President’s Annual Address
36th Annual Meeting
Of the WCTU of Minnesota
DEAR COMRADES: —
Thirty-five years ago this month, the white ribbon women of Minnesota met in their first annual convention in Minneapolis. Each year since at our homecoming we have been able to rejoice over the advance made by our organization. And we come this year with hearts full of praise and gratitude for the guidance, blessings and victories that have been vouchsafed us during the past year, and with prayer that God will guide us during the coming year and that we may be more worthy of his love and care.
Three years have passed since you made me your president. We then had 193 unions and 15 Y’s paying dues with a membership of 4,122. We now have 235 unions and 11 Y.P.B.’s with a membership of 5,226. A gain in membership in the three years of 1,104. 1,500 new members have been added to our list this year but on account of removals to other states and to other parts of our own state where there are no unions, and on account of some growing weary in well doing and because some have been promoted to the home beyond we have only made a net gain of 302.
During these three years the state has adopted three new departments of work; established an Exchange Bureau for the benefit of the local unions.[B] During the two which this bureau has existed 583 papers and 80 leaflets and pamphlets have been sent out; material furnished for programs for four temperance Sundays in Sunday Schools; three programs for local unions for the year outlined; two outlines for a year’s study course; suggestions and topics for Bible readings; material for programs for a course of six mother’s meetings. 139 unions have had papers and two places where there were no unions. Four states besides our own have availed themselves of this bureau, papers being sent to Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota and Washington. 234 letters have been written in the interest of this work. During these three years the state has also adopted the College Y.P.B. work, the second state to take up this line of work. Many students have been reached not only with lectures, but also with literature as each College and High School organization is given besides helps, a year’s subscription to the Union Signal. The state has sent out in the field 6 National, 13 state and 22 district workers. We have been able also to have W.C.T.U. women placed as lecturers at eleven summer schools for teachers. Have put the two books “Alcohol and the Human Body”, by Sir Victor Horsley; “Alcohol a Dangerous and Unnecessary Medicine”, by Martha Allen, in 32 colleges and given a year’s subscription to the Union Signal to fifty public libraries. Furnished a package of 100 leaflets to be distributed at every public meeting held by a state worker; five copies of State Minutes have been sent to each local union and helps to all new unions. These are but few of the many things planned and carried out by the state W.C.T.U., for I have not time to tell of all the special services, petitions, letters and telegrams nor appeals to Senators and Representatives both at Washington and at home; but when we add to all this the work done by state superintendents, district officers and local unions we begin to realize the work that is being done in the state.
The record of these three years show how earnestly our white ribbon women in every section of the state have been at work. The state officers sincerely thank the local unions for their hearty co-operation in all plans outlined by the state. These years of splendid service and concerted action have brought us many victories and made a great advancement in our cause, creating temperance sentiment, moulding public opinion, causing a general awakening for temperance and purity in the home and in the government. All this work has made possible the campaign we are now engaged in for state wide prohibition. These years of service have brought us more closely together, bound our ranks in more solid bonds, making us stronger to overcome all obstacles and to march on to victory.
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union has ever had in mind the welfare of the child, and more and more this has become the important question among the advanced thinkers of the age. Among other things advocated for several years has been a children’s bureau, and in April after five years’ struggle, Congress established such a department, and President Taft appointed Miss Julia C. Lathrop as chief; she is the first woman ever put in by the government as the head of a bureau. This bureau will “investigate and report upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life”, especially “infant mortality, the birthrate, physical degeneracy, orphanage, Juvenile Courts, desertion, dangerous occupations, accidents and diseases of children, employment and legislation affecting children,” and the results of these investigations will be published from time to time.
At the General Methodist Conference held in Minneapolis, it was stated that “greed for gain has put two and a half million children under sixteen years of age into mills, factories, mines and messenger service.” Years ago the women began a war against child labor and also to procure compulsory educational laws, and sentiment has been created and much done along these lines. By the revision of our own state laws children under sixteen years of age are prohibited from employment in factories or building operations; and children under fourteen years of age are prohibited from taking part in theatrical entertainments without permission of the mayor and president of the council; and girls under twenty-one years of age are prohibited from being employed in messenger service; and children under sixteen years of age are required to be in school unless by special permit.
More and more the question of the evil effect of alcohol upon children is being agitated. Dr. Alexander MacNicholl, in an address before the American Medical Society in Atlantic City, said, in part, “A wave of degeneracy is sweeping the land, a degeneracy so appalling in magnitude that it staggers the mind and threatens to destroy this republic. The application of modern scientific methods have reduced the mortality from acute diseases, such as typhoid, yellow fever and the plague and by abolishing the sources and exterminating the fly, the mosquito and the rat, the average length of life has been increased. With what marked contrast do we deal with alcohol that most potent source and carrier of chronic disease. Today chronic disorders of the lungs, heart, kidneys and other organs are responsible for more than half the deaths. A hundred different intermediate agencies may contribute to the undoing of the race, but back of them all stands alcohol as the chief degenerative factor. Statistics compiled by the leading insurance companies show that of every one thousand deaths among the population at large, four hundred and forty are due to alcohol. This would mean a mortality from alcohol in the United States of six hundred and eighty thousand a year.
The great burden of drink is not borne by the drinker, but by the drinker’s children. In one institute for the treatment of physical defectives, a recent study shows that every patient is the child of drinking parents. For every child of total abstainers that dies under two years of age, five children of drinking parents die. One out of every five children born to drinking parents will be insane. One out of every three will suffer from epilepsy and hysteria. Seventy-five percent of tuberculosis children are the children of drinking parents.
When four-fifths of the most representative men in America are pronounced unfit for war, what shall we say of their fitness to father the next generation? The time was when alcohol was received as a benefit to the race, but we no longer look upon alcohol as a food but as a poison. Boards of health, armed with the police power of the state eradicate the causes of typhoid and quarantine the victims, but alcohol, a thousand times more destructive to public health, continues to destroy. Alcoholic degeneracy is the most important sanitary question before the country, and yet the health authorities do not take action, as alcohol is entrenched in politics. Leaders in politics dare not act, as their political destiny lies in the hands of the agents of the liquor traffic. We are face to face with the greatest crisis in our country’s history. The alcohol question must be settled within the next ten years or some more virile race will write the epitaph of this country”.
These are not the words of a W.C.T.U. woman or a temperance fanatic, or a reformer, but of a life long student of the alcohol problem, and one of the world’s distinguished scientists and physicians. In the face of such facts as these how can any man or woman, any true citizen withhold their influence and help in getting rid of this evil? How can any true citizen withhold his ballot against this traffic now legalized and protected by our government? How can any political party, seeking to promote the general welfare of the people keep silent on this great question? Is it not the duty of every citizen to do his utmost to remove the cause of this degeneracy? There is no remedy but to prohibit the traffic. The same message sent by the sinking Titanic, “Come, quick, danger”, is the message coming from thousands of mothers’ hearts all over our state to our citizens, “come quick, give us men to make our laws who will recognize the danger existing for our boys and girls and who will make our state safer for them.” We with the rest of the world, mourned the terrible disaster that overtook the Titanic on the night of April 14, but as we read of the heroic sacrifices of husbands, brothers and sons for wives, sisters and mothers then, it gives us a conviction that the true manhood of our state will give their support to the womanhood of Minnesota in their effort to protect the homes and the boys and girls from the evil of the liquor traffic.
Two stars have been added to our flag for the two new states, New Mexico and Arizona. No sooner had Mexico become a state than she began to plan for the welfare of the children, and passed a model Scientific Temperance Instruction law. It is a clear statement of the teaching required for pupils and the preparation of the teacher. School officers, school directors, superintendents and teachers are held responsible for the neglect of the enforcement of the law. These things point to a general awakening of the people along these lines.
A victory for temperance has been won this past year by the act prohibiting the importation, manufacture and sale of absinthe in the United States.[G] Absinthe is one of the most intoxicating drugs that is sold as a beverage. It is an alcoholic liquor containing oils of wormwood, anise and so forth. Its free use has been confined to France but other countries have been greatly affected by it. Belgium, Holland and Switzerland have passed laws forbidding its manufacture, sale and importation. And the Senate of France has now taken similar action, and also Brazil. The law in the United States becomes effective after October first.
One of the great events of the past year, perhaps the greatest of the century is the birth of the new Republic of China. Hampton’s Magazine for May says, “China new born to Democracy, the biggest and oldest of the nations, has given the ballot to women at the same time it has given it to men. The Eternal Feminine no longer sit on the steps of the throne. She is at the right hand of Man, her Brother, and she is Queen.”
Some of our states are trying to reach the pace set by China. During the past year another state has been added to those already giving women full suffrage. There are now six states where women vote on an equality with men; Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Utah and California. Five states are in a campaign for full suffrage, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon and Nevada. Ohio was defeated. It is estimated that about one million two hundred and fifty thousand women are entitled to vote at the coming presidential election, in the six states now having full suffrage, and these six states have thirty-seven votes in the electoral college. Then if the four states that vote upon this question in September should win, Ohio, Oregon, Kansas and Wisconsin, it would mean twenty-seven more electoral votes from states where women vote, making a total of sixty-four in the electoral college of five hundred and thirty-one votes. These facts seem to have come to the minds of the presidential candidates as a matter worth considering, for they have either declared themselves in favor of full suffrage for women or they try to smooth the situation by saying that women can have the ballot whenever they want it.
“Dr. Gunsaulus says “There never was a time when the vote of American womanhood would be more significant than just at present. How absurd that women who suffer most because of intemperance should not be permitted to have anything to do with settling the question of the saloon.”
Women who are the home makers are the ones who are most concerned in these matters and when they have had a chance to vote, they have shown their interest. Eighty percent of the women voting in Seattle, at the time Mayor Gill was recalled, were married women, home makers, the very ones who should be interested and should have a voice in the matter. Last spring when the regular election in Seattle came around and Gill came up for re-election, the women again became interested and George F. Cottrell was elected by a small majority, though the single tax and municipal ownership propositions were defeated by several thousands. In the beginning of the campaign all politicians said Cottrell did not have a chance, because he stood for single tax, municipal ownership and prohibition. A combination unheard of before. Cottrell is a National officer of the I.O.G.T. and a prominent temperance speaker. One of the daily papers said, “The election of Cottrell is regarded as another victory for the women voters who fought Gill to a finish”. Another daily says, “The women are showing discrimination in their voting. They snubbed Socialism in Los Angeles and rejected the wide open type of statesman in Seattle. It appears to have been good work in both towns”.
The women in Australia, New Zealand, Isle of Man, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Tasmania have full suffrage. England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Iceland, Denmark and Natal (S.Af.) have Municipal suffrage. Norway has a woman elected to Parliament, Miss Anna Rogstad, she was elected as an alternate for General Brattie and when his military duties required him to resign his seat in Parliament, Miss Rogstad took his place. When she entered Parliament, all the members arose and the galleries applauded and the president of Parliament made a welcome speech in honor of the first woman member. When she made her first speech the members arose and stood during the time and showered her with flowers when she was through.
There is an aroused interest along all lines of Purity, not only in work done by our own organization but by others. A National Society of Moral Hygiene to promote sex teaching has been started, and an American Vigilance Association has been formed by merging the American Purity Alliance and the American Vigilance Committee. Dr. David Starr Jordon of Stanford University is the president of this new Association. The purpose of the Association is the suppression of commercialized vice and the promotion of the highest standard of public morals.
Stanley W. Finch has been appointed by the government as a White Slave Traffic Commissioner with about six hundred special officers to carry on a vigorous campaign in every state for the extermination of this evil. The Federal law applies to interstate cases where a woman is taken from one state to another and actual buying and selling.[M] We have secured in our own state such laws as are necessary for the suppression of this traffic except the Injunction and Abatement measure which we failed of getting last session because of lack of time, and which we hope to get at our coming legislature.
There was never more prohibition sentiment than now. At the close of the Maine campaign our National President Mrs. L.M.N. Stevens said: “The remarkable campaign just closed has revealed that there is a world wide interest, not alone in total abstinence, but in prohibition, and the day of the final overthrow of the liquor traffic has been hastened.” And she issued a call for “active co-operation of all temperance, prohibition, religious and philanthropic bodies; all patriotic and civic associations and all Americans who love their country” to place prohibition in the constitution of the United States within ten years. The first step toward this was taken when Captain Richmond P. Hobson introduced a joint resolution in Congress for a prohibitory amendment to the constitution. The new slogan “A saloonless nation in 1920” seems to have caught the popular fancy and it will echo and re-echo until “With ballots plenty, in nineteen twenty, a saloonless nation we shall be.”
The situation in our country today points toward national prohibition for every state is doing something toward settling the problem of drink. Several states are in a campaign this year for state wide prohibition. Colorado will vote upon a prohibitory amendment in November and the vote will be watched with interest for women vote in Colorado. This will be the first state to vote on the question of state wide prohibition where women have full suffrage. Each state winning prohibitory laws will help to bring national prohibition. The W.C.T.U. women of Minnesota stand pledged to do our best to win prohibition for our state. We cannot vote but if we could get every man, woman and child who is not in favor of the saloon at work, victory would be assured. Speakers are good, we cannot do without them in a campaign, the distribution of literature is important and must be done, but the personal work will count for more than anything else and is the best means of winning the victory.
A Minneapolis Tribune editorial of March 1912 said: “If there is any spirit left in the people of Minnesota, we expect to see a large increase in the prohibition vote in the fall election. The village elections show a considerable increase on the simple question, prohibition or license, but that does not touch the real issue.” The Minnesota W.C.T.U. is out to win in the real issue, state wide prohibition. A resolution has been presented to and adopted by several organizations, religious and otherwise, giving co-operation in electing men to our coming legislature who will support a measure for submitting a prohibitory constitutional amendment to the people. A systematic campaign has been carried on by placing in the hands of the voters in the state more than fifty thousand leaflets. And from all over the state comes the glad tidings of the interest manifested in this campaign, not alone by our W.C.T.U. women but by others, men as well as women. Our National president said the women of Maine, worked like heroes in their campaign and I am sure the women of Minnesota will do as well.
We stand at the beginning of a new year in our work. We know not what it will bring to us. But this we do know, that in the vocabulary of the W.C.T.U. there is no such word as fail. We are out to win. We are in the midst of a battle for state wide prohibition and we shall never know defeat, victory may be delayed but it will come. God lives and right will prevail. But if we win in this battle we must be ready for our part. Victory means more devotion to our cause, it means more self-sacrifices than we have been willing to make before, it means more work than we have put into the W.C.T.U. heretofore. But it is worth while. Have you not caught the vision of the homes protected, children free from the evil of drink, the tears wiped from the faces of mothers, sisters and wives. Let us put ourselves into this work, into this campaign for state wide prohibition, let us work and pray as we never have before, for the homes, for the boys and for the girls of Minnesota.
Source: Hendrix, Rozette, “President’s Annual Address,” Minutes of the Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the W.C.T.U. of the State of Minnesota (Minneapolis: Thurston & Gould) 1912.