19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio


Though growing numbers of Ohio women joined the suffrage movement in the late 19th century, far more joined in the fight against alcohol. In Hillsboro, OH, a group of women left a lecture by Dr. Diocletian Lewis against drunkenness and besieged all the establishments in the town that sold liquor. “Where owners refused [to stop selling alcohol], women invaded their establishments, knelt on their rough-hewn floors in prayer, and sang hymns--often for hours, sometimes for days.”

These protests became widespread throughout Ohio in 1873, leading to the formation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), formally established in Cleveland in 1874. The organization grew quickly, becoming the largest women’s organization in the world by 1890. Their contribution to women’s suffrage came particularly in municipal suffrage, agitating to give women a voice in changing local liquor laws. National suffrage leaders were at times uneasy about this alliance, seeing it as a division in focus, although the WCTU endorsed women’s suffrage in 1876 as a means to banning alcohol sales and consumption. 

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