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Temperance advertisement, John Henry Walker (1831–1899), 1859
Ink on paper on supporting paper. Wood engraving
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum

The temperance movement swept across British North America in the early nineteenth century and would remain a politically powerful force for the next one hundred years. Although there were regional variations to its success, temperance was arguably the first popular movement in Canada and gathered support from men, women, and children from all classes who sought to redefine the place of alcohol in society. Middle-class women were particularly prominent advocates of temperance; the threat that alcohol was seen to represent to family allowed women to step outside the confines of domesticity and be politically active in the public sphere without jeopardizing their “respectability.”