Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4801-7365 Rabinovich Irina


Temperance literature, though widely popular in America and Britain between 1830–80, lost its allure in the decades that followed. In spite of its didactic and moralistic nature, the public eagerly consumed temperance novels, thus reciprocating contemporaneous writers’ efforts to promote social ideals and mend social ills. The main aim of this paper is to redress the critical neglect that the temperance prose written by women about women has endured by looking at three literary works—two novellas and one confessional novelette—written by mid-nineteenth-century American female writers. These works serve as a prism through which the authors present generally “tabooed” afflictions such as inebriation among high-class women and society’s role in perpetuating such behaviors. The essay examines the conflicting forces underlying such representations and offers an inquiry into the restrictive and hostile social climate in mid-nineteenth-century America and the lack of medical attention given to alcohol addicts as the possible causes that might have prompted women’s dangerous behaviors, including inebriation. This paper also demonstrates the cautious approach that nineteenth-century female writers had to take when dealing with prevalent social ills, such as bigotry, hypocrisy and disdain directed at female drunkards. It shows how these writers, often sneered at or belittled by critics and editors, had to maneuver very carefully between the contending forces of openly critiquing social mores, on the one hand, and not being censored, on the other.


female inebriation, temperance, social antagonism, patriarchy, sensational prose


“Affective disorder.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/science/affective-disorder accessed 25 Apr. 2021.

Annals of the Royal College of Physicians of London. 19 Jan. 1726, ff. 71 verso, 72 recto. Royal College of Physicians.

Avery, Simon. “Christina Rossetti: Gender and Power.” British Library’s Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians Project, 15 May 2014, http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/christina-rossetti-gender-and-power accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

Berkley Fletcher, Holly. Gender and the American Temperance Movement of the Nineteenth Century. Routledge, 2007.

Bordin, Ruth. Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873–1900. Rutgers UP, 1981.

“Communications: Intemperance Treated Medically and Rationally.” Medicus/The Free Enquirer, 6 Nov. 1830, p. 14.

Cooper Dendy, Walter. The Philosophy of Mystery. Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1841.

Cowles Prichard, James. A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind. Paternoster Row, 1835.

Deveaux, Monique. “Feminism and Empowerment: A Critical Reading of Foucault.” Feminist Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, 1994, pp. 223–47. https://doi.org/10.2307/3178151

Epstein, Barbara Leslie. The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America. Wesleyan UP, 1981.

Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. Anchor, 1992.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Random, 1978.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Yale UP, 1979.

Gilbert Murdock, Catherine. Domesticating Drink: Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940. Johns Hopkins UP, 1998.

Harding, Susan F. “American Protestant Moralism and the Secular Imagination: From Temperance to the Moral Majority.” Social Research, vol. 76, no. 4, 2009, pp. 1277–1306.

Hart, James D. The Popular Book: A History of America’s Literary Taste. Oxford UP, 1950.

Hentz, Caroline Lee. “The Victim of Excitement.” Love After Marriage; and Other Stories of the Heart. T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1857, pp. 40–63.

Hyneman, Rebekah. Leaves of the Upas Tree: A Story for Every Household. Serialized in The Masonic Mirror and Keystone, 3 Jan. 1854–25 July 1855.

Hyneman, Rebekah. The Leper and Other Poems. A. Hart, 1853.

Jayawickreme, Nuwan, et al. “Gender-Specific Associations between Trauma Cognitions, Alcohol Cravings, and Alcohol-Related Consequences in Individuals with Comorbid PTSD and Alcohol Dependence.” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, vol. 26, no. 1, 2012, pp. 13–19. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023363

Lamas, Maria. The Glass: or, the Trials of Helen More: A Thrilling Temperance Tale. Martin E. Harmstead, 1849.

Lewis Shiman, Lilian. Crusade against Drink in Victorian England. MacMillan, 1988. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-19184-0

Macnish, Robert. The Anatomy of Drunkenness. W. R. McPhun, 1832.

Martin, Scott C. “‘A Star That Gathers Lustre From the Gloom of Night’: Wives, Marriage, and Gender in Early-Nineteenth-Century American Temperance Reform.” Journal of Family History, vol. 29, no. 3, 2004, pp. 274–92. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363199004266904

Morris, Virginia B. Double Jeopardy: Women Who Kill in Victorian Fiction. The UP of Kentucky, 1990.

Newington, H. Hayes. “Mania a Potu.” Edinburgh Medical Journal, vol. 20, no. 6, 1874, pp. 493–500.

Noble, Marianne. “An Ecstasy of Apprehension: The Gothic Pleasures of Sentimental Fiction.” American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative, edited by Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy, U of Iowa P, 1998, pp. 163–82. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt20q1zmk.12

O’Hara, Michael W., and Katherine L. Wisner. “Perinatal Mental Illness: Definition, Description and Aetiology.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 28, no. 1, 2014, pp. 2–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/mds.25699

Parsons, Elaine F. Manhood Lost: Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States. Johns Hopkins UP, 2009.

Pecina, Jozef. “Within That Cup There Lurks a Curse: Sensationalism in Antebellum Temperance Novels.” Hradec Králové Journal of Anglophone Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2018, pp. 111–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.urology.2018.04.041

Pitts Jr., Ferris N., and George Winokur. “Affective Disorder-VII: Alcoholism and Affective Disorder.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 4, no. 1, 1966, pp. 37–50.

Rabinovich, Irina. “Rebekah Hyneman’s Leaves of the Upas Tree: A Tale of (In)Temperance and (Im)Mortality.” Prague Journal of English Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, 2020, pp. 49–64. https://doi.org/10.2478/pjes-2020-0003

Rabinovich, Irina. Re-Dressing Miriam: 19th Century Artistic Jewish Women. Xlibris, 2012.

Reynolds, David S. Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Reynolds, David S. “Black Cats and Delirium Tremens: Temperance and the American Renaissance.” The Serpent in the Cup: Temperance in American Literature, edited by David S. Reynolds and Debra J. Rosenthal, U of Massachusetts P, 1997, pp. 22–59.

Reynolds, David S., and Debra J. Rosenthal, eds. The Serpent in the Cup: Temperance in American Literature. U of Massachusetts P, 1997.

Rubinow Gorsky, Susan. Femininity to Feminism: Women and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. Twayne, 1992.

Ryder, Rachel. “‘Moral Wrecks’—A Comparative Historical Study of the Regulation of Women’s Drinking in Britain.” 2017. Anglia Ruskin University, PhD dissertation.

Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations between Women in Nineteenth-Century America.” Signs, vol. 1, no. 1, 1975, pp. 1–29.

Streeby, Shelley. American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture. U of California P, 2002. https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520935877

Trotter, Thomas. An Essay, Medical, Philosophical, and Chemical, on Drunkenness, and its Effects on the Human Body. Paternoster Row, 1804.

Tyrrell, Ian R. “Women and Temperance in Antebellum America, 1830– 1860.” Civil War History, vol. 28, no. 2, 1982, pp. 128–52. https://doi.org/10.1353/cwh.1982.0015

Vice, Sue. “Intemperate Climate: Drinking, Sobriety, and the American Literary Myth.” American Literary History, vol. 11, no. 4, 1999, pp. 699–709. https://doi.org/10.1093/alh/11.4.699

White, William. “Women, Addiction, and Recovery: A Historical Review.” Counselor, vol. 3, no. 4, 2002, pp. 52–54.

Zedner, Lucia. Women, Crime and Custody in Victorian England. Oxford UP, 1991. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025557200074738

Žižek, Slavoj. The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.” U of Washington P, 2000.

First Page


Last Page