Victorian society had a drink problem! In the early 1800s, it was fuelled by gin and, towards the end of the century, beer. Consumption of excessive alcohol led to an inability to work and support your family, illness, poverty and, ultimately, either the workhouse or an early grave. Having said that, by our standards, life expectancy for the working classes was shockingly short anyway, about forty for a man and forty three for a woman in 1850.
Social reformers could see the need for improvement on many fronts …. sanitation, housing, shorter working hours, an end to child labour and so on. One of the moral campaigns that really could change your life and, unlike the others, you could control, was to give up alcohol. The temperance movement was created to persuade people, usually children, to ‘sign the pledge’ and be tee-total for the rest of their lives. Some of the Victorian societies still exist today. One of the earliest and largest, the Band of Hope, is now known as Hope UK.
We will return to this theme many times in the future, as the temperance movement is a very rich vein of magic lantern material but, for now, I thought you might like to see these magic lantern slide messages. Having re-read them whilst writing this post, I’ve decided to sign the pledge immediately. Someone pass me a pen and I’ll do it when I’ve finished this gin and tonic!
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