. Routledge. p. 31. ISBN   9781135894412. Even taken as an insular reform, temperance was no singular movement of white, middle-class men. The working-class Washingtonian movement comprised a notable departure from the mainstream. In particular, the Washingtonians demonstrated new ways of thinking about gender roles and definitions within the context of temperance.
  2. 1 2 White, Charles (1921). Lincoln and Prohibition. Abingdon. pp. 40–45.
  3. White, William L. (2001). "Pre-A.A. Alcoholic Mutual Aid Societies". Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly . 19 (2): 1–21. doi:10.1300/J020v19n02_01. ISSN   1544-4538. While there are similarities between A.A. and the Washingtonians, the Washingtonians were so distinctly non-religious and non-spiritual in orientation that they were charged by their religious critics with the heresy of humanism (placing their own power above the power of God)
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