The Highland County Historical Society honored the 150th anniversary of the Women’s Christian Temperance March that took place Dec. 24 and 26, 1873, in Hillsboro by hosting representatives Thursday of the WCTU from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.
The WCTU members toured the Highland County Historical Society’s Highland House Museum, laid a wreath at the grave of Mother Eliza Jane Thompson, attended a service at the First Presbyterian Church of Hillsboro, and re-enacted the walk made by the temperance marchers in 1873.
During the church service, Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha presented a proclamation to Indiana State WCTU President Sarah Ward declaring Nov. 9, 2023 as the day of the Mother Thompson walk.
“Here we are, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, 150 years after that, and of course we date our beginning from the crusades, and this one is the cradle of the whole work of the crusades,” said Ward.
Thompson, who led the Hillsboro march in 1873, was the daughter of Ohio Gov. Allen Trimble. She was inspired by a speech by Dr. Dio Lewis, who suggested that the town’s women protest against the town’s saloons and pray for the bars to close.
The marchers were successful in having most of the establishments selling alcohol closed.
The march was pivotal in the events leading to the ratification of the 18th Amendment on Jan. 16, 1919, that banned alcohol in the United States. More than 100 other towns in Ohio began to have their own marches to stop alcohol consumption, and Thompson became known as the mother of the temperance movement and Hillsboro was named the “Cradle of the Crusade Movement”.
The organization believed that many citizens were living in an immoral manner, and feared that God would no longer bless the United States. They also felt that alcohol was a threat to America’s political system.
The largest organization to advocate for temperance was the American Temperance Society. By the mid 1830s, it had 200,000 members. A statewide effort in Ohio didn’t happen until the 1850s. On Jan. 13, 1853, the Women’s Temperance Convention was held. The participants drafted a constitution and created the Ohio Women’s Temperance Society.
During the Civil War, the temperance movement weakened, but it quickly returned after the war.
In 1881, the WCTU lobbied to legally mandate schools to teach temperance instruction. “Scientific Temperance” was taught in public and military schools and all federal territories.
The WCTU to date has approximately 5,000 members who are dedicated to educating young people about the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs and tobacco.
Eliza Jane Thompson is known as a national and local leader of the temperance movement. She died Nov. 3, 1905, and is buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.