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:: The Institutional Phase of The Washingtonian Total Abstinence Movement ::
:: Sources of Information
JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL, VOL. 39 (9), 1591-1606, 1978. *
A Research Note - Leonard U. Blumberg
The Institutional Phase of The Washingtonian Total Abstinence Movement
vr_left.gifThe Institutional Phase of The Washingtonian Total Abstinence Movement

The discussion which follows is based on a synthesis of materials which vary considerably in completeness and are not equally available for all institutions. The single most important type of source was the annual report; the annual runs were more complete for some periods and institutions than for others. These reports, as well as various ephemeral publications, are available at the Boston Atheneum, the Library and Archives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Chicago Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Rhode Island Historical Society, the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Society, and the Countway - Harvard University Medical School Library. Some more recent annual reports as well as some minutes of Boards of Directors' (Executive Committee) meetings were made available by administrators or staff members of the Boston Washingtonian Hospital and the Martha Washington Hospital in Chicago. Information about the Boston Washington Hospital in the early 1940s has also been obtained from the Merrill Moore manuscript collection in the Archives Collection of the Library of Congress. Some records of the Franklin Reformatory Home are on deposit with the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Records and annual reports of the Women Is Prison Association are available at the Isaac T. Hopper Home in New York City. A number of ephemeral publications about the Boston and Chicago institutions were made available by institutional administrators or staff members. In addition to these more or less internal documents, there were occasional references to these institutions in the Quarterly Journal of Inebriety and the Journal of the American Temperance Union. In addition, a number of commentaries and bits of legal testimony throw some light on how the institutions and their leadership were perceived.

This investigation has involved the following kinds and sources of materials: (1) The American Association for the Study and Cure of Inebriety, Proceedings and Journal, 1870-1917; (2) annual reports and Journal of the American Temperance Union, 1837-62; (3) New Washingtonian (monthly newspaper of the Washingtonian Rome of Chicago) 1876-93; (4) Maine Temperance Gazette and Washingtonian Herald, 1840s; (5) Washingtonian speeches, Washington's Birthday and Independence Day, 1842, by Abraham Lincoln (from the Sangamo Journal) and by others; (6) all available annual reports of the institutions discussed; (7) archival materials such as minutes, day-books and ledgers, correspondence and memoranda (mostly of the Boston Home and Hospital) but also of the Chicago Home and Hospital; (8) relatively current materials in organization files, pamphlets, board minutes and miscellaneous reports (mostly of the Boston Home and Hospital, the Chicago Home and the Hopper Home); and (9) interviews with executives of institutions and agencies in Boston, Chicago and New York.

In addition to the Washington Total Abstinence Societies, which met weekly or oftener, there also developed residential institutions that were at first called "asylums" and later called "homes" (or "reformatory homes"). While briefly mentioned in Maxwell's 1950 article, the best published description of the Washingtonian reformatory homes is Arthur's description in 1877 (3). The present report is intended to extend Maxwell's work and, in doing this, to describe the institutional phase of the Washingtonian Movement and its organizational transformation in the years that followed Arthur's ascription.

The Washingtonian homes were residential facilities for persons with serious alcohol problems. In those days "drunkard" was the commonly used term, though medical specialists and other professionals sometimes referred to the condition as "oenomania" (pronounced "winomania") and "dipsomania"; "alcoholic" later came into vogue. The first Washingtonian residential facilities in Boston were purely ad hoc. The Washington Total Abstinence Society of Boston was organized in April 1841. There was an early concern for the "reformed men," and a few committed temperance workers offered to take care of them for a few days until they could take

care of themselves. But this proved too burdensome and the society rented some rooms near Marlborough Chapel, where they held their meetings. This also proved too expensive for the society and was given up (4, 1860). The funds that had been solicited for an "Asylum Fund" were used otherwise: "After much thought various calculations were made, it was found to be the cheapest and the best course to pursue the system of boarding out those who might be thrown upon their [the society's] hands, and thus save the expense of house-rent, furniture, keeper, and help in the house, fuel, and many other heavy expenses. They accordingly selected three good boarding-houses, kept by discreet members of the Society, who have thus far given entire satisfaction: charging no more than the actual time the boarders have remained" (5,p.4). In addition, the reasoning of the Boston Washingtonians was that those so boarded were aware that it cost money, and this was believed to be a pressure to find work and be self-supporting. There was no "treatment" program because those who were cared for undoubtedly were expected to take full part in the activities of the Washington Total Abstinence Society under whose care they were.

This set of arrangements did not last very long. In 1844 the society rented a former museum as a meeting hall and in the basement "fitted up accommodations for men who were drunkards and had no homes to go to. It was a rough, rude place- bunks built up by the side of the wall, cheap but strong - the bedding clean, yet very plain - the table made of an old chest which contained the cast off clothes begged by the society - the dishes, what few there were borrowed from an adjacent eating house - a small stove and kettle to heat water, and tin cup or two, constituted the principal fitting up of the place" (4, 1867). The society was unable to raise enough money to support its asylum and it was closed in 1845.

A somewhat similar development took place in New York which had "houses of refuge" where "miserable inebriates were taken out of the gutter, and washed, and clothed, and lodged, and fed, and kept until they came to their right mind; when they were suffered to depart in peace, often having some regular employment provided for them" (6, p.58). These houses of refuge did not last through 1842.

The Washington Total Abstinence Society lingered on in Boston until at least 1860, although its principle of moral suasion was substantially eclipsed by the now invigorated absolutist prohibitionist branch of the temperance movement. There seems to have been no organized continuity between the Washington Society's Asylum, which closed in 1845, and the Home for the Fallen which opened in Boston in November 1857. There was ideological continuity, however. The Home for the Fallen was organized at the urging of Reverend Phineas Stowe, minister of the Mariners' Bethel in the North End of Boston. Four of the officers of the home, including Stowe, had been active in the Washington Total Abstinence Society in the 1840s. The plan to establish a "Retreat for Inebriates” initially received little support from "old and tried friends of the Temperance cause [who] looked askance at the movement as utopian in its character, and destined to a speedy failure" (4, 1860). A one-term Massachusetts legislator, and longtime superintendent of the home, Albert Day, was instrumental in getting the attention of other legislators; the temperance prohibitionist legislators were organized into the Massachusetts Legislative Temperance Society, a quasi-caucus, and a group of "reformed men" from the Home for the Fallen "addressed their meeting with much power" (7, p.64). The legislature incorporated the home in 1859 as The Washingtonian Home and gave the institution a small grant-in-aid for about 12 years (8). It is not clear why the legislature changed the name at the time of incorporation, but presumably it was because the name that Reverend Stowe had chosen suggested that it was an institution for "fallen women"; the Washingtonian label, by the same token, was self-explanatory during that period. The Washingtonian Home in Boston went through a variety of vicissitudes and still exists today as the Washingtonian Center for Addictions - a medical and psychiatric center for alcohol and drug addicts. While it proudly upholds the name, the Washingtonian ideology and practices disappeared from the institution many years ago.

At this point it is necessary to consider a conceptual problem that these data have inadvertently raised. All the currently available evidence indicates that, with a few possible exceptions, the Washington Total Abstinence societies had disappeared into the temperance - prohibitionist movement by the time of the Civil War. There is no evidence of organizational continuity between the Washingtonian societies of the 1840s and the Washingtonian reformatory homes, despite the fact that both in the Boston Worcester area and in Illinois there continued to be Washingtonians after the homes were established. Duis (9, pp.368-375) argues that by the time of the Civil War the term "Washingtonian" had come to be the generic term for drunkard reform. If one takes his approach, the homes are to be regarded simply as manifestations of the temperance - prohibitionist movement. Since the Chicago home was started and received its earliest support from the temperance prohibitionists, this is a reasonable conclusion.

But reference group theory suggests an alternative one, and it is that alternative position that is taken in the present discussion. Reference group theory makes a distinction between membership groups, i.e., groups to which one belongs at a particular time and place, and groups which are referents for one's behavior and attitudes. One need not be actively affiliated with a reference group to adopt its principles and practices; indeed, the reference group may no longer exist. That is, one may be unconnected with a reference group in both time and place. One "belongs" to a reference group as evidenced by identification, by behavior, and by the statements that one uses to justify one's behavior. Thus, if we assert that the Washingtonian reformatory homes were the institutional phase of the Washingtonian Total Abstinence Movement, we are saying that the homes had the movement as a reference group. According to Sosensky (10) we are thereby asserting an analogy and, he argues, analogies must be demonstrated by a statement of "respects," i.e., in what respect are the two elements in the equation the same or similar? The closer the respects, the more nearly the analogy is correct until we approach the final case where the two elements are identical. The fewer the respects, the more inappropriate the analogy. The assertion of a reference group relationship, then, is the assertion of an analogy, and, in the present case, rests on the fact that the first nine aspects of the Washington Total Abstinence Movement's practices and ideology that are listed above were also applicable to reformatory homes in their earlier years.

Not only is the Washington Home in Boston the oldest such institution in the United States but it was the model or principal influence for the others that subsequently developed. Thus, on Sunday evening, 31 January 1864, at a public meeting (that is, one open to nonresidents as well as residents) Albert Day, superintendent of the home in Boston, announced that another Washingtonian Rome had been started in Chicago. The Washingtonian Home in Chicago had opened earlier in the month, and its prime mover, Rollo A. Laws, a printer and publisher of temperance materials, may well have been in the room when Day made his announcement. Laws visited the Boston Washingtonian Home about that time and it would have been peculiar for him to have gone all that distance and not to have stayed for the weekly public meeting at the Boston Home.

A committee was appointed and subsequently an "address" was prepared and sent: "The Graduates and Inmates of the Washingtonian Home, Boston, to the inmates of the Washingtonian Home, Chicago, Men and Brethren: - We have heard, with profound emotions of gratitude and pleasure, that a Washingtonian Home for the cure of drinking habits has been established in the great city of Chicago; and it has appeared to us meet and proper that we send greetings and congratulations to you upon a fact so encouraging" (11). The address then goes on to recite the principles of the Washingtonians reform including moral suasion and total abstinence. ("Beware the first glass! It is that which does the mischief. Beware the first glass. It contains the seeds of death. Beware the first glass, and you are safe. No power can make you a drunkard again, if you are resolute to refuse the first glass.") It ends with a claim of fellowship with the Chicago Washingtonian inmates, and a hope that the "peace of God rests upon the Washingtonian Home of Chicago."

The inmates of the Washingtonian Home of Chicago wrote a response which began: "Words will fail to express the depth of gratification we have felt on receiving your cordial welcome. Separated though we may be by hundreds of miles, yet we feel we are one in purpose, one in determination. To accomplish the great work upon which we entered, required, as you well know, a powerful and active exercise of the will, and a spirit of self-denial unknown to those who have never become wedded to the Use of intoxicating liquors."

Several years later, when the Chicago Washingtonian Home ran into financial difficulties and began to solicit lifetime memberships, Albert Day became a member of the Chicago Washingtonian Home. While there were differences between the Boston and Chicago institutions, it is clear that at the very beginning the inmates and administrators identified with each other and with the Washingtonians Movement and perceived themselves as manifestations of that movement. Over time the circumstances of the two as well as differences in practice and interpretation had radical consequences.

Although women occasionally stayed at the Boston Washingtonian Home, it remained essentially a men's institution. On the other hand, the need for facilities for women was recognized early by the Chicago Home. In the annual report for 1867 of the Chicago Washingtonian Home there is a recommendation that a women Is unit be opened, and in June 1869 rooms were made available in the home of Charles J. Hull, a prominent Chicago merchant. (This building was given to Jane Addams in 1889 and under the name of "Hull House" became the center for her social welfare activities.) In May 1870 the Female Department of the Washingtonian Home of Chicago was moved into the east end of the Madison Avenue building which also housed the Men Is Department. The Female Department was discontinued sometime between 1872 (when the great fire of 1871 led the City Council to withhold its grant-in-aid) and 1875 (the old wooden Bull's Head Hotel, which had been converted into the Washingtonian Home facility, was torn down and replaced with a new brick building). There was discussion of the reestablishment of the Female Department in 1878, but it was decided to postpone that step because the Board of Directors was still $25,000 in debt for the new building. Finally, in 1882 the board purchased the 10-acre campus of a former boys' military academy in northwestern Chicago for $15,000 and reopened a woman's unit well away from the Madison Avenue location, which, after the fire, became the area in which Chicago's Skis Row developed. The Women's Department, known as the Martha Washington Home, continued to operate as a separate facility until the mid-1920s when both the men's and women's work were combined at the campus location and became the alcoholism treatment unit of the Martha Washington Hospital, a general hospital serving the neighbouring community.

The Franklin Reformatory House for Inebriates in Philadelphia was organized in the Spring of 1872. The original plan had been to establish a reading room for temperance men and to "afford [daytime] temperance shelter for inebriates. However, the discussion quickly turned to a residential institution and the group was organized within several months. During this initial formative period the "Committee of 1511 who undertook the project were in correspondence with Dr. Albert Day, who is quoted as saying "Hire a house in some convenient neighbourhood; place it in the charge of one who has the heart and soul for the work and trust to Providence, time and experience for the rest" (12, p.108). (By this time Day had drifted somewhat away from the Washingtonian position, and this was reflected in his advice.) The committee of 15 also had in hand copies of annual reports of the Washingtonian Home in Boston as they framed the Franklin Home's constitution and bylaws. The delegates from the Franklin Reformatory Home who went to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Cure of Inebriates in early October 1872 in New York City were readily classified as "Washingtonian" home delegates along with those from Boston and Chicago. Thus, Dr. Theodore L. Mason in his presidential address to the 1876 annual meeting of the association (in which he tried without success to smooth over the schism which by that time had developed between the Franklin Reformatory Home and the other members of the association) observed that "The [Boston] Washingtonian Home has been the pioneer for that class of asylums in cities, as those in Chicago and Philadelphia, which, although situated in dense populations, do not profess to use physical restraint as a means of cure, but seek to control their patients by the moral influence of kindness, cheerful associations and amusements, by intellectual occupations, and by the powerful influence of religious sentiment" (13, p.10). In short, not long after they began, these institutions were perceived as similar in their therapeutic ideologies and practices.

But why wasn't the Philadelphia institution labeled by its directors the "Washingtonian Reformatory Home for Inebriates," if that is the case? Those who know Philadelphia will find the following explanation plausible: Given the practice of naming moral reform societies after cultural heroes, Benjamin Franklin was a greater hero than George Washington in Philadelphia. There were political overtones, as well, for Washington was a Federalist in his sympathies and Philadelphia for many years was a Democratic-Republican city. Thus, during the height of the Washingtonian Movement in the early 1840s, Philadelphians chose to honour Jefferson as their model rather than Washington. The Franklin Reformatory Home disappeared as an operating institution in 1935, merging with the Sunday Breakfast Association, a Skid Row gospel Mission which was a competitive "spin-off" from the Franklin Home in the 1880s.

Aside from the Female Department of the Washingtonian Home of Chicago, there was one institution for women which warrants inclusion as a "Washingtonian" institution. The New England Home for Intemperate Women was opened late in January 1879 in Boston. In 1881 it was incorporated as the Massachusetts Home for Intemperate Women, and its annual report at the end of that year says that "The object is to do a work for women similar to that of the Washingtonian Home for men, and from the first the institution has been filled, a proof of the need for it" (14). Over the years the Massachusetts Home for Intemperate Women had major financial and community relations difficulties similar to those of the men's institutions. The institution's official transformation took place when the name was changed to the Massachusetts Home and Hospital in 1917; under that name it undertook long-term (a year minimum) treatment of women alcoholics and drug addicts. This was a transitional development for in 1920 the name was changed again and it became the Massachusetts Home. Since that official label apparently needed some clarification, the institution was identified still further in the Boston City Directory as "for Elderly Ladies"(1927-31), "for Needy Worthy Elderly Ladies" (1932-35), and "for Needy Worthy Women (1936-58). Unlisted thereafter, the corporation that was legally responsible for the Home was dissolved in 1964.

The Massachusetts Home for Intemperate Women originally identified itself as Washingtonian, but its administration found it necessary to compare its work defensively with that of other institutions, and the initial impression that one gets is that these were also Washingtonian. It is necessary, therefore, to clarify the issue before we "close the books" on this inventory of the Washingtonian institutions. The 1888-1889 annual report of the Massachusetts Home for Intemperate Women (14) mentions similar institutions in Chicago, New York, Providence and New Hampshire, and observes that "All of these homes follow the plan we have found so successful in drawing women from habits of intoxication into better living, the combination of home influences with regular habits of life and through industrial training for the work to which they are adapted." The report goes on to say that, "although we meet with many discouragements in our work, we find upon comparison with reports from similar institutions that our results make very favourable showings, notably in connection with the Martha Washington Home in Chicago and with the Isaac Hopper Home in New York. Our income exceeds theirs, notwithstanding the fact that these homes have every facility for work, while our work is accomplished within the limits of a house built for a private family."

The Isaac T. Hopper Home in New York began as the "Tempor,3rv Home" of the Female Department of the Prison Association of New York and was reorganized and renamed in 1858 as the residential unit of the Women's Prison Association of New York. Although it began just as the Washingtonian Movement died back, and for many years most of those cared for by the Women's Prison Association had been jailed for public intoxication or on "drunk-and-disorderly" charges, the program of the Women's Prison Association of New York was not Washingtonian. Neither its annual reports nor its other records refer to the Washingtonian ideology or to the Washingtonian practices. The orientation was to crime and delinquency rather than drunkenness, for the association and its home developed out of a concern for crime prevention, prison reform and the rehabilitation of women rather than for temperance or prohibition; it was a manifestation of the great 19th-century Moral Reform. (There was, of course, a great deal of overlap between participants in various elements of the Moral Reform.) The comparison between the Massachusetts Home and the Hopper Home apparently was based on the fact that at the time both institutions served women who were heavily involved with alcohol and both had an "industrial" program in which the women inmates worked in the institution's laundry, both as a kind of job training and as a way to pay for their keep. Both institutions also placed women in private homes as housekeepers, cooks and seamstresses. It appears that the similarity between the two institutions was superficial rather than fundamental.

The unnamed institution in Providence referred to in the above quotation from the Massachusetts Home annual report was probably the Sophia Little Home. Initially this was the project of the Women's Society for Aiding Released Female Prisoners, which was an auxiliary of the Prisoner's Aid Society of Providence. The group found it necessary to organize separately because the Prisoners' Aid Society was divided on the subject; however, once the home was underway and the initial financial hurdles crossed, the opposition was sufficiently mollified to permit the consolidation of the two groups in 1883. (This never happened in New York.) The leadership was strongly religious and oriented toward the temperance-prohibition movement but apparently was not Washingtonian: "The last few years have witnessed a rapid increase in the agencies employed to remedy evils of intemperance and other vices. Public sentiment has become more widely and intelligently aroused. The truth is likewise become everywhere accepted that the Gospel offers the only sure and effective method of securing the restoration of victims bound by fetters too strong to be broken without Divine aid. It is to this end that the truths of the Gospel are daily sought in our Home; not with reference to any creed, but simply a heart-belief in the Lord Jesus Christ manifested by obedience to his command" (15, 1886). Although the Franklin Reformatory Home also had a strong religious emphasis, there is no evidence of a Washingtonian orientation in the annual reports of the Sophia Little Home.

By 1894 the concerns of the Sophia Little Home had begun to shift: "[from] helping released female prisoners and other women desiring reformation, we have come to feel that our work should include not only those who have grown old in evil doing and who would otherwise be sent to State Farm or Prison, but to young girls to whom wrong is yet new - to those who, having sinned once, would find here a safe refuge, and who after a stay in an atmosphere of moral purity, strengthened and fortified, could go into the world better prepared to fight its evils and live correctly. Each one who comes to us pledges herself to stay a year, for a shorter time we realize would avail little or nothing" (15, 1894). In 1915 this shift in orientation was made official; thereafter the Sophia Little Home was chiefly interested in delinquent girls, a large number of whom were unwed mothers. It is the current orientation of the home, which still operates in Providence.

Despite the fact that Sophia Little, the founder of the home and a major figure in the establishment of the Prisoners' Aid Society was active in a local Martha Washington society in the 1840s the available annual reports suggest that, although the home and the society were partial attempts to bridge Sophia Little's concerns for prisoners and the temperance - prohibition movement, the Home itself was not conceived as Washingtonian in ideology or practice. This does not deny that there was some minimal Washingtonian influence; the annual report for 1886 mentions a visit to the Massachusetts Home by the leadership of the Sophia Little Home (15, 1886). As in the case of the Women's Prison Association and the Hopper Home in New York City, the Sophia Little Home was initially oriented to female "delinquents" (who often were heavy drinkers); it, too, was a manifestation of the 19th-century Moral Reform rather than a part of the institutional phase of the Washingtonian Total Abstinence Movement.

The identity of the institution in New Hampshire alluded to in the 1888-89 annual report of the Massachusetts Home for Intemperate Women remains unknown. No record of an institution bearing the Washington label in New Hampshire has yet been found, and we are left in an even more speculative position than in the Providence case. Mercy Home (now Boylston Home) in Manchester is the likeliest candidate. It was established in 1889-90 under the care of the New Hampshire Woman's Christian Temperance Union; it was oriented to homeless and friendless girls, and it apparently had an industrial program. While the Boylston Home seems not to have been oriented to Washingtonianism, further research is needed.

In summary, there were four identifiable Washingtonian institutions located in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. While they had a common identification as "Washingtonian," there were differences between them almost from the very beginning with respect to the application of the Washingtonian ideology to residential therapeutic practice. Over time the ideologies and social characteristics of the leadership, the populations they sought to serve and the professional beliefs and practices of physicians involved in their programs led to the further differentiation of these institutions. As with all institutional settings, their activities had a tendency to become routinized, but organizational routines were upset by conflicts involving the clientele that the homes sought to serve as well as by members of the board and the administrators. In addition, there were fundamental challenges to the viability of the organizations as a consequence of changes in the concept of drunkenness (dipsomania, alcoholism), changes in the public support of the homes as treatment facilities, and, above all, by major events such as the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Depression of the 1930s. The organizational transformation of the homes was accompanied by an ideological drift so that the institutional phase of the Washingtonian Movement has died out even though the Washingtonian name is still carried by the two remaining institutions in Boston and Chicago.

*Posted with permission from Alcohol Research Documentation, Inc., publisher of the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol (now the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs [www.jsad.com]

The Institutional Phase of The Washingtonian Total Abstinence Movement
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