Texas Joins the Battle
Temperance Tribute to William Jennings Bryan, circa 1925

The temperance movement was a driving force behind the women's suffrage movement in the South and West. Temperance workers believed that greedy and selfish alcohol manufacturers were knowingly selling a dangerous product to the public and causing great social harm in the process. For many women, it was their belief in temperance and prohibition that inspired them to work to get the vote.

On the national level, their leader was William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. A prairie populist, Bryan skyrocketed to fame in 1896 when he unexpectedly captured the Democratic nomination for president after an electrifying speech in support of farmer's rights, in which he swore, "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!" For the next 30 years, Bryan would be the most prominent national spokesman for the concerns of rural and small-town Americans. Known as the "Great Commoner," he won the Democratic nomination again in 1900 and 1908 and served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan was a fundamentalist Christian and is often described as a political evangelist. He championed peace, prohibition, and women's suffrage along with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Bryan's weekly column of Sunday School lessons was syndicated in more than 100 newspapers with an estimated readership of 15 million. He traveled the country constantly on the Chautauqua circuit, making more than 200 speeches a year for decades. This tribute to Bryan after his death in 1925 reveals how much he meant to the temperance movement.

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Temperance tribute to Bryan

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Temperance Tribute to William Jennings Bryan, circa 1925, Erminia Thompson Folsom Papers, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: August 24, 2011