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Abstract

In 1873 and 1874, parts of southern Ohio were gripped by a remarkable string of marches, religious gatherings, and sit-ins by conservative, Christian, white women intent on shutting down the distribution of alcohol in their communities. A fascinating series of issues relating to the use of legal institutions to control these demonstrative women arose during these "temperance crusades." Many women in Hillsboro opposed using available legal avenues to suppress the liquor trade, preferring strategies based on moral suasion. But, as with other major controversies in our history, aspects of the temperance crusade ended up in court despite the desires of many to avoid such forums. When liquor trade supporters sought injunctions against the sit-ins and marches, murmurs of discontent among the women could be heard on the town's streets. But once the court hearings began, crusaders worked together to protect their interests. They regularly occupied large segments of courtroom public seating areas and participated in some aspects of the legal proceedings. Their entrance into the traditionally male judicial domain had a profound influence on the progress of the movement and the camaraderie of the women. It convinced them that public actions could alter social patterns and reconstruct cultural norms. A major part of that influence was first felt in the small-town courts of southern Ohio. This article tells the story of the crusades-the women who participated in the marches, their roles in judicial proceedings brought by liquor distributors, the impact of their willingness to participate in political movements, and the long-term social movements they helped generate.

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