“Afloat on the Tide of Improvement”: <i>The Uplift Movement and Rise of Prohibition Sentiment in Rural Communities, 1885–1900</i>

Bruce E. Stewart

in Moonshiners and Prohibitionists

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813130002
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135670 | DOI:
“Afloat on the Tide of Improvement”: The Uplift Movement and Rise of Prohibition Sentiment in Rural Communities, 1885–1900

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At the end of the nineteenth century, many northern missionaries traveled to Appalachia to “uplift” mountain whites who, because of their geographical isolation, have continued to hold on to folkways that impede economic and moral progress. With help from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the missionaries focused their efforts on eliminating alcohol and illicit distilling, believing these are the leading causes of the inability of mountain whites to become “civilized.” But even before the missionaries arrived in the 1890s, rural highlanders were becoming increasingly connected with the market economy and embracing New South rhetoric as evidenced by a grassroots temperance crusade in western North Carolina that relied on local-option legislation to combat alcohol. By the turn of the nineteenth century, reformers began pushing for statewide prohibition after seeing that local-option and antiliquor laws were not doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption in the region.

Keywords: western North Carolina; Appalachia; missionaries; Women's Christian Temperance Union; uplift movement; modernization; illicit distilling; local-option legislation; statewide prohibition

Chapter.  6322 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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