Women's Christian Temperance Movement
AKA: WCTU or White Ribbons
Founded: 1874 by Annie Wittenmyer
In the summer of 1873 women were concerned with the evils of the saloon and began to "crusade" against anywhere that sold liquor. They "invaded" the saloons and drug stores and prayed on their knees (Women's). "Liquor was driven out of 250 communities" (Women's). Unfortunately it only lasted through the year and by the next summer the saloons were open again. The women decided to found a group to cause a more permanent change (Women's). They all wore a white ribbon bow to symbolize purity, earning their nickname, the white ribbons, or white ribboners (Women's). Their goal was "protection of the home" and their slogan was "For God and Home and Native Land" (Women's).
In order to join the WCTU members had to sign a pledge stating:
I hereby solemnly promise, God helping me, to abstain from all distilled, fermented and malt liquors, including wine, beer and hard cider, and to employ all proper means to discourage the use of and traffic in the same (Rose 86).
Through education and example the WCTU hoped to obtain pledges of total abstinence from alcohol, and later also tobacco and other drugs (Women's).
The WCTU's watchwords were "Agitate - Educate - Legislate (Women's). The WCTU believed that people (mostly male people) simply could not be trusted to use alcohol temperately (Rose 86). They thought that they had hit an important milestone in 1919 when the 18th amendment was passed and alcohol was made illegal. Once again, they were wrong. While the use of alcohol temporarily went down, it came back up again, and this time it was worse for society. Whether their goal of "protection of the home" was being met was questioned by other women's groups (77).
The group is still active today. They are still fighting against issues they believe go against Christian values. To learn more visit their national web site here.
Rose, Kenneth. American Women and The Repeal of Prohibition. New York : New York University Press, 1996.The
Women's Christian Temperance Movement. Women's Christian Temperance Movement. 18 Nov 2007 <http://www.wctu.org/index.html>.
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