Ohio: 1886-1887. Collection of four manuscript Temperance speeches written in a single hand, and comprised of 25 pages on varying sized sheets. Authored by a leader of an Ohio county branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the speeches address the history of the movement, its progress, its need for women's volunteerism and donations, and its connection to multiple other parts of the women's movement in and beyond the U.S. The speeches provide information on how grassroots organization helped the WCTU to become one of the most powerful women's groups in the country, and how the organization wielded its influence over elections, public health, and education before women could even vote.
At its foundation in 1873, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was driven not only to protect women and families from the violent effects of alcoholism, but to address social ills harming women in all areas. By 1879, under the national direction of Frances Willard, the WCTU adopted as its motto "Do Everything." By this, the WCTU meant "that every question of practical philanthropy or reform has its temperance aspect" (Minutes, 1893). The overarching organization had branches addressing Work Among Immigrants, Health, Non-Alcoholic Medication, Exercise, Capital and Labor, Education, Penal Reform, Securing Homes for Homeless Children, Peace, and Woman's Suffrage. "State or local unions could choose which of the national departments they would set up, according to their members' interest and political persuasions, or the issues they were facing in their own communities" (Osborne).
The present collection of speeches gives insight into how local WCTU leaders were rallying their members, as well as what specific causes were being propelled by women of northern Ohio. In each speech, the female author reveals that she is speaking to a gathering of women, addressing them as "Dear Sisters," "Dear Friends," and "Sisters of the White Ribbon Army." Much of the content in each speech emphasizes the dangers of alcohol and the progress being made to combat it; and she never loses sight of reminding listeners that even more progress must be made. "Our county Union have Resolved to put the most stress upon this year scientific temperance instruction...[We] were at Columbus during the session of the Legislature, presenting petitions from all over the State, praying them to pass a law making scientific [health] compulsory in our common schools, teaching to Ohio's one million children the effects of alcohol and tobacco on the human system." She notes that while the law failed to pass, "the teaching of physiology, and hygiene...has been introduced by law within public schools at twenty one other states." Throughout the speeches she provides details about the expanding membership of the WCTU in the 13 after its foundation, and on its successes and needs.
Perhaps most telling, however, is how she rallies women to do more than focus on alcohol. For many women of the WCTU, temperance and prohibition were about more than a drug -- organizing as 'Christian women' provided the opportunity for justifying action outside the home on a number of matters that improved their own lives. "The WCT Union is by far the largest Society ever composed exclusively of Women and conducted entirely by them," she reminds listeners in one speech, for the Ohio WCTU Convention in Scotch Ridge. "It is a union of Christian women of all churches, for the purpose of educating the young, forming a better public sentiment...The WCT Unions of this land are revealing to hundreds of women their own gifts, and to hundred more their possibilities."
An enlightening collection of papers related to grassroots activism that has shaped and informed the movements of today. (Item #3229)