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President’s Address

c. 1900 — Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Minnesota W.C.T.U., Mankato MN


Beloved Comrades:

We are met in our twenty-fourth annual convention in the historic city of Mankato, where nearly four decades ago, thirty-nine of the five hundred Indian prisoners, captured by Col. Sibley, were executed. This act ended the Sioux War, which had been the terror to the inhabitants of three states. More than seven hundred white people had been massacred and many thousands driven from their homes. To-day we are met to execute plans (not Indians) to carry on our peaceful war for “God and Home and Native Land.” There is an enemy in the land more stealthy than the Indian, more deadly in its work – the alcoholic liquor traffic. It is killing thousands annually and destroying hundreds of homes. We toil and sacrifice to-day to hasten the to-morrow when this enemy will be executed upon the gibbet of public opinion, and the liquor traffic be as dead as the Indians buried in yonder mound.

It was in Mankato, thirteen years ago, as a member of the Young Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, I attended my first state W.C.T.U. convention. I looked on all that I saw with wide eyes and marveled at the women. Mrs. Hobart, who like Miss Willard, had great faith in humanity, and called out the best there was in one, presided over the convention. Mrs. Charlotte O. Van Cleve, with her snow-white hair, spoke so beautifully and lovingly to the young on the subject of purity, and inspired me to think that when my hair was as white, I, too, would speak to the young. I have learned since, however, that if I wait until then many a life would be wrecked while I waited for white hairs to give the force of experience to my words. Mary Allen West was with us, too, and I shall ever be grateful that I came face to face with that great soul. It was here, too, that Miss Carrie Holbrook led me on to make my first extemporaneous address. I caught a larger vision here that gave me greater faith in all womanhood and quickened my love for God’s whole family. And so I am glad that the faith that has kept the Mankato W.C.T.U. faithful has inspired them again to invite us to their city and to their homes.


An unexpected voice from the wilderness of nations was raised in France last spring by Rev. Latty, Bishop of Chalons, who sent a note of warning against “light wine” as the curse of the country in his Lenten pastoral letter. This Roman Catholic clergyman calls attention to the fact that France is in the last ranks of sobriety as a nation; that there are 450,000 saloons or one for every forty men; that women drunkards are common in many parishes; and the most serious cause for alarm he finds is the teaching the children are receiving at the hands of their parents. He says that many children are breakfasted on bread soaked in brandy, and often carry a bottle of brandy to school to moisten their mid-day lunch. May these people hear the voice of this brave bishop’s warning, and save themselves from physical and national decay. My journey abroad this summer has convinced me that to establish total abstinence in the nations of Europe will take many years of shining of the white light of truth down into the darkened customs of the people. Then, too, these people with the customs of wine drinking centuries back of them are coming to our own country, bringing their customs with them. I came home convinced that this warfare which we wage is to be a life struggle. We may as well establish ourselves and prepare for our life’s business. Many of our members enlist for a short time, thinking the whole matter of intemperance will soon be settled and then they shall rest. In a few years they get weary and discouraged and fall out of the ranks. My sisters, the King for whom we fight needs a standing army, ever ready for service. There is more hope in our own nation today than in any other. Yet we must strengthen our department of work among foreigners. We must meet the foreigners early and give them our customs before they have established theirs of the old world upon us. Nothing must be too hard for us to do. Some of us must consecrate ourselves to learn a language and devote ourselves to a certain people. Nothing will so endear us to the homesick foreigner as to be able to speak to him in his mother tongue, understand the history of his nation and to teach him the language and history of the new. We have 6,000,000 Germans in our country today. We must have a regiment of American workers, who will learn the German language, love the German people, work among the German children and young people until we get them to love clear brains better than beer. There must be others who for the love of country and dear humanity will learn the Scandinavian language and be real neighbors to the many people of this nationality who have come to make homes in America. Again others must learn the French and Italian and various dialects, even, that the truths of personal purity and total abstinence be taught to these who dwell among us. We must feel it a duty to teach these people the English language to put them in sympathy with our purposes and our institutions. To the women who will do this will come great opportunities for service. Do not think I am discouraged in the warfare when I say these things. I came home feeling greater necessity to work in this cause than ever before and as determined as ever to give a life to this cause. I firmly believe in the final triumph of total abstinence and the annihilation of the liquor business, but I also believe we shall work many years yet, must go deeper into science, lay still broader foundations, make greater sacrifices than we have yet made, must study to prepare ourselves for more effective service.

We have been deeply disappointed with the inaction of congress this year in regard to the canteen. This means that Attorney General Griggs’ opinion is sustained by the president and Secretary Root and congress sustains the president. Yet the public press has wittingly and unwittingly been at work quickening the conscience of the people. I quote from the New Enterprise: “There is no question about suppres-sing army canteens if congress and the president want to suppress them. It is merely a question of desire.” The friends of the president generally state “that personally Mr. McKinley would like to suppress the canteen.” We are to conclude then that politically Mr. McKinley does not dare suppress it and since his political desires are stronger than his personal, the canteen, with all its blighting influence to our soldier boys, will be maintained. Therefore, if your boy is in the army, he may be sacrificed for the sake of the party and the party candidate and not for the sake of the country as your fond patriotism would like to believe. Again and again has my blood boiled at the reports from missionaries and others of the hundreds of American saloons being established throughout our new possessions. According to the United States Bureau of Statistics dated July 20th, the export of malt liquors, brandy, whisky and other liquors for the Philippines altogether was three times greater in March than it was last November, although the government claims to have reduced the number of saloons. And shame of shames, our military authorities in the Philippines have introduced that open and official sanction of prostitution which was prohibited in the British army through the protest and investigation of American women. My sisters, our work for purity the coming year must engage our most earnest attention. The White Cross flag must follow the Red if our soldiers are to be protected from the most awful disease and death. The managing editor of one of the leading Manila daily papers, while riding past the national cemetry at Malate recently, said deliberately while pointing to the great number of fresh mounds: “Far more of our boys who are lying there met their death through bad women and drink than through the bullets of the Filipinos.”


Through the clouds of national sin and shame, however, come a few gleams of hope to those who love humanity. By vote of congress, Brigham H. Roberts, the Mormon polygamist, was not allowed a seat in that body, was sent back to the ones who elected him, a rebuke to perfidious Utah. The facts revealed by the investigation of the Roberts case go to show that while the cancer was seared over for a time, it was not taken out root and branch as we had supposed when Utah was admitted as a state. The anti-polygamy fight is not over. We must see that every polygamous federal official is removed from office and that an anti-polygamy amendment to the national constitution is carried. Since women are given the credit of having aroused our national congress on this subject let us not rest until the work is finished. As W.C.T.U. women we must go on with our petition work and personal letters to the coming session of congress. Another gleam of encouragement is the circular issued by the commissioner of internal revenue, “prohibiting the use of manufacturers of cigars, cigarettes or tobacco put up in packages, of labels containing any promise or offer of, or any order or certificate for any gift, prize, premium, payment or reward. This to take effect Sept. 1, 1900.” This will help, not only to stop smoking contests for the sake of the premium, but will also stop fostering the gambling and lottery spirit, as well as keep the impure pictures often contained in these packages from the eyes of the users of the poisonous weed.

In Minneapolis this last spring an ordinance was passed by the city council which prohibits the wine-room partitions in the saloons of that city, to take effect July 1st. This was a stroke toward lessening the awful immorality which is the natural outgrowth of the whole saloon sysstem, and wine-rooms in particular. It was only a step to be sure, but it was a step. May the thought soon get into the minds of men, if saloons can be regulated, their existence can be prevented.

The presidential campaign is again upon us with all party candidates personally decent, reputable men. We are glad that political parties have seemed to catch the thought that their chiefs must be men whose “known virtue is from scandal free.” Each candidate for president and vice president, as far as we know, is a good “homey” man, devoted to wife and family. I am glad I can think this much good of each one. But I am sorry to say that not all the parties to which these candidates belong are good “homey” parties. Some of them forget the wife and the family when they are silent upon the great evil that threatens the home more than any other – the traffic in alcoholic liquors. To be silent, to shut the eyes to the awfulness of this curse cannot cure the evil.

As to the methods of election by most political parties, too, there is grave doubt. When we think of the millions of dollars expended every four years to elect a president, the bad blood stirred up, the buying of ballots with bad beer, etc., etc., makes us more firmly believe in the W.C.T.U. method of election, which a la Kipling would be:

Where no one works for money, and no one works for fame;
But each for the joy of the working and each in her separate star,
Does the work as she sees it for the God of things as they are.

I am glad, too, that a man has demonstrated the truth that money does not need to be expended in order to be elected, and his success may point the way to similar achievements for even presidents. Dr. Washington Gladden, pastor of the First Congregational church of Columbus, Ohio, was elected to the city council of that city on the independent ticket in April of this year. Dr. Gladden did not take an active part in the campaign, declaring that he would neither spend a penny nor ask a single man to vote for him. It was distinctly understood that Dr. Gladden stood for:

    1. Non-partisan municipal government.
    2. Absolute fairness and justice to all parties.
    3. Efficient and economical administration.
    4. Placing only competent men in office.
    5. Publicity in transacting public business.

Dr. Gladden said, after his election: “The result has one or two lessons for practical politicians. It proves that a candidate does not need to make a personal canvass in order to secure his own election. If I had gone about my ward begging people to vote for me I should have been defeated. There are quite a number of people in this country who greatly prefer to vote for a candidate who will not solicit their votes. Another point for the practical politician is the fact that it is not necessary to pay for political work. There are plenty of people who are ready to work for what they believe in without being paid for it. Americans are not all mercenaries. Give them a fair chance to work for better government in the city and they will not need to be hired. The most cheering result of this campaign is the demonstration that elections can be carried even against big odds without the use of money.”

We might also add that a man of convictions standing for great principles can be elected without any party. This gives him freedom from without consulting his party. We long for the good old sentiment: “I the party lash and must give a chance for true manliness to develop, a quality the practical politician scarce dare assert at the present time would rather be right than president,” to come into politics, which would develop statesmen rather than politicians, and with James Russell Lowell,

I honor the man who is willing to sink
Half his present repute for the freedom to think,
And, when he has thought, be his case strong or weak,
Will risk t’ other half for the freedom to speak.

Coming more closely to our lines of work, we note that the Jewish Associated Charities of Chicago have decided to abolish henceforth all balls, fairs and charity bazaars as methods of swelling their funds and have resolved to give of their means according to their ability, and promised that their already magnificent philanthropies shall not suffer by the change. This is a note of encouragement to our department of Proportionate and Systematic Giving, and an example worthy of imitation by all charity organizations.

Edward Everett Hale has substituted water for wine at communion in his church in Boston, believing that the contents of the cup is a matter following the customs of the people. He believes that America has established water drinking as a custom, and hence he makes the change. That woman’s cause is steadily marching on is evinced by the fact that the M.E. General Conference, in session in Chicago last May, voted to admit women as delegates.

The department of Temperance and Labor is being also helped by outside organizations. The Consumers’ League, which has been gaining ground among women since 1896, has now a national organization. It seeks to educate conscience among those who buy, toward the laborer who produces the goods and the ones who stand behind counters and deliver our goods after the purchase is made. Women of wealth and fashion are studying into the conditions of the sweat shops and are insisting that garments be made in factories where there is light and fresh air and steam or electric power for running the machines; that the laborers be treated from a more humane standpoint; that eight or ten hours be a day’s work and that a living wage be paid. More and more manufacturers are beginning to see that it is for their own interests that their employes have decent homes and pleasant environments.

Had I time, I might speak of many more signs of encouragement that makes me feel that

    “Man to man the world o’er
    Shall brothers be for a’ that.”


It has been the aim of your state officers the past year to bring more national workers into our fields to supplement the labors of the state organizers. Mrs. Ada W. Unrue came to us in February, for the north and western part of the state, while Mrs. Mabel Conklin worked in the eastern and southern portions. Miss Mary Hadley was with us in June, conducting institutes, organizing new unions and gaining new members. The plans of the year have not all been fulfilled and we have had some disappointments, as no doubt the unions have. We have engaged Mrs. Callie Howe, of Missouri, for September, and will come to us the 2d. The state president of Iowa said of her: “I could keep Mrs. Howe busy in Iowa the year round if she would give me all her time.” I feel sure the unions who secure Mrs. Howe’s services will win friends to their unions. She should be engaged at once of our lecture bureau, Mrs. H. M. Powell.

Mrs. Stuckenberg, of New Jersey, is engaged for November, and will especially work among the Germans. Among our own state organizers, Miss Hollister has been at your service ten months of the year; Mrs. Princell has given some time to field work, and your state president has been subject to your call nine months. Several district presidents are developing latent talents as public speakers and have raised a voice throughout their districts. Public sentiment has been aroused in temperance work, and we believe a most kindly feeling exists toward the W.C.T.U. in our state. Churches of all denominations, including Episcopalian and Catholic, have opened their doors for us in the past year. For this kindness of pastors and people we wish to express our grateful appreciation. The work among the children and young people has moved forward most satisfactorily and our membership has increased.

Superintendents of departments have attended to the details of their work in a businesslike manner, and it is rumored that Minnesota will carry off some department banners this year at the National Convention.

We have created a new department of work, that of Work among Germans, and placed Mrs. Kate Kercher, of St. Cloud, at its head. Mrs. Kercher already speaks the language, loves the German people, and we are sure this will be an encouraging feature of our work the coming year. For the achievements and successes of the year, for the faithfulness of our members, for the friendship of the people, we would give God the glory, and praise Him that the great cause of truth and total abstinence is marching steadily on.


The year has been an eventful one to your president. More than four thousand miles by rail and by team have been traveled in our own state in the interest of our work. The two months’ journeyings in the northern part of our state, opening up new fields for our temperance work, was sometimes attended by peril and distress, and yet with the joy of the thought, “The people are hungry for the truth and the better life,” and the women ready to be organized into unions. In coming close to the heart of three of our great industries; i.e., mining, lumbering and agriculture, I saw the necessity for deep thinking along the line of our department of Capital and Labor, School Savings Banks and the departments immediately connected with miners and lumbermen. Then the journey half way across the continent to Seattle to attend the National Convention and across the other half and over the Atlantic to Edinburgh to attend the World’s W.C.T.U. Convention, has made a year of travel unparalleled in her history. Nearly twenty-two thousand miles have been traveled by land and by sea during the year. I wish to thank each one who helped to make possible my attending the World’s Convention. It was a kind and thoughtful thing to do. I sincerely hope that no union was burdened by this. Funds had begun to come into the state treasurer’s hands for this purpose long before I knew anything of the plan. The enlargement of vision that has come to me, the storing of the picture gallery of my mind with beautiful scenes, natural and historic, surely has made me richer and in closer touch with all humanity. I would that my tongue or pen could paint these scenes and impressions that have come to me so that you might see and feel them too. This I cannot do, but some way in the chemistry of life this that you have given me will some way filter into your own lives and make you the richer for the giving. You have done that which will ever bind me in gratitude close to yourselves and make me willing to do what you want me to do. However, I hope we shall all work together the coming year, each helping the other to carry out our high ideals. To this end I would recommend that to fit ourselves as well as possible to carry on our work, we hold a W.C.T.U. Institute in each county the coming year. I am beginning to think that, perhaps, if our institutes were held in the winter season rather than the summer, we would have better attendance, both of our own women and outsiders. I would recommend also that some form of admitting new members into the union be devised. I believe a strong impression should be made upon every new member as she joins the union; that she should know the fundamental truths underlying our great organization; that the pledge and constitution be read and signed; that the payment of dues have a prominent part; that she be given an annual leaflet to study, that she may know at once something of the great organization which she has joined; that a cordial welcome be extended to her, and she should feel that she belongs to the most beautiful sisterhood that the world has seen. She should also know that the little bow of white entitles her to recognize and be recognized by every other wearer of the same.

I hope each member of the W.C.T.U. will plan to make calls membership week, Sept. 21-28, and invite people to become members of the W.C.T.U. We should take this opportunity of telling the story of Miss Willard’s beautiful life, and winning others to consecrate their lives to the total abstinence movement. A Willard evening for Sept. 28, Miss Willard’s birthday, would be most appropriate, and formally take in the new membership gained during the week to full membership. I hope, too, that you will begin to plan early to observe Miss Willard’s heavenly birthday, Feb. 17, and that each union in Minnesota will send, through our state treasurer, $2 to Mother National.

Let us remember that we are just entering upon the twenty-fifth year of our history. We should begin now to plan to make the silver anniversary a wonderful event. Let us who finish this quarter of a century be as zealous, as hopeful, as cheerful as those who began our history. Practically, I hope we may celebrate this epoch with a paid-up membership of 5,000, with children and young people in large numbers trained to active temperance work, with twenty-five life members to the state union. I wish we might restore to our state constitution the plan of life membership – each life member or patron paying $25 to the state treasury. The city that entertains the twenty-fifth convention is to be congratulated. I am sure no pains will be spared to make it the greatest and best convention we have ever held. While I urge large membership I do not forget that our aim must ever be to help build up the community, the state and the nation rather than a great organization. Ours is the mission to minister rather than be ministered unto. Let each community see high ideals, springing from a true love for humanity, worked out by Christian and common sense methods, and the organization will grow as naturally as the full ear of corn develops from the little kernel dropped in fertile soil a few months ago. Newell Dwight Hillis says: “When God would order a great upward movement for society He drops a great thought into the mind of some leader. Such energies divine have these thoughts that they create new epochs in history.” It may be, one day, that some one will write through Frances E. Willard the thoughts for personal purity, clear brains and nationally protected homes from the blighting curse of strong drink, get such a divine energy as to set all eyes gazing upward and all hearts attuned for national righteousness. It belongs to you and me, my sisters, to replant the beautiful seed thoughts that God dropped into that rich mind.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” is our convention motto, and never before have I felt and know so keenly as in the past year the great, loving, sorrowful Christ, brooding over humanity. How He does love humanity! How He does yearn over it, and how He calls us who love Him to do the same. My earnest prayer is that truly our convention motto may be the motto for the new year upon which we are about to enter.



Source: Bessie Laythe Scovell, “President’s Address,” Minutes of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the W.C.T.U. of the State of Minnesota (St. Paul: W.J. Woodbury) 1900.