But the motivations and makeup of the temperance movement are more complicated than their simplified legacy would suggest. Rather than a regressive movement consumed with moralist disdain for alcohol use, many of its most ardent supporters wanted alcohol banned for a much more practical reason: women’s safety. Drunk men, they observed, were more likely to sexually assault women, more likely to beat their wives and children, and more likely to subject passing women to sexual harassment. They didn’t all see drunkenness as an offense to their Christian morality, although some of them did. For the most part, they saw male drunks as a threat to women’s safety.
In other words: temperance has come to be seen as a movement of nagging housemarms, but it could be better understood as a mass movement against domestic violence.
Perhaps the feminist energy of the temperance movement is why the liquor industry lobbied so hard no only against the temperance movement, but against women’s right to vote. As more and more states granted women the right to vote, the newly empowered female electorate voted overwhelmingly for local candidates who opposed alcohol – that is, in the temperance movement’s mind, who opposed male violence against women.