Cover image for Well-tempered women : nineteenth-century temperance rhetoric
Well-tempered women : nineteenth-century temperance rhetoric
Mattingly, Carol, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xv, 213 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1440 Lexile.
Format :


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HV5229 .M37 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this richly illustrated study, Carol Mattingly examines the rhetoric of the temperance movement, the largest political movement of women in the nineteenth century.

Tapping previously unexplored sources, Mattingly uncovers new voices and different perspectives, thus greatly expanding our knowledge of temperance women in particular and of nineteenth-century women and women's rhetoric in general. Her scope is broad: she looks at temperance fiction, newspaper accounts of meetings and speeches, autobiographical and biographical accounts, and minutes of national and state temperance meetings.

The women's temperance movement was first and foremost an effort by women to improve the lives of women. Twentieth-centuty scholars often dismiss temperance women as conservative and complicit in their own oppression. As Mattingly demonstrate, however, the opposite is true: temperance women made purposeful rhetorical choices in their efforts to improve the lives of women. They carefully considered the life circumstances of all women and sought to raise consciousness and achieve reform in an effective manner. And they were effective, gaining legal, political, and social improvements for women as they became the most influential and most successful group of women reformers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Mattingly finds that, for a large number of women who were unhappy with their status in the nineteenth century, the temperance movement provided an avenue for change. Examining the choices these women made in their efforts to better conditions for women, Mattingly looks first at oral rhetoric among nineteenth-century temperance women. She examines the early temperance speeches of activists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who later chose to concentrate their effort in the suffrage organizations, and those who continued to work on behalf of women primarily through the temperance topic, such as Amelia Bloomer and Clarina Howard Nichols. Finally, she examines the rhetoric of members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union--the largest organization of women in the nineteenth century.

Mattingly then turns to the rhetoric from perspectives outside those of mainstream, middle-class women. She focuses on racial conflicts and alliances as an increasingly diverse membership threatened the unity and harmony in the WCTU. Her primary source for this discussion is contemporary newspaper accounts of temperance speeches.

Fiction by temperance writers also proves to be a fertile source for Mattingly's investigation. Insisting on greater equality between men and women, this fiction candidly portrayed injustice toward women. Through the temperance issue, Mattingly discovers, women could broach otherwise clandestine topics openly. She also finds that many of the concerns of nineteenth-century temperance women are remarkably similar to concerns of today's feminists.

Author Notes

Carol Mattingly is director of the Writing Center at the University of Louisville.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

With rare common sense and a good ear for the written and spoken word, Mattingly (English, Louisiana State Univ.) shows how temperance women built the 19th century's largest reform movement and women's organization, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, by presenting their arguments and themselves in familiar language and dress. By lobbying for liquor control laws and other reforms, women extended the "women's sphere" into politics and mobilized public support for women's causes, including divorce reform and suffrage. The temperance women used fiction, platform speeches, and public display in their ethical appeals and drew on their church backgrounds to speak and write in ways that won support across regional, racial, and even class lines, though accusations of nativism and racism sometimes embarrassed the movement. Mattingly rediscovers the rhetorical roots of temperance reform and offers new readings of women's literature and public performance. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.‘Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The speeches made by women who participated in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) provide a vivid picture of how 19th-century women used rhetoric to present their dissatisfaction with the law and the lack of rights granted to women at that time. Mattingly's comprehensive historical project explains how women in the WCTU promoted women's equality by using the nonthreatening rhetoric of the temperance movement to expose the plights of women and children affected by intemperance and to covertly effect change in women's rights. Mattingly (Louisiana State Univ.) includes the struggles of the WCTU, the media coverage of the women's speeches, and the fiction that grew out of their movement. The last chapter connects 19th-century women's struggles with the difficulties still encountered by 20th-century women. A valuable contribution to the discipline of English literature, in particular to rhetoric and women studies, the volume is informative and highly recommended for undergraduates and graduate students. An excellent addition to scholarly literature. A. C. Rosati; Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Platesp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Chronologyp. xiii
Introduction Silenced Voicesp. 1
Part 1 From Pedestal to Pen and Podiump. 11
2 Patriotic Reformers: "Called by the Spirit of the Lord to Lead the Women of the World"p. 39
3 Woman-Tempered Rhetoric Public Presentation and the WCTUp. 58
Part 2 Controversy Surrounding the Causep. 73
4 Dissension and Division Racial Tension and the WCTUp. 75
5 Red-Nosed Angels and the Corseted Crusade Newspaper Accounts of Nineteenth-Century Temperance Reformersp. 96
Part 3 Fictional Accounts of Feminine Concernsp. 121
6 "The Feelings of the Romantic and Fashionable" Women's Issues in Temperance Fictionp. 123
7 "Wine Drinkers and Heartless Profligates" Water Drops from Popular Novelistsp. 143
Conclusion Women of the Centuryp. 163
Notesp. 181
Works Citedp. 189
Indexp. 205