On this day … 13 January 1883

The Preston Guardian reported the opening of the Brunswick Street Temperance Mission by the British Women’s Temperance Association as a mission room for women.

Women seem to have been pretty scarce in the town’s temperance story, and possibly in the wider movement nationally. In his autobiography, the teetotal campaigner and social reformer Joseph Livesey devoted the final chapter to fulsome praise for himself from representatives of all the temperance organisations in Britain who journeyed to Preston to celebrate his 80th birthday.

He was especially proud of what he termed ‘a selection of autographs of the leading temperance men throughout the kingdom’. The autographs were attached to an address, which ‘was signed by more than 220 representative temperance men in all parts of the United Kingdom’. There was not a single woman on the list.

Nor did there seem to be much room for an ordinary man of the people, the list would appear to consist exclusively of the ‘great and the good’, being peppered with titles and professional qualifications. A world away from the lives of the seven men of Preston who signed the pledge in 1832.

Women do seem to have played little part in the movement in Preston certainly until late in the 19th century, to judge by the account Livesey includes in his autobiography and by reports in the local papers. The 2 February 1862 issue of the Preston Guardian reported that a Females’ Temperance Society in Preston had been abandoned through want of success. And in 1870 the paper carried letters about the need for a ladies’ temperance association in Preston. Finally, in 1877 a ladies’ committee was formed to assist the cause of temperance in Preston and by the end of 1878 a ladies’ temperance mission was operating.

This late and somewhat peripheral involvement in the movement in Preston is strange, for in the USA women played a leading role in the temperance movement. They were certainly not peripheral there, but where always at the forefront, just as they had been in the abolitionist movement in the years before the Civil War. Preston women eventually found their own voice in their fight for the vote in the early years of the next century.

Tributes to Joseph Livesey on his 80th birthday
The section of Chapter 18 of Joseph Livesey’s autobiography with a selection of the names of men signing a tribute to him on his 80th birthday.

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