[Pekin, NY]: 1903-1909. Secretary's ledger with half calf over cloth, measuring 9 x 7 inches and comprised of 133 manuscript pages bound and one sheet laid in loosely at rear. Documenting the meetings, finances, elections, inductions, and deaths of members from 1903-1909 of a local chapter of the influential Women's Christian Temperance Union which sought to protect women and families from the violent effects of alcoholism as well as to address social ills harming women in all areas.
At its foundation in 1873, the Women's Christian Temperance Union aimed to lobby for social temperance and for alcohol bans to protect women and families from the violent effects of alcoholism. In 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" (WCTU). 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 manuscript gives insight into how local WCTU leaders were rallying their members, as well as what specific causes were being propelled by women of northwestern New York. A highly organized and efficient chapter, the Pekin group handled a vast amount of business in each meeting. Typically opening with a song or a prayer, the members would then report on the state of food and clothing donations for a local mission, and fundraising goals (sometimes to secure event locations, sometimes to pay local fees, and sometimes to pay for member memorials or assist members' families). Central to the meetings are action items -- often a report or plan proposal for a protest (for example in March 1903, when the group planned to protest the "Yale Bill" allowing liquor licenses for hotels) or recruitment initiatives (as in March of 1904 when the group discussed the development and distribution of anti-alcohol pledge cards among elementary school classrooms). The group also regularly ran elections, reporting on the votes and results, and thanking those involved for their ongoing service to the cause.
Further research could be done in a number of areas, notably in this WCTU chapter's relationships with early childhood education (and potentially indoctrination) programs against alcohol, narcotics, and gambling which seem central to their work. Genealogical research could uncover relationships among the women in the club, as well as relationships to local business people and political leaders. Because Pekin was in the previous century an important stop on the Underground Railroad, work could be done on which women and families engaged in that work prior to the formation of the WCTU. (Item #5009)