On Monday morning, December 15, 1873, at 10:00am, about 300 men and women met in the Fredonia Baptist Church. The men prayed while the women organized. The men pledge $1,000 to help the women carry out their work to stop the alcohol traffic. They adopted the name, The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Fredonia. ​

In 1879 the WCTU elected Frances E. Willard as its second president. Willard broadened the WCTU’s methods and its program for reform and turned to organizing political means in addition to moral persuasion to achieve total abstinence. Under her leadership, the WCTU increasingly saw its role as an organization advocating for broad social as well as political change. The WCTU began working to reform labor laws, child welfare laws, and age of consent laws. It advocated for prison reform, temperance education in schools, and woman suffrage, while continuing to seek individual commitments to personal abstinence, and legislative mandates for local, state, and national prohibition. Willard called this wide program of reform her “Do Everything” policy, and under her leadership the WCTU grew to be the largest organization of women in the nineteenth century.

The WCTU was “the most popular, and by many accounts the most progressive, women’s association of the nineteenth century.” By 1890 more than half of the counties in the United States had a WCTU chapter. On June 28, 1894, The WCTU presented massive rolls of signatures, sewn onto cloth, to a constitutional convention in Albany, New York, requesting an amendment to the constitution providing for the prohibition of the liquor traffic and another for the full enfranchisement of women. Although the delegates are impressed, neither petition is acted on. In this same year, under “home protection” the WCTU was endorsing women’s suffrage. By 1896, 25 of the 39 departments of the WCTU were dealing with non-temperance issues. To promote its causes, the WCTU was among the first  organizations to keep a professional lobbyist in Washington, D. C.

​Today, the WCTU continues its work to educate about the dangers of alcohol and other drug use. The WCTU works to protect families from all negative influences under its “Do Everything” policy. ​The WCTU is the oldest, continuous woman’s organization in the world. It was the major force behind obtaining the 18th and 19th Constitutional Amendments to the United States Constitution. ​On the world level, the WCTU was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.”

Bibliography:

  1. History of the WCTU.
  2. Willard, Frances. History of the WCTU. House Museum and Archives.

Also on this Day

John Calvin wrote Melanchthon, asking him to take Martin Luther in hand:

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