Egg chowder makes late-winter warmup

By Merry Post

Special to The Ellsworth American

It would be easy to ridicule the accomplishments of the temperance movement and its earnest reformers. Even when the temperance movement was at its peak of popularity, songs such as “The Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine” were lampooned. National prohibition lasted for 13 years but was repealed by the 21st Amendment. So, was their crusade a total failure?

The temperance movement had consequences that reached far beyond laws governing the sale of liquor. Women joined the movement because they saw alcohol abuse as a primary cause of domestic violence, poor health, poverty and vice. It was a natural progression for them to learn to lobby for legislation that addressed those problems directly. Frances Willard, the influential president of the national organization of The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) from 1879 to 1898, was an energetic reformer. She successfully pushed for laws protecting children in the workplace, pure food and drug laws, stiffer penalties for sexual crimes, woman suffrage, and the ordination of women. And she encouraged and organized thousands of women to work on all kinds of social improvements.

Many chapters of the WCTU actively pursued social reforms in their local regions. The first president of the Rhode Island chapter, Susan Hammond Barney, was an evangelist who became interested in prison reform. She decided reading skills should be taught in prisons so that inmates could read the Bible. Perhaps accidentally, she had stumbled on a leading cause of imprisonment. It continues to be true that persons with low literacy are hugely overrepresented in the prison population. In addition to literacy skills, Barney worked on other aspects of prison reform, including separating the spaces for men and women in detention, replacing male guards with female guards in women’s prisons, and teaching skills to incarcerated women that would enable them to find employment. She brought her experience to the national organization and became the WCTU’s national superintendent of prison, jail, police and almshouse visitation.

The WCTU’s Rhode Island chapter put out a fundraising cookbook that included a recipe for egg chowder, a simple, hearty soup that is perfect for cold winter days.


Egg Chowder

4 slices of bacon cut into ½-inch pieces or ¼ lb. salt pork, cut in ¼-inch cubes

3 large yellow onions (about 1 lb.), peeled and sliced thin

3 large russet potatoes (about 1½ lbs.), peeled and cut into chunks

1½ quarts chicken broth, low sodium

4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

black pepper to taste

sea salt to taste


Cook the bacon in a soup pot, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the chicken broth and a couple grindings of black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 45 minutes or more until the potatoes are soft. Take off heat and carefully mash the soup with a potato masher. Return to heat and bring to a simmer. Serve with sliced egg on top of each serving.


Gouldsboro artist Camille Boisvert created the illustration. Her art can be seen at

Merry Post

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