"Agitate – Educate – Legislate” was the slogan of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which advocated the prohibition of alcohol. Established in 1874 in Ohio, the union became a national movement and Virginia women established a state chapter in 1883. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) placed a special emphasis on encouraging women and children to support prohibition. The WCTU saw alcohol abuse as especially harmful in the home, where its effects could lead to impoverishment and endanger the lives of children or women. At the time, women did not have many legal rights and their families were often at the mercy of their husbands or fathers. The stated goal of the WCTU was “protection of the home,” which appealed to many women. The WCTU first followed the path of other temperance societies, encouraging adults and children to sign pledges of “Capital T total" (or “teetotal”) abstention from consuming alcohol. Although the pledge campaigns were successful, the WCTU feared that voluntary pledges were not sufficient and members started to push for government intervention in the form of prohibition legislation.
In 1879, Frances Willard became president of the WCTU and expanded its scope, moving from moral persuasion to political action. Willard's personal motto was "Do Everything," which encouraged many women to become active in a variety of social issues that they believed could be solved with a woman’s perspective. By 1896, 25 of the 39 departments of the WCTU addressed non-alcohol-related issues, including women's voting rights, shelters for abused women and children, an eight-hour work day, equal pay for equal work, prison reform, promotion of nutrition and the Pure Food and Drug Act, and world peace. In order to achieve these goals, the WCTU was one of the first organizations to actively lobby Congress to promote its progressive agenda. In 1901, the WCTU was instrumental in securing passage of a law requiring temperance instruction in all public schools. The 18th Amendment outlawing the manufacture and sale of alcohol was ratified in 1919 and repealed in 1933.
Outreach to children, the next generation, was central to the WCTU mission. In the 1890s, the WCTU started the Loyal Temperance Legion (LTL), an international club for boys and girls who pledged total abstinence from alcohol. Monthly meetings included such activities as plays, picnics, parades, and singing temperance songs. The first slogan of the Loyal Temperance League was “Tremble, King Alcohol, We Shall Grow Up!” In 1887, the WCTU began publishing an illustrated magazine, The Young Crusader, and it continued after Prohibition was repealed. In a 1934 story entitled “The Kittens Bring the Light,” Joan and Jimmy are crying because “Daddy went out with some of his friends to celebrate REPEAL.” The LTL mascot, Humpy the Camel, wrote a folksy monthly editorial encouraging children to stay focused on temperance even though alcohol had been legalized again. The featured story, “Good Times and Bob,” follows three boys on their way to school as they discuss how the end of Prohibition has impacted their families.
Citation: “The Young Crusader.” National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Evanston, Illinois. Call No. HV5287.N37 Y6
Take a Look: Look at the cover art and title of the magazine. What might be the purpose of the image? Who might be The Young Crusader? What does the combined image and title suggest the purpose of the magazine might be?
Scan It: Read the titles of the articles. Guess what the articles may be about without reading the actual article? Look at the image at the bottom of the page, what clues does it give you about the purpose of the magazine?
Analyze: Why would the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union target children? Do you think it was effective? Why or why not?
Current Connections: How does "Good Times and Bob" from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union compare to the anti-drug and -alcohol programs in schools and society today? What is different? What is similar?
Taking a Side: Imagine that you represent the local chapter of the WCTU. How would you influence and promote the concept of alcohol abstinence? Create your own artwork and write a paragraph supporting your positon.