The transnational expansion of the WCTU was the culmination of nineteenth-century American churchwomen's activism propelled by their evangelical impulse and feminist Orientalism. As described by Frances E. Willard in the first chapter of A Handbook for the World's White Ribboners, the WCTU's international endeavor was prompted by her encounter with "oriental degradation" on the U.S. Pacific Coast in 1883. Convinced that the WCTU movement should no longer be "hedged about by the artificial boundaries of states and nations," Willard embarked on globalization of WCTU activism to reform the world to the cultural standards of American middle-class churchwomen.In this chapter, she summarizes the global work of the WWCTU in various locales, placing Mary Leavitt's Japanese encounter within a broader framework.
Willard displays an overweening self-assurance in this pages, but the story of the transnational activism of the WCTU, as this document project has shown, was more complicated. At each destination, the WCTU representative, Mary Leavitt, met Protestant missionaries working on "the frontier line of Christian civilization" and her effort was greatly assisted by their "ground work." Nonetheless, the expansion of the U.S-based WCTU movement was far from a product of a one-way coercion in which powerful American churchwomen activists enforced their values and customs on powerless Japanese women. The emergence of Japanese women's independent WCTU activism required collaboration among American and Japanese women activists, who challenged the gender hierarchy symbolized in the prohibition of women speaking in public.
"ONCE upon a time long ago," there lived in New England a family by the name of LEWIS, whose son DIO became a famous Boston doctor and one of the best writers on health topics that America has produced. About twenty years back, near the close of his career, he made a lecture trip in the West, taking as his subject, "Our Girls," and treating of their possibilities as the "coming women" of culture and achievement, and their disadvantages by reason of the handicap involved in the unequal laws relating to marriage, to property rights, and the danger of intemperance in their homes. In the course of this lecture DR. DIO LEWIS was wont to tell the following story of his own mother's hardships:--
"There was a house full of us little folks, and my father was given over to strong drink. Every day my mother went up to the garret after he had left the house, and when she came back to us her face shone with such a heavenly light that we knew she had been talking with God.
"At last, as things grew worse with us at home, our mother one day put on her faded bonnet and shawl, and taking in her hand the Bible, that Book from which divine strength came to her, she went to the saloon where my father spent most of his time and money, and putting the sacred volume on the bar whence he was wont to lift the glass of liquor that made him and us miserable, she read in her clear voice these words, 'Woe unto him that putteth the bottle to his neighbour's lips.' In her mild face and tones there was such a sense of God's presence that when she asked the man behind the bar if she might pray, he not
[p. 4]only gave permission, but knelt beside his casks and demijohns while she poured out her soul in fervent petition that the Holy Spirit would work in him a change of heart. That prayer was answered, and that publican never again sold intoxicating liquor to my father or to anybody else; our home became a happy one, and no child of that saintly mother, now in heaven, has ever tasted strong drink or profaned the name of God."
This simple recital, coming warm from his heart, was wont to touch every heart in the assembly, and DR. LEWIS made his application with great fervor, which was that he felt confident that if the women present would unite to make to the saloon-keepers in every town and village the same appeal that had redeemed his childhood home from sin and misery, the same blessed result would follow their devotion and faith.
In many an audience DR. LEWIS urged good women to do this, and in two isolated instances they rallied to the call with encouraging results. But when at last he told his story in the little village of Hillsboro', Ohio, not far from Cincinnati, the metropolis of that great State, on December 23rd, 1873, the clock of God struck the hour for the women's Temperance Pentecost, and the movement has marched steadily on until it is now organized in every civilized country of the world.
From Hillsboro' the "Cradle," and Washington Court House the "Crown of the Crusade," the wave of sacred fire flowed out and on to every hamlet, town, and village of the West. A divine contagion was in the air; a spirit such as the people had never felt before. Bands of praying women passed and repassed between their homes, their churches and the saloons. Sometimes they numbered a dozen or a score, but often a hundred or several times that number. They thronged the public-houses, keeping up Perpetual prayer meetings; when they were not allowed to enter they
[p. 5]knelt in groups around the door. Often the publican, yielding to the mysterious influence that brooded like a dove of peace over the place, would invite the leader of the band to knock in the heads of his barrels, and while the liquid flowed into the gutter songs of praise were sung, and church hells pealed forth the people's joy. Every evening these same churches were packed with the habitues of the public-house, who came to hear more of the Gospel story; the attendance at church and Sunday school increased 100 per cent; the saloons were well-nigh empty in many places, and in 250 towns and villages the liquor traffic was completely routed. The wildfire of the Women's Temperance Crusade spread throughout the entire Republic and Canada, and to lands beyond the sea; Australia and India, China and Japan, felt the impulse of the great rising wave. In Oriental cities many English-speaking ladies took up Gospel methods akin to those of the Crusade, and from that day a new impulse had been given to the organized work of women against the foes of God and Home and Every Land.
The praying Band of Hillsboro' was led by MRS. JUDGE THOMPSON, daughter of a Governor of Ohio, a Presbyterian lady of the highest character and culture, and the famous "Crusade Psalm" was by her given to MRS. THOMPSON by her daughter, a young and lovely girl of eighteen, who, knowing that it was a grievous sacrifice for her conservative mother to take up work so new and strange, brought her little Bible with the words, "Mother, I have been praying for you, and then I opened my Bible to this Psalm which seems to me to contain God's marching orders for you in this crisis hour." That Psalm (the 146th) is now familiar to White Ribbon women in all lands as the "Magna Charta of the Crusade."
In the early morning this first band gathered in the
[p. 6]Presbyterian Church, and after reading this Psalm, and praying earnestly to God, marched forth two by two, with gentle "MOTHER THOMPSON" at the head, all singing, "Give to the winds thy fears," and so entered the nearest house where intoxicants were sold, and made their first appeal.
The next autumn (November, 1874,) the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was organized at Cleveland, Ohio, by the heroic souls who had participated in the "Whiskey War," and is now a felt force throughout the world for total abstinence, prohibition of the alcohol and opium trades, social purity, temperance education in the schools, woman's franchise, and many other forms of Christian work based on the same great principles.
The first public mention of organizing the women of the Crusade and those like-minded with them in a world-wide movement was made in an article in Our Union, the official organ of the National W.C.T.U. in 1875 by the Corresponding Secretary of the Society. But the time was evidently not ripe for such a movement. Seven years later (1883) when on an organizing trip to the Pacific Coast and Puget Sound region I visited, in company with1 my true yoke-fellow, MISS ANNA GORDON, the famous "Chinatown" of San Francisco under the escort of Rev. DR. GIBSON. We there saw the opium den in all its loathsome completeness, and next door stood the house of shame. Respectable Chinese women were not allowed to accompany their husbands to California, but here were Chinese girls, one in each of many small cabins with sliding doors and windows on the street, constituting the most flagrantly flaunted temptation that we have ever witnessed. In presence of these two object lessons, the result of occidental avarice and oriental degradation, there was borne in upon my spirit a distinct illumination resulting in this solemn vow:
[p. 7]But for the intrusion of the sea the shores of China and the Far East would be part and parcel of our own. We are one world of tempted humanity; the mission of the White Ribbon women is to organize the motherhood of the world for the peace and purity, the protection and exaltation of its homes. We must send forth a clear call to our sisters yonder and our brothers too. We must be no longer hedged about by the artificial boundaries of states and nations; we must utter as women what good and great men long ago declared as tbeir watchword: The whole world is my parish and to do good my religion.
In my Annual Address the next Autumn at Detroit, this, which I believe to be one of those revelations from GOD which come to us all in hours of special spiritual uplift, was frankly placed before my comrades who, although they had no special enthusiasm, agreed to have the five General Officers constitute a committee to see what could be done. Two months later MRS. MARY CLEMENT LEAVITT of Boston, Massachusetts, who was already one of our National Organizers, and who was on her way to the Pacific Coast when the sights of San Francisco had burned themselves into my brain, had accepted a commission to make a tour of reconnoisance around the world. She started early in 1884 from San Francisco for the Hawaiian Islands. She was a brave woman or she would not have done this; she was a self-sacrificing woman or she would not have started out with the full understanding that, so far as I knew, there was no money to be had, not even for expenses. When she had organized the Hawaiian Islands and visited Australia and New Zealand, and was, I think, on her way to India, our practical women began to feel that the new enterprise was not altogether a chimera, and responded heartily to my urgent request sent broadcast throughout the land that they should contribute
[p. 8]a fund for MRS. LEAVITT. But our intrepid pioneer declined to have the fund called by her name, so that it was changed to the "World's Fund," and applied in part to the aid of MISS GREY of London, who worked in Scandinavia, MRS. LEAVITT receiving in all about $2,000. For eight years or more MRS. LEAVITT went on unwinding the White Rihbon in Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and Madagascar, Burma, India, China, Madeira, Mauritius, Ceylon, Siam, the Straits Settlements, Corea, Japan and Europe, returning to Great Britain in 1890, and to America in 1891; since which time she has laboured in South America, revisited the Hawaiian Islands, and spent a winter in Mexico, besides making several lecture trips in the United States. No woman in the history of the world has made an expedition at once so long, varied and productive of beneficent results. In 1885, a year after MRS. LEAVITT'S departure, while following her in my thought, I read a book on the Opium Trade in India and China, and under the impulse of its unspeakable recitals I wrote the Polyglot Petition, feeling that MRS. LEAVITT must have not only the Crusade story to tell, with its sober second thought of organization under the W.C.T.U., the plan of organization to describe, the White Ribbon to pin above ten thousand faithful women's hearts, the noon hour of prayer to impress upon their spirits the sense of that divine uplift which alone can give an enduring enthusiasm in any cause--but she must speak to them of something to be done and to be done at once, in which all were alike engaged in England, America, the Oriental nations, the islands of the sea and so far as possible the continent of Europe, with its great wine-growing countries which render it the least and last of all in the Temperance reform. A petition against the Liquor Traffic and the 0pium Trade and asking that the statutes of the world should
[p. 9]be lifted to the level of Christian morals, thus involving that "White Life for Two" which had now hecome an integral part of our work, realized to my thought "the tie that binds" thousands of hearts and hands in one common work for the uplift of humanity. MRS. LEAVITT carried that petition to all the countries that she traversed. In 1892 she visited and worked in South America and re-visited Honolulu, and has since been engaged in lecturing before the local and state Unions of her native country, and building them up in the most holy faith of the Gospel Temperance movement. MISS ACKERMAN, the dauntless young woman who went out from California in 1888, followed in MRS. LEAVITT'S footsteps, deepening the impression made by her and adhering strictly to the same principles and plans. MISS ACKERMAN, besides having now travelled 150,000 miles, going twice around the world, organized the Australasian W.C.T.U. and became its President.
The second triennial Convention of this Union was held in Sydney, May 25th, 1891, at which six Colonial Societies reported an aggregate of 290 local Unions and MRS. NICHOLLS was chosen President.
MISS ACKERMAN formed 207 local Unions in the course of her work, and from first to last has never received a penny from the World's W.C.T.U. This is not mentioned save with deep regret that the financial basis has not permitted us to put the work and workers on a firm business foundation, for as a matter of course the labourer is worthy of his hire, and we strongly desire to meet the expenses of those whom we send out; hut this was not done for the first twelve years of the National W.C.T.U., nor for a longer time in most of our national auxiliaries. The annual payment of an English half-penny by every White Ribbon woman will, if faithfully followed up, give us the nucleus of
[p. 10]a fund for sending out missionaries accompanied by free literature for distribution; and until we have these we shall be at a great disadvantage in lengthening our cords and strengthening our stakes; but every new departure in the name of God and Humanity has received its impetus from the personal devotion of its adherents, and this was not more true in New Testament days tban it has been in these new days of the White Ribbon.
These two heroic women with MKS. ELIZABETH WHEELER ANDREW and DR. KATE BUSHNELL[A] of my own home town, Evanston, Illinois, who also went out on faith, have made the entire world trip, carrying the Polyglot Petition, although the work of the two dauntless White Ribboners last named has been largely along the lines of social purity and the investigation of violations of the C. D. Acts by the British army in India and the condition of the Opium trade and its results in both India and China. The petition has been signed in fifty languages and with the signatures of women, the attestations of men and the official endorsements by great societies aggregates a representation of well nigh eight millions.
MISS MARY ALLEN WEST went out to Japan in 1892, and in the few weeks before her death in that distant land she wrought with such devoted energy, that the nane and memory of the White Ribbon movement is engraved on the heart of that sympathetic nation in lines never to be effaced.
MISS ALICE PALMER, of Indiana, was sent out in the spring of 1892, in response to the request of our enterprising workers in South Africa. She remained nearly three years, and placed the Society on a firm and enduring basis.
The policy of the World's W.C.T.U. has been to send out two classes of missionaries: one on tours of inspection and inspiration, the other to specified countries to remain as long as seemed mutually desirable. We think this is a wiser method, because these missionaries who move more rapidly form a living link between all the countries that they visit, while those who go to some one country, and become acclimated, not only in a physical, but in a mental and moral sense, carry with them the best expert knowledge of methods worked out in the countries where the reform originated, and where the most study and experience have been applied to perfect its methods of work.
In the winter of 1894, MRS. JOSEPHINE BUTLER went to Italy as Superintendent of the Purity work of the World's W.C.T.U., and in Rome she had already enlisted the interest and help of leaders of world-wide reputation and power when severe illness obliged her to relinquish her post; but in reading the recent letter of POPE LEO XIII to the English people, in which he rejoices in their "opportune measures for the repression of the degrading vice of intemperance, of Societies formed among the young men of the upper classes, for the promotion of the purity of morals, and for sustaining the honour due to womanhood,"--wherein he also says, "For alas, in regard to the Christian virtue of continence, pernicious views are subtly creeping in as though it were believed that a man were not so strictly bound by the precept as a woman,"--I cannot but believe that the great character and work of MRS. BUTLER bore a part in bringing this chief of ecclesiastical leaders to such a public declaration.
It would be a delight to dwell upon the pioneer work of the COUNTESS WEDEL-JARLSBERG and her friend MISS ESMARK in Norway, where a National W.C.T.U. has been
[p. 12]founded; the work of MRS. ELIZABETH SELMER, our pioneer in Denmark and organizer for the Scandinavian countries; of REV. ADAMA VON SCHELTEMA who first made known the animus of our Society in Holland, where we have now an organization with MISS M. W. DE RANITZ as Vice President; in Germany, where MRS. MARY B. WILLARD and MRS. DR. STUCKENBURG, of Berlin, raised our white flag of Total Abstinence in 1886; in Paris, where MISS DE BROEN opened headquarters for the Society as early as 1888; in Spain, where MRS. ALICE GORDON GULICK has established in San-Sebastian, the most attractive watering place of the kingdom, a college for young women which affords the only opportunity of the higher education for the girls of Spain, and which rejoices in a "Y" organized by MISS ANNA and MISS BESSIE GORDON in 1893; in India, where MRS. JEANETTE HAUSER, its first President, travelled and formed groups of White Ribboners, endured great hardships, and is now followed by MRS. PHILLIPS, our second President, whose zeal is all aflame for our Society, and who carries on the paper, The White Ribbon, first brought out by MRS. HAUSER, and is building it up into a most helpful adjunct of our cause in a difficult field.
Time would fail me to tell of the Christian ministers and missionaries in every country who have been practically our base of operations. As a matter of course it has been only their hospitality, not alone toward our workers, but toward the ideas and principles they carried with them, that has made it possible for us to secure a footing in any missionary country. The ground had been prepared before us, and the great company of faithful men and women who had preceded our workers on the frontier line of Christian civilization warmly supported them in all their effoqts to
[p. 13]spread the propaganda of Home Protection through the hearts and hands of the home makers.
No attempt is made to describe the origin of the work in the United States, Great Britain and Canada, for the manifest reason that each would require more pages than are included in this little book. "MOTHER" STEWART, of Ohio, U.S.A., and MRS. MARGARET PARKER, of England, will always be gratefully remembered as the founders of the B.W.T.A., and MRS. LETITIA YOUMANS as Canada's chief pioneer.
MRS. MARGARET BRIGHT LUCAS, sister of JOHN BRIGHT, and President of the British Women's Temperance Association, was for six years President of the World's W.C.T.U. (1884-1890), accepting this position by request of her American sisters. MRS. LUCAS had given her whole life to the work of philanthropy and reform. She was not only a devoted Temperance woman, but an equally devoted Woman Suffragist; and having been placed at the head of the new and world-embracing movement, she adventured across the Atlantic after she was seventy years of age, and attended the twelfth Annual Meeting of the National W.C.T.U., held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The tender womanliness of MRS. LUCAS endeared her to her American sisters, who felt deeply grateful to her for coming so far to see them; and her visit formed the strongest tie between the two great groups of White Ribboners until the one formed by the coming of LADY HENRY SOMERSET in 1891.
The influence of this statesmanlike administrator and speaker on the White Ribbon movement might well be the subject of a volume. Unspoiled by rank or wealth, LADY HENRY SOMERSET has consecrated her great gifts to the great cause, and by her ability and devotion won the love of the White Ribhoners of every land.
A. For a fuller account of the work of these and other pioneers, see "The World's White Ribbon, or The Origin and History of the World's W.C.T.U.," by MRS. ANDREW, published by ths White Ribbon Publishing Co., Memorial Hall, Farringdon St., London, E.C.
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