President’s Annual Address
To the 41st Meeting of the
1917 — Minnesota
Twelve years have passed since we gathered for our last annual meeting in Minneapolis and it is with rejoicing that we glance back over these intervening years and note the wonderful progress made in the temperance movement. Twelve years ago we were counting dry territory by towns and counties almost entirely for we had only three prohibition states at that time, Maine, Kansas and North Dakota, and we had almost ceased to think of a state winning state-wide prohibition, for 16 years had then passed since North Dakota had become a prohibition state, but two years after our meeting in Minneapolis the temperance wave broke over the southland and kept spreading until now we have 26 states, Maine, Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, South Carolina, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, that have outlawed John Barleycorn and in all but six of these the laws are now in effect and in these six will become effective before the closing of 1918. Alaska was voted dry by a large majority and this action was ratified by Congress. The District of Columbia is to be dry by a law that goes into effect Nov. 1, 1917, closing 264 saloons, 91 wholesale houses and 4 breweries, so when our National convention convenes in Washington in December it will be a dry city.
By an overwhelming majority Porto Rico on July 16 gave John Barleycorn his farewell salute, and the law goes into effect March 2, 1918. Another great victory for the dry forces was the passing of the Reed Amendment to the Post Office Appropriation bill, prohibiting the use of the mails for liquor advertising purposes or for orders for liquor in any state where such advertising or soliciting is unlawful and also prohibiting, except for scientific, sacramental, medicinal and mechanical purposes, shipping of any alcoholic liquors to any individual in a state prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor. This law went into effect July 1. This makes 23 states bone dry, 11 others are partly affected by it. Under the advertising section of the 22 states wholly affected by the act are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington. Four states, Indiana, Michigan, Montana and Utah will be affected by it when their prohibition laws go into effect in 1918. This is conceded by all to be the greatest victory in the temperance movement, because by it prohibition states for the first time, have a fair chance to be dry.
Such splendid victories were coming all along the line from local state and national that we thought surely now we shall reach our goal, National prohibition, but just as the victory seemed almost in sight we were confronted by war. However much we may deplore the war and however heartbreaking it may be, and while our organization has always been a foremost factor in educating for peace, yet the W.C.T.U. is a patriotic organization, our motto “For God and Home and Native Land,” proclaims this. All the years of its existence the W.C.T.U. has worked to protect the home and now in this time of our country’s need our members will give a loyal service. As our beloved president, Miss Anna A. Gordon, said, just after war was declared, “We shall meet the situation with sublime courage, with Christian optimism and with the selfsacrifice of the patriot.” Let us be worthy of Frances E. Willard’s last words concerning her W.C.T.U. comrades, “There never were such women as our White Ribboners, so large hearted, so generous, such patriots and such Christians.”
As soon as war was declared an effort was made to secure National prohibition as a war measure and after a long and severe struggle, the Senate, on Aug. 1, passed the Resolution for a National Constitutional prohibition amendment by a vote of 65 to 20, and it now awaits the action of the House. If it passes the Houses it must be ratified by 36 state Legislatures within six years unless the House rejects the time limit. So we readily see how important it is that each state win prohibition and also elect men to the legislature who are in favor of national prohibition, for the liquor interests will make a desperate fight to hold 13 states so that the amendment will not pass.
When the question of food shortage came up an effort was made to secure the prohibiting of the use of food products in the manufacture of liquor. This is only a partial success for the measure passed prohibits the use of food products in manufacturing distilled liquors for a beverage but exempts beer and wine.
Prof. Irving Fisher of Yale says, “That sooner or later the nation will be compelled to adopt entire prohibition as a war measure.” He says it must be done not only for the conservation of food but for the diversion of labor from the production of alcoholic beverages to military and industrial purposes. The large number of men employed by the liquor interests has been used as an argument against prohibition as it would throw so many men out of employment, but today it is this very release of labor which is needed for the production of food and munitions and for filling the ranks in the army and navy.
When women are being asked to prepare to take the places of men called to the front why should not the large number of men employed by the liquor interests be taken from a business that is destructive in its nature, and put where the help is needed in the industrial world? And why when the women are urged to save every particle of food should there be allowed a waste, yes, worse than waste, of millions of bushels of food products in the manufacture of beer and wine?
As Jeanette Rankin, the Congresswoman of Montana, says, “If instead of encouraging our people to use less grain, we simply refused to allow any grains or food stuffs to be used for the production of liquor, we would not only divert the destruction which commonly results from the consumption of liquor but we would save enough grain to supply the bread rations for our own army and the combined armies of our allies.”
WOMAN’S COMMITTEE OF COUNCIL OF NATIONAL DEFENSE.
The National government wishing to utilize the patriotism of the women appointed a Woman’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, with Dr. Anna Howard Shaw as chairman. Dr. Shaw says, “We do not wish to create any more organizations but to see that those already created co-operate helpfully. We urge that not for one minute shall any line of helpful service already begun be allowed to lapse. None can realize more keenly than the women of the nation the horror of war, but now that it is upon us no woman can shirk her part.”[D]
The W.C.T.U. is one of the organizations represented in this committee both nationally and in the several states, and is co-operating in the work.
Many lines of work taken up are not new to the W.C.T.U., for instance the work of furnishing soldiers and sailors with reading matter and delicacies for the camp hospitals has been done for years through our department of soldiers and sailors. The work of Americanization has been carried on through our department of Foreign Speaking People, and relief work through our department of Flower Mission; camp morals under moral Education and Race Betterment, and protecting women in industry through our department of Temperance and Labor. It only means a co-operation with other organizations that a larger work may be done in this time of need.
One of our daily papers speaking of the meeting in Washington, D.C., of the presidents of national women’s organizations, called by the Woman’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, said, “One of the strongest and clearest accounts of activities in various lines in definite progress was presented by Miss Anna A. Gordon, National President of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.”
At that time Miss Gordon said, “Our organization stands for peace, but when President Wilson decided that the time had come for this country to take up arms against oppression, and crimes against humanity, we pledged ourselves to stand by him to the limit of our strength, and because of the perfect organization of the W.C.T.U. there was no delay in outlining the work. We believe it is our duty to unite with the nation in defending the principles of Christian civilization.”
The work for Soldiers and Sailors as carried on by the Red Cross is not a new work for the W.C.T.U. For years, when occasion called for it, delicacies and electric fans have been furnished hospitals for the comfort of the ill, and, everything that could be done for the comfort of the soldiers was done. Social welfare work was done at the training camps, refreshments were served to soilers as they entrained and comfort bags given them. In our own state we have always furnished reading matter, gospel services, and social entertainment for the soldiers at Fort Snelling, besides making and distributing housewives. Since the war began hundreds of housewives have been made and distributed to the boys and the work is still going on.
Through contributions by the local unions of our nation, two white ribbon ambulances have been furnished by the National W.C.T.U., to be sent out under the Red Cross.
Our members are co-operating with the Red Cross in making supplies for the soldiers and sailors, each one trying to do her bit to help in this time of need, but as Anna Shaw says, we are not for one moment to let our other work lapse.
Every bit of work we do as a W.C.T.U. organization is helping to win this war. Every bit of total abstinence sentiment created through our departments of Mothers’ Meetings, Medical Temperance, Sunday School and Christian Citizenship departments, helps to solve the food problem.
It is just as patriotic and just as necessary to save the boys and girls through the work of the department of Moral Education as to knit a pair of socks. It is just as patriotic to teach some mother how to conserve food and to teach her the kind of food to give her children as to knit sweaters, so each woman can do her part. This does not mean that we are to do one thing to the exclusion of all others, nor are we to neglect the work already begun, but to do a little more in this time of need.
NATIONAL PLANS FOR PATRIOTIC SERVICE.
1. The National W.C.T.U. recommends that a committee on patriotic service be appointed in each state, district and local W.C.T.U., that there may be a more general co-operation of service. Such committee to be composed of the general officers and the superintendents of departments most closely allied with the service now needed. Nation wide prohibition is one matter to be considered by this committee, in order to conserve food, to protect the men in the army and navy and to release labor.
2. SOLDIERS AND SAILORS. Through this department furnish the men of the army and navy with comfort bags, wristlets, socks and sweaters, send reading matter to them, and give them a goodbye when they leave in the way of a social time. It makes the boys feel that the folks at home are behind them.
3. RELIEF WORK. This should be done through the department of Flower Mission and Relief Work. The greatest work just now to be done along, this line is to feed the hungry children of France. The Government allows ten cents a day for the care of an orphan and another ten cents a day would give the child the food necessary.
Another work that will be needed will be to care for and comfort the families of the men called to the front.
4. MORAL EDUCATION. We must do all possible for the conservation of the moral forces of our communities at this time. This work must be done quietly to be effective. Make appeals to the young men and women through literature and spoken word urging them to help maintain a high standard of morals. Parents must be warned of the dangers to girls, who frequent places near the camps, in their social relations with the soldiers. To do this work we must secure the co-operation of all other women’s organizations.
5. WOMEN IN INDUSTRY. This work is to carried on through the department of Temperance and Labor. So many men going to war has made it a necessity for women to take their places in the business and industrial world. We must try to secure for these women the same wages paid to the men whose places they have taken, and the proper environment.
Every housewife is expected to enlist in the production, conservation and preservation of food products, for every pound of food allowed to go to waste lessens our future supply.
6. AMERICANIZATION. This work will be done through the department of Foreign Speaking People. This can be done through work with the children and by getting in touch with the women in the homes, helping them to become American in their mode of living as well as language. How much better by some act of ours to help them to understand our language and customs than to simply hand them a leaflet in their own language. To this end our national superintendent of the department of Foreign Speaking People asks that each W.C.T.U. woman place the name of one immigrant woman on her calling list and in this way induce her to speak English and live American.
The National W.C.T.U. is working with 17 other reform organizations along this line of temperance activities in the Army and Navy. Through this United Committee on Temperance activities the National W.C.T.U. has been asked to furnish 16 stereomotorgraphs,[G] one for each of the cantonments where the new army is being mobilized. Through these slides temperance truths will be taught. This committee is also investigating to learn the facts concerning the serving of beer and wine to our troops in France.
Our women are well versed in raising funds for special work as has been demonstrated by the White Ribbon Ambulance fund. Minnesota has done its part in this and also in the apportionment for the Stereomotorgraphs.
The National W.C.T.U. also recommends that we hold Americanization meetings and community patriotic services, and last but not least, work for a gain in membership through this patriotic service. SUFFRAGE.
This year for the first time in the history of our nation, we have a Congress woman, Miss Jeanette Rankin of Montana. National prohibition and woman’s suffrage have an ardent supporter in Miss Rankin. She introduced the National suffrage Amendment at our present session of Congress.
Three states, Ohio, North Dakota and Indiana have, during this year, been granted Presidential suffrage, and Vermont municipal and Arkansas primary. In eleven states, Arizona, Colorado, California, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and the territory of Alaska women have full suffrage, and in four states, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and North Dakota Presidential and in 19 partial, and in 14 have no suffrage.
In May Baby Week was observed and most heartily did the W.C.T.U. co-operate in the movement, for our organization was the pioneer in the movement to save the babies through our departments of Mothers’ Meetings, White Ribbon Recruits, Health, Medical Temperance, Moral Education and Race Betterment, and Anti-Narcotics. The state W.C.T.U. was asked to take charge of one program in Minneapolis, and procured Dr. Haggard to speak on Alcohol and Medicine and Mrs. B.L. Scovell on Science and Alcohol. About 1,400 pages of literature were distributed by W.C.T.U. women.
By referring to the records we find that twelve years ago when we met in Minneapolis only 22 unions reported their towns without saloons. Now we have 10 W.C.T.U. districts dry, and 6 others have only one county each wet. We have now in Minnesota 58 dry counties, 45 dry through county option, 5 by Indian treaty regulations and 4 partly by local option and partly through the enforcement of the Indian treaty. Only 6 counties entirely wet.
The most notable victory during the past year was Duluth going dry by a majority of over 1,400. Duluth is said to be the largest city in the United States to vote out the saloons.[H] Larger cities are dry but not by vote without the aid of county or state.
On Sept. 10 St. Louis county voted dry by a large majority and the law takes effect March 25, 1918.
In the way of legislation the great victory was the submission of a bone dry prohibitory Amendment to be voted upon in November, 1918, and to go into effect July 1, 1920. We regret the generous time given to close up the liquor business but rejoice in getting the Amendment submitted. Another measure, very satisfactory to us was the prohibiting of wholesale liquor houses outside of towns and cities. Many good measures were passed in regard to child welfare but there still remains much to be done along some lines to properly protect the boys and girls. Temperance measures are not all that are needed.
The State Public Safety Commission has closed several saloons and also made the hour of closing for the saloons in the state 10 P. M. instead of 11 and the opening 8 A. M. Also an order forbidding women or girls entering saloons in the state, and in cities of more than fifty thousand population forbidding women or girls to be served with liquor in any cafe, restaurant or chop suey house where liquor is permitted to be sold. Also an order prohibiting liquor being sold to soldiers in uniform and forbidding soldiers entering saloons.
We sincerely thank the local unions for their generous response to all calls by the state. The reports of poster day, Sept. 28, were very gratifying, and the response to the appeal for the White Ribbon ambulance fund and for the housewives for the soldiers and sailors, and the co-operation with the Red Cross in work for the hospitals has been most generous. We can truly say with Miss Willard, “There are no women like the W.C.T.U. women.”
Let no union, for one moment, think it must disband because of the war. O, women, catch a vision of all that our work means for the comfort, morals and general welfare of the soldiers. The W.C.T.U. is the most truly patriotic organization in existence, for we have taught the children the salute, “My head, my heart and this right hand for God and home and native land.” What other organization has made such preparation as the W.C.T.U. in teaching the child he must have clear brains and steady nerves to best serve his country. While we have talked and preached in peace, yet we have at the same time been preparing for war in teaching the inefficiency of men who use alcohol, of the waste of food products in the manufacture of liquor and in teaching a Christian citizenship that will give its best to the country. Yes, dear women, your country needs you now in the W.C.T.U. to continue this work for home and for the nation as never before. Are you going to stand steadfast and true in this crisis? You are needed to help win state and national prohibition. You are needed to help carry on the work for the soldiers, you are needed to help Americanize the immigrant woman now with us and those who are to come to us. You are needed to help send food to the little starving children in France.
Lest we forget – the W.C.T.U. was born of God and we have His work to do, not only the material needs of the men in the army and navy but also the spiritual needs. You may think it is so much more worth while to sew or knit for the hospital supplies but where will you be able to give the spiritual touch as through the Testament in the housewife to the boy going from your home town, or where touch on purity of morals as in the leaflet put in with the Testament?
We have reached a critical time in our history and may our prayer be that we may be given wisdom and sound judgment, that we may make no mistake now, and as we go forward into new lines into which God may lead us, let us ever hold high the white banner of the W.C.T.U., standing loyal to the work God has given us to do.
As we enter upon a new year of service let us go forward prayerfully, courageously, each doing her part, and remembering the battle is not ours, but God’s, He leads and we follow. May we go forward with a trust that will carry us through all trials and a faith that will carry us on until we reach the final victory.
Source: Hendrix, Rozette. “President’s Annual Address,” Minutes of the Forty-First Annual Meeting of the W.C.T.U. of the State of Minnesota (Minneapolis: Thurston & Gould) 1917.