M930.50.3.197 | Temperance pledge

Temperance pledge
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
10.7 x 8 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

By the end of the 19th century, public drinking, once common among both sexes, was no longer acceptable for women. Though intemperance was a problem of all classes, alcohol consumption came to be "associated with filth, disease, immorality and ignorance-all stereotypical of the 'dangerous' lower classes. It was also associated with men; consequently, the woman drunkard was a particularly degraded creature."

The temperance movement was largely responsible for this change in public opinion, and women were among the leaders. The first Canadian branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) formed in 1874, and within 15 years had grown to over 9,000 members.

The legacy of the WCTU was twofold: it also tackled other issues of social and political importance, including women's suffrage. Its contribution to the temperance movement meant that public alcohol consumption by women continued to be viewed with scorn until after World War II.

Cheryl Krasnick Warsh, "'Oh Lord, pour a cordial in her wounded heart': The Drinking Woman in Victorian and Edwardian Canada," in Drink in Canada: Historical Essays (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993).

Source : Straitlaced: Restrictions on Women [Web tour], by Elise Chenier, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    This is an example of a temperance pledge sheet. Women and men both worked actively to stamp out drinking, first by trying to get individual Canadians to sign pledges such as this one.

  • Where

    Men and women from all over Canada signed temperance pledges. As the image at the top of the print indicates, women were particularly active in the campaign against alcohol.

  • When

    This image was created some time in the late 1800s, when the temperance movement was extremely popular.

  • Who

    John Henry Walker was one of Canada's most prolific graphic artists. He created images for a wide range of commercial and artistic uses.