Eliza Jane Trimble was born on Aug. 24, 1816 to Ohio Gov. Allen Trimble and his wife in Hilsboro, Ohio. She married James H. Thompson, a local judge. Together they had three children.
By the 1870s, the issue of temperance was very important to Ohio residents. Hillsboro had more around 20 saloons and alcohol was also sold in drug stores for medicinal uses.
In 1873, Thompson attended a speech by Dr. Dio Lewis. He suggested that the town’s women protest against the saloons, and that they should pray for the bars to close.
On Dec. 23, 1873, women met at the Presbyterian church where they planned and executed a crusade to stop the sale of alcohol. A committee of about 50 citizens was formed and about $12,000 was given for financial support of the crusade.
On Christmas morning of 1873, somewhere between 75 and 115 women marched from the church to four drugstores. Out of the four drug stores, two signed a pledge to not sell alcohol. Mr. Dunn, a pharmacist, was opposed to any such movement and on Jan. 31, 1874, he gave notice to 30 women and approximately 30 men, that if they continued to interfere with his business, he would sue for damages and trespassing.
On Dec. 26, the saloons were visited and Thompson prayed in at least one of them.
Hillsboro is known to be the Cradle of the Crusade Movement. Eliza Jane Thompson is known to be the mother of the Temperance Movement. Hillsboro crusaders were successful in closing down the saloons. More than 100 other towns in Ohio begin to have their own marches to stop alcohol consumption.
Hillsboro and other towns became involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which was organized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to limit or outlaw alcohol consumption.
It was thought that many citizens were living in an immoral manner, and people 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 (1861-65), the Temperance Movement weakened, but quickly returned after the war.
In 1881, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (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 believes that any drinking is harmful, even medicinally. The WCTU to date has approximately 5,000 members. They are dedicated to educating young people on the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs and tobacco.
Eliza Jane “Mother” Thompson is known as a national and local leader of the Temperance Movement. She died on Nov. 3, 1905, and is buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery.
Sources for this story include: OhioHistorycentral.org, geni.com, wctu.org and freepages.rootsweb.com.
Jackie Wolgamott is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.