The Souvenir of Western Women/The Woman's Christian Temperance Union

The Souvenir of Western Women
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union by Lucia H. Faxon Additon

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union


THE public ear has ever listened eagerly to the stories of great battles, plans of campaigning, of the rallying of troops, told by those who have been in the thickest of the fight. And in taking up the pen to write the twenty years of campaign of the "Grand Army of Reform" of Oregon—The Woman's Christian Temperance Union — we note the fact, as revealed from a research amid its archives, that it is a record of the grandest movement among women this state has yet had writ on the pages of her history.

The peaceful warfare carried on by these faithful "home guards" is replete with incidents of heroism, self-sacrifice, patient endurance and lofty purpose.

Not alone as a total abstinence movement is it of historic importance, but as a distinctive woman's movement toward unifying them. The first organization of Oregon women banded together for the development of a truer, nobler, higher womanhood.

The first union was organized in Portland March 22, 1881, in the HallStreet M. E. Church; the second at Albany in April, two dates of historic importance in Oregon. To-day those who look over the field occupied by hundreds of earnest workers cannot realize the many difficulties that confronted the pioneers in this work. The Christian women of the state were already overburdened with church duties, and were unaccustomed to any public work. In 1883, June 15, the state organization was perfected by Miss Frances E. Willard and her private secretary, Anna Gordan. The plan of work adopted at this first convention has been faithfully pursued, and has become effective as a means of starting educational forces that have told for the good of the state. Its purpose is to educate the children and the parents, to bring influence to bear upon pulpit and press, and to call into activity woman's latent forces.

In 1836 there were 32 unions in Oregon. In 1891 there were 83, with a membership of 1900. The W. C. T. U. has made a record in establishing reading rooms. Seventeen cities have under its auspices opened these "light houses" on the shores of reform. Three unions own their headquarter buildings—Corvallis, Salem and Albany. Corvallis bears the distinction of having the first building owned by White Ribboners on the Pacific Coast.

The W. C. T. U. founded the Industrial Home for girls—afterwards turned into the Refuge Home. The first industrial exchange was conducted by the Portland Union in early years. The Baby Home was founded by the East Portland W. C. T. U., with seven dollars and unlimited faith, the records say.

For six years Multnomah County Union conducted a "Noon Rest for Working Girls," the first movement of the kind in the Northwest, and it paved the way for similar work by other societies. The W. C. T. U. was instrumental in placing a matron in the Union Depot in Portland, and fired the first gun in the war against child labor and in support of compulsory education.

A well-organized lecture bureau is maintained. Headquarters are established at Ashland and Gladstone during the annual Chautauqua Assemblies, and also at the State Fair. The Flower Mission has carried joy and brightness into many an erstwhile dismal sick chamber. The work among sailors has exerted a far-reaching influence for good.

Not least in all the work for "God and home and native land" accomplished by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union is the influence of the work upon its members. Under it they have grown stronger, broader, more loving and more noble.

The following legislative enactments were secured through the efforts of the members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union:

In 1884 the scientific temperance instruction bill.

In 1899, after the third effort, a bill for the protection of young girls was enacted by which the age of consent was raised from 14 to 16 years. This bill suffered much in the hands of the legislature of 1905, be it said in shame upon mankind.

The anti-narcotic bill, prohibiting minors the use of tobacco, was passed in 1889.

Secured from legislature in 1889 for the Refuge Home, established by the W. C. T. U., an appropriation of $5000, which amount was granted by succeeding legislatures, and is now raised to $6000.

Anti-tobacco law, amended in 1891.

In the framing of the charter of the Soldiers' Home in Roseburg, the W. C. T. U. took a live interest, and secured the insertion of a clause in the charter prohibiting the sale of intoxicants within one mile of the home.

By a law secured in 1893, police stations are provided with matrons.