Thompson, Eliza (1816–1905)

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Thompson, Eliza (1816–1905)

American reformer who assisted in the founding of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Born Eliza Jane Trimble on August 24, 1816, in Hillsboro, Ohio; died on November 3, 1905, in Hillsboro; daughter of Allen Trimble (a governor of Ohio) and Rachel (Woodrow) Trimble; married James Henry Thompson (a lawyer), on September 21, 1837; children: Allen Trimble, Anna Porter, John Henry, Joseph Trimble, Maria Doiress, Mary McArthur, Henry Burton, John Burton.

Born in 1816 and raised in a devout Methodist family, Eliza Jane Trimble grew up in rural Ohio. Her father Allen Trimble was already a prominent politician at the time of her birth; he would serve as acting governor and then governor of Ohio by the time she was ten years old. He was also a leader in the emerging temperance movement, and instilled in Eliza a belief in the evils of alcohol. Eliza was thus exposed to highlevel state politics and to a devout and active Christian life from an early age, which influenced her later reformist efforts. She attended private schools in Cincinnati and at age 21 married a lawyer, James Henry Thompson. The couple settled in her hometown of Hillsboro, Ohio, in 1842. Over the next two decades, Thompson raised eight children. In 1873, she became involved in the temperance movement. The "crusade" against drinking which she launched in the town appealed both to her Methodist faith and its stress on an active life and to her belief in the importance of political action for the moral good. She led groups of women through Hillsboro, calling on saloon owners and druggists to stop selling alcohol, sometimes holding impromptu prayer meetings in these businesses until the owners obtained an injunction against Thompson's group for disturbing the peace. The Hillsboro women received considerable attention in newspapers, and their example inspired similar groups across the country. Momentum grew rapidly for a nationwide organization to guide the "Women's War," as it was dubbed. In November 1874, Thompson was a celebrity figure at the founding of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in Cleveland, Ohio, where the efforts of the Hillsboro temperance activists were hailed as the beginning of a new morality in American society. Now almost 60, Eliza Thompson did not continue her activism after the national movement began. She died at her Hillsboro home at age 89 in 1905.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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Thompson, Eliza (1816–1905)

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