I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is celebrating 140 years as a
national organization this month. Founded in 1874, it is the oldest volunteer, non-sectarian
women’s organization in continuous operation in the world.
main thrust of the original WCTU was to seek social reform in a non-violent, Christian
manner. The women were determined to create a sober and chaste world by
promoting abstinence, purity and Christian values. Within three months members
had driven hard liquor out of 250 communities; the Temperance Movement was on
1879 Francis Willard, the group’s second president, took office and began to galvanize
the WCTU to take a stand against social issues of the day. The
group’s slogan, “For God and Home and
Native Land” stated their priorities. Willard began
to seek moral and humanitarian reforms along with temperance.
WCTU spoke out for abolishing alcohol, enforcing an eight-hour work day, paying
a living wage, supporting abstinence and purity legislation, campaigning for
national prohibition, providing better schools and education, and encouraging
women to become involved in the fight for women’s rights, and the suffrage
led the group for 19 years, focusing on these morale reforms across the country. During
that time, it became the largest and most influential women’s group of the
19th century. Willard understood the empowerment women would gain if
they won the right to vote and lobbied around the country for
fair and equal treatment. In 1891 she became president to the World WCTU. She died in 1898 at the age of 58.
Willard’s death, the group distanced itself from women’s issue and began again
to target abstinence from alcohol. On January 16, 1919 prohibition was enacted
with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. But on December 5, 1933 the
so-called “Noble Experiment” ended when the 21st Amendment repealed
WCTU Members in 1900
its heyday, the WCTU had over 370,000 members between 1920 and 1930. With the repeal
of Prohibition, enrollment went down and dropped about 100,000 members during
the 1940s and 50s. By 1980 membership had dipped down to around 50,000
worldwide. In 2012, the latest year for membership figures, the group claims
about 5,000 members still active.
the past 140 years, the WCTU has played a part in establishing
woman’s right to vote; stiffer penalties for crimes against women; shelters for
abused women and children; promoting child welfare; encouraging physical education
for women; creating uniform marriage and divorce laws; homes for wayward girls;
founding of kindergartens, federal aid for education; creation of the National
Board of Education; assistance in founding the PTA; equal pay for equal work;
legal aid; labor’s right to organize; prison reform; promotion of nutrition,
and the pure food and drug act.
WCTU continues to operate today, standing up for social reform, and encouraging
its members to sign a pledge of abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and illegal
drugs. Throughout the years, the organization has also taken a stance against abortion,
white slavery, and gay marriage. For more information visit the Women’s Christian
Temperance Union’s webpage.