The temperance cause really lies at the root of all social and political progression. […]

The moral force of the masses lies in the Temperance Movement…,” wrote Richard Cobden in 1849, the great leader of the free trade movement in Britain.

Accomplishing this dream would require world organizations capable of inspiring heart-driven dedication and commitment of people worldwide.

Looking back at 165 years of proud IOGT history it can be said: the IOGT movement has proven to be one such organization – an innovative movement, ahead of its times in enfranchising women and proclaiming that all humans were equal in one united community.

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Making History. Building the Future by IOGT International on Exposure

History Driven By Heart

You can tell a history of an organization by enumerating dates. That would take many pages because IOGT International is more than 160 years old and there have been many ground-breaking, historic events to be proud of. You can also tell a history by enlisting the people who accomplished fantastic successes, who spoke wonderful words and who changed the course of history. IOGT has seen so many heart-driven men and women, boys and girls from all over the world.

The history of our movement has shown to this day that IOGT is bigger than any person, and that it is grander than the simple sum of its members.

And so, we tell the story of IOGT by our values. We call it: a history driven by heart.

Today, we have a new and modern visual identity, a new, more attractive appearance. But our soul is the same. New face, same soul – New face means that we have a new brand identity and external communication, methods, projects, programs and approaches that are innovative and belong into the 21st century; Same soul means that the values driving IOGT and our members, have been passed on from generation to generation, continent to continent to embrace new members, new challenges and new times.

First Seeds

IOGT was not the first group advocating a lifestyle free from alcohol and other drugs. There was a sporadic growth of such organizations in the early decades of the 19th century, particularly in North America, the United Kingdom and in several other parts of Europe.

Alcohol problems had become endemic in these parts of the world and were severely affecting the fabric of society by blighting families and causing poverty, misery and distress to children. Alcohol use was also seen as detrimental to the growth of commercialism and industrialization at the time.
The first seeds for what would become the global IOGT movement were sown in 1840 in Baltimore, USA, when six men decided to sign together a sobriety pledge. The movement that emerged from this act and their subsequent impact is best illustrated by no one less than Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States spoke to the movement’s meeting at Springfield, Illinois in 1842:

Of our political revolution of 1776 we are justly proud. It had given us a degree of political freedom far exceeding that of any other nation on the earth. In it the world had found a solution of the long-mooted problem as to the capability of man to govern himself. In it was the germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind.

Turn now to the temperance revolution. In it, we shall find a strong bondage broken; a viler slavery manumitted; a greater tyrant deposed. In it, more of want supplied, more disease healed, more sorrow assuaged. By it no orphans starving, no widows weeping.

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln caused a stir with this speech, given to the Springfield Washington Temperance Society on the 110th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday. Even though this organization was not a religious one, the crowd that gathered in the Second Presbyterian Church probably did not expect Lincoln’s approach.

And what a noble ally this, to the cause of political freedom. With such an aid, its march cannot fail to be on and on…

And when the victory shall be complete – when there shall be neither a slave nor drunkard on the earth – how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birth-place and the cradle of both those revolutions, that shall have ended in that victory. How nobly distinguished that People, who shall have planted, and nurtured to maturity, both the political and moral freedom of the species.

Rather than try to berate alcoholics into quitting, the 33-year-old Lincoln used this speech to endorse “kind, unassuming persuasion” and criticized earlier, heavy-handed temperance efforts.

Furthermore, he advocated reason as the solution to alcoholism and other ills in his famous conclusion:

Happy day, when all appetites controled, all passions subdued, all matters subjected, mind, all conquering mind, shall live and move the monarch of the world. Glorious consummation! Hail fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, all hail!

Beginnings

The history of IOGT begins in a small town, Utica, New York, with a small group of people greatly dedicated to alleviating poverty and improving the lives of ordinary people, to equality and inclusion of all human beings and to active citizenship.

They gathered to form a group and ignite a candle: they called themselves “Good Templars” and they ignited a candle in their meeting room to radiate openness, warmth, friendship and the hope for a better life, free from alcohol harm, poverty and hate.

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Under the leadership of Wesley Bailey, IOGT was formed, with the motto of “Friendship, Hope and Charity”.

Over the following year, 14 additional local groups, so called lodges, were established. By the summer of 1852, a convention was called in Utica to establish a Grand Lodge, the Independent Order of Good Templars.

Unlike other fraternal societies of the day IOGT encouraged female and family membership offering a comprehensive approach to solving alcohol problems, not just as individual problems but as family and community problems.

From its beginnings, IOGT and its local groups formed islands of democracy and equality.

Ahead Of Its Time

From its start and inception IOGT was different from any other American fraternal organization because it was more than an abstinence organization.

IOGT declared in favor of equal rights for all human beings, regardless their gender, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic background. This set of values set IOGT apart, put it ahead of its time – a time where slavery was rampant still and where women did not have voting rights yet.

After initial difficulties within the organization, IOGT witnessed a phenomenal rise both in the USA and in Canada, driven by extraordinary men and women who devoted their lives to IOGT and its ideals.

The idea and work of IOGT spread fast from its cradle in New York State around the world. IOGT first grew rapidly in the United States and in Canada.

From few to many to the whole world

After its birth IOGT was an American organization but this should change soon, as a number of British IOGT members, among them the great leader Joseph Malins, went back to the UK and took IOGT with them.

Malins, a child of an alcohol addicted father himself, started an IOGT “lodge” in Birmingham, England in 1868, and just two years later the local IOGT branches formed the “Grand Lodge of England” – IOGT in England. By 1900 more than 2.5 million people had joined IOGT in England and Scotland, including Keir Hardie founder of the first UK Labour Party, testimony to its appeal and the broad appreciation of its work.

From England, IOGT spread to the European continent and the rest of the world. Within three years IOGT was thriving in the rest of Europe, the Indian Sub-Continent, Africa and Australia.

Unlike the Washingtonian movement, whose members relapsed, IOGT was the most successful of all the organizations, working at the time, to protect communities and societies from alcohol’s harm.
In 1891, forty years after IOGT’s birth, Samuel Hastings, an American merchant, banker, real estate dealer, activist, legislator and reformer wrote:
[IOGT] has always had within its ranks all classes of men and women – the high and the low – the rich and the poor, the learned and underlearned – and has thus been able to exert an influence in all classes.
It has had within its ranks two Vice Presidents of the USA, scores of Governors of States, Members of the Congress, Judges of Courts, Members of the Legislature, presidents and professors of colleges, bishops, doctors of divinity and of medicine, labouring men: in fact, men of every profession, trade and occupation, class or condition, race, colour and nationality have been represented in its ranks.
After 1910, through the work of the International President (then called International Chief), Edward Wavrinsky, IOGT spread to Russia, Latvia and Italy. In the 1920s IOGT spread further to Finland, Poland and the Dutch West Indies, and in the 1930s IOGT reached Yugoslavia, Austria, the Gold Coast (Ghana), and Mysore Hyderbad.

In 1901, the IOGT historian William Turnbull summarised the impact and dimension of IOGT during the first decades of the 20th century:

There is no hour of the day nor night when, in some part of the world, [IOGT] members are not meeting to proceed the great temperance reform.

Women Political Pioneers

Since its beginning, IOGT was founded on the principle of equality. It meant that women not only were welcome to join as members, but also to take on more responsibility by being members of boards. In 19th century USA, IOGT was the first organization of its kind to “allow” female members.

The first female President to lead IOGT International was Amanda Clark of Ohio, United States. She was Vice President of IOGT International and led the movement in 1858 for a year, when the elected President had passed away.

IOGT was, however, dominated by its male members. The example of Sweden tells the story: in 1900, at least 41% of the IOGT members in Sweden were women. There were many highly engaged women working to better society. Formally, women and men were equal members but in reality it was rare for women to hold high-level positions. The culture within IOGT had a tendency, despite being in the forefront of welcoming women as members, that reduced women to second-level figures that should only brew coffee. Women’s tasks within local groups were often limited to “household tasks.”

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Kristina Sperkova

The first ever elected International President who is a woman is Kristina Sperkova, of Slovakia, who took office in 2014.

IOGT was an island of democracy and equality, including for women – despite limitations and confines. History would show that this school of civic engagement, taking on responsibilities, public speaking and working politically would enable IOGT women to help change the world.

Two early examples are Elisabeth B. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who were members of American temperance associations and involved in the anti-slavery movement. When Stanton was denied speaking at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convent in 1840, she took initiative to exclusively gather women in a public event in Seneca Falls, New York. This was the start for both the American and international women’s right movement.

The American pioneers working to advance Women’s Rights and the alcohol-free lifestyle, Stanton and Anthony, travelled the world and created a network of heart-driven women. Eventually they formed the International Council of Women in 1888. Just nine years later, the ICW represented more than four million women from around the world. The ICW advocated for women’s rights and freedoms, especially voting rights, and served to facilitate international cooperation. When crisis struck and war broke out, ICW assembled its women in 1915 and created the Women’s International league for Peace and Freedom.

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IOGT Suffragettes in Manchester

Another example for the temperance movement in general and IOGT in particular serving as catalysts for women’s civic engagement are the so called Woman’s Crusades.

The Woman’s Crusade of 1873-74 was a culmination across the United States of many years of women taking direct action against the saloon and the liquor traffic. Women in the United States then enjoyed no direct political power. Only prayer vigils, petition campaigns, demonstrations, or hymn-singing were at their disposal. The crusade sought to persuade saloon-keepers to destroy their beverages, close their doors, and enter some other line of business. In the course of a year, almost 1000 protest marches were organised, with peak participation of 143.000 women.

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Women campaigning for alcohol control

The lasting effect of the Woman’s Crusade was to set women free to become driving forces in the effort for women’s voting rights. A network had taken shape, empowered by the experience of making a difference in public – a crucial experience for the emerging Women’s Rights movement.

Not only in the United States, but in countries around the world – such as Australia, the United Kingdom, or Sweden – did female temperance leaders play a vital role in the women’s suffrage movement. Moreover, an international perspective helps to reveal the importance of women’s temperance to the struggle for women’s suffrage.

IOGT played a significant part in the suffragette movement – both through convening meetings and conferences and through IOGT women who dedicated to the cause of Women’s Rights.

Ada Bromham (1880-1965), feminist and temperance worker is one such example, from Australia. She was the president of the West Australian Temperance Alliance and secretary of the Australian Women’s Equal Citizenship Federation in 1925. The year after, she became secretary of the Australian Federation of Women’s Societies.

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Frances Willard

Many women, schooled in IOGT, helped form and develop the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). American scientists say that WCTU played a decisive role in American society in general and in the movement for women’s voting rights in particular.

The most famous leader of WCTU is Frances Willard, an educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth (Prohibition) and Nineteenth (Women Suffrage) Amendments to the United States Constitution. Willard became the national president of WCTU in 1879, and remained in office for 19 years.

Across many societies, women from the temperance movement, including IOGT, were able to present powerful arguments that drove the Women’s Rights movement forward. In Sweden for example, the campaign for women’s voting rights gathered momentum when some female IOGT members and other women under the leadership of Emelie Rathou formed the Swedish WCTU (“Vita Banded”) in 1900. Rathou had joined IOGT in Sweden in 1884 and became a pioneer within both the IOGT and the voting rights movement. Rathou worked as travelling speaker, addressing the topics of peace, women’s rights and temperance. She was the first woman ever to give a speech at a International Workers’ Day rally in 1891. In 1919, women in Sweden were granted the right to vote. Rathou was part of the leadership of Vita Bandet for almost 50 years.

From the beginning, the women of our movement were at the forefront of tackling major social and Human Rights issues.

Surviving World Wars

As global movement, IOGT had to face the catastrophes of wars, too. At the outbreak of World War I, IOGT just held its International Congress in Norway. With its value foundation of international brotherhood, equality, democracy and peace, the catastrophe of World War One was a heavy blow for the work of IOGT. It took giant efforts to re-build the structures build up in the years since its inception, when so many families, communities and entire societies had lost everything. But IOGT was resilient and able to reinvigorate its work in communities worldwide.

With the rise of Hitler in 1933 the German IOGT was forced to leave IOGT International and was disassembled by the Nazis. IOGT was banned in several more countries and its leaders were persecuted. Only a few years after the catastrophe of World War I, humanity suffered from another disaster: World War II and the Holocaust. World War II adversely affected the IOGT work. The global movement lost ground in almost all countries and ceased in a fair number. But despite the hardships and suffering IOGT International stood by its internationalism and strengthened its role as peace organization.

After World War II, IOGT began to rebuild its influence and formulated a new platform in 1947 which emphasized peace work. Soon, the International profile of IOGT was raised once again. At the IOGT International World Congress in 1948, the Swedish Crown Prince, who later became King Gustav Adolf VI, praised IOGT’s work:

I very much appreciate what has been done by the [IOGT]. I don’t only think of the work for sobriety, but also of the work for the cultural ennoblement of the people.

Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

In 1951 IOGT International celebrated the 100th anniversary of its birthday.

It is also the year of one great tribute to the work done during that century: IOGT had been nominated by 23 Member of the Swedish Parliament for the Nobal Peace Prize.

The nomination read:

The I.O.G.T. advocated racial equality and it promoted the idea of brotherhood. The nominators emphasized the correlation between the temperance movement and the peace cause, as well as I.O.G.T.’s efforts to promote personal development, peace and cooperation between social groups, races and nations.

And although the Nobel Peace Prize was ultimately awarded to Honorable Léon Jouhaux, it’s still a remarkable accomplishment to have been nominated for the glorious award.

This nomination paid tribute to the work done: the positive influence IOGT had had on the lives of millions of people worldwide in raising their aspirations, enabling their full potential, inspiring them to higher ideals of service in and for their communities.

20th Century

After prohibition had been enacted in the United States in the 1920s, membership in America declined. IOGT members felt that victory had been achieved.

In the 1930s, when prohibition was repealed, IOGT suffered from the aftermath of its association with a prohibitionist stance, which had lost political credibility. When AA was founded in 1937, it took on the role of providing a “home” for people with alcohol problems. Previously this had been IOGT’s original forte.

But, throughout its long history IOGT has never rallied around one single issue. It has always held as a matter of heart the concern with the whole person and the welfare of the whole society.

It was in that spirit that IOGT and its members, started development work after World War II.

In South-East Asia, Sri Lanka and on the Balkans, in Sub-Saharan Africa IOGT and its members have been working relentlessly ever since to support conflict resolution, encourage peace and development and foster democracy.

New Millennium

IOGT International’s strength and appeal has been its ideal of universal brotherhood, the conviction that all humans are equal and welcome to contribute to the work of IOGT. Equality and freedom are still today the grand principles that drove IOGT from its start, working relentlessly for democratic rights of women, workers, immigrants; protecting children and young people and offering opportunities for addicts to alcohol to recover and re-join community and society.

We work heart-driven for a better world, including all humans.

6 factors for sustained success

Entering the 21st century IOGT International regards this proud history as compass for our work today. What has made IOGT successful were six factors:

  • The believe in the attainability of a better society for children, women, families, communities,
  • The ability to be innovative and promote values and ideals that outline a vision for a better world,
  • The approach to our work as “school” for democracy, in safe and open, creative and enabling environments of our meetings on the grass-roots levels,
  • The promotion of IOGT’s universalism and internationalism,
  • The emphasis of family appeal, both in combining an alcohol-free lifestyle, rehabilitation and togetherness, which provided important support groups for anyone choosing to live free from alcohol and those recovering from alcohol problems.
  • The focus on creating environments empowering women and female leadership.

More than 160 years of heart-driven service in communities, for children and young people – especially those who have to grow up with addicted parents – for Women’s rights and for equality, against racism and segregation, for democracy and peace, for Human dignity and freedom worldwide, have made us who we are and have given us the insights and expertise we rely on today.

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We have strong roots, the same soul and a completely new face today. In a world where 62% of adults choose to live free from alcohol.

Important role in coming decades

IOGT International continues to have a massive role to play in the future ahead:

  1. To protect the right of those people to live free from alcohol;
  2. To promote the right of children and youth to grow up without the pressures to use alcohol and free from the burden of harm imposed by alcohol and other drugs;
  3. To inspire people around the world to also choose to lead an alcohol-free life – the lifestyle of the 21st century;
  4. To build the capacity of grass-roots organizations and civil society in communities worldwide, in order to promote democracy and development;
  5. To curb the aggressive and merciless alcohol industry, pursuing profits at the costs of global health and development; and to
  6. To continue to evolve as global social movement, adapting to current demands, never compromising our values, always standing up for what we believe in – a world of peace, democracy and justice where free and healthy citizens actively contribute in all levels of society.

The candle ignited in 1851 is still burning and still igniting more flames, in all corners of the world. What would this little group of “Good Templars” from Utica, New York say, if they knew?