Temperance doesn’t mean abstinence

Lady Henry Somerset

The temperance movement was at its height in Britain in the late 19th century. With towns awash with alcohol-induced squalor, many strong-minded women realised that curbs were needed on the liquor trade.
Some, as in America, advocated prohibition. Others, like Lady Henry Somerset, the President of the British Women’s Temperance Association, were more realistic, knowing this was never going to happen in Britain. She didn’t seriously expect everyone to stop drinking – she just advocated moderation and a system which made alcohol less readily available.
Of course, Lady Henry believed in leading by example. She herself signed the Total Abstinence Pledge, though she confessed to enjoying her last glass (or two) of port at Worcester Railway Station on her way to the very meeting where she made her pledge and encouraged all her tenants and servants to join her.
When she gave evidence to the Royal Commission on Liquor Licensing in 1897 she astounded some of its members by her moderation: “I would not wish to interfere with anybody who close to take alcohol in moderate quantities”, she said.

About rosblack

I am a freelance writer & author of 4 social history books, featuring female social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century. In a previous life I managed a housing charity. I also give talks.
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