Open main menu

HUNT, Mrs. Mary H., temperance reformer, born in Litchfield, Conn., 4th July, 18—. Mrs. Hunt's ancestry included the celebrated Thatcher preachers, first of whom was the first pastor of the Old South Church in Boston. This was on her mother's side. On her father's side she comes rightly enough by her inheritance. Her father, Ephraim Hanchett, was a large-souled, godly man, with an enthusiasm for humanity that made him an ardent participator in the anti-slavery struggle of his day and an early advocate of total abstinence in the beginning of that reform. He was one of the vice-presidents of the first temperance society in the United States. Of such a birth, from such a parentage, followed naturally an education in the best schools at command, an education that fitted her for a professorship of natural science in a leading educational institution in Baltimore, Md., where she remained until the next step in her true education, the development that comes with wifehood and motherhood began. Then, in the home life, the study of the highest need of her own son led to the study of the needs and the problem of supply for the highest needs of all the young. In her outreach for all humanity brain kept pace with heart. Deeply stirred by the fact that the great foe to human progress and the great danger to youth lay in the domination of the liquor habit, Mrs. Hunt was warmly interested in the question of opposing effective barriers to the ever-increasing tide of misery and sin. She studied carefully the sentimental, religious and legal phases of the reform, and became convinced that, if the nation were to be saved, it must be by the wide dissemination of actual knowledge concerning the nature and effects of alcohol upon the body, the mind and the soul of man. Such knowledge might come too late for the present generation of drunkards, but, in the might of one inspired by a great new hope for the world, she went forth to demand of this mighty Pharaoh of the liquor interest that it "Let our children go." To reach the children with this saving knowledge, that should guide them through the wilderness period of temptation, she felt she must reach the public school. To reach the public school, with authority to teach, she must ave behind her the power of the law, and her plan of operation must include direct attack upon legislation. To secure any influence over legislation there must be a demand from the people; to secure the people's demand she must enlist the people's sympathy in her object, their faith in her success. Already there existed a great body of women raising the mother-cry for the salvation of the nation from the curse of drink. Mrs. Hunt laid her plan before that body, and in 1880 the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union created an educational department, of which she became the national superintendent. With a genius for laying broad and deep foundations, Mrs. Hunt began a thorough study of civil government as a preparation for securing compulsory temperance instruction legislation. Her campaigns have been planned on the basis of inhering principles, and the laws enacted have followed as in the nature of things. At the same time she projected a campaign of organization through the Woman's MARY H HUNT A woman of the century (page 415 crop).jpgMARY H HUNT. Christian Temperance Union for State, Territorial, county and local superintendents of her department, who should carry out her plans for such legislation to the remotest hamlet An illustration of the foresight which has enabled her to prepare in advance for coming needs was an appeal to the American Medical Association, in their annual national meeting in 1882, which secured a series of resolutions from that body concerning the evil nature and effects of alcoholic beverages. These resolutions have been the text for her successful appeals before legislative bodies and committees State and National in this and other lands. That document has often silenced belated objectors, who argued that doctors were not agreed on the alcohol question. In 1890, when the legislative work of the department was done for nearly every State of the Union, she began to consider whether the wings of its blessing might not overspread all other lands, and she became the international superintendent for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of the world The result of this is now, in 1892, compulsory temperance education secured in some of the provinces in Canada, Sweden and Australia, while in England, Norway, Germany, France, India and other "uttermost parts of the earth " steps are being taken to the same end. The translation of a series of temperance text-books into various languages has already been begun. Of the story of her work and its results only an outline can be given. The work meant years of journeying from State to State, addressing audiences with an eloquence and persuasive power rarely combined in orators of either sex. It meant the creation of sympathy and of sentiment, the education of a nation of parents to the point of pressure upon legislative assemblies. It meant to stand in more legislative halls than has fallen to the lot of any one person, pleading for laws that should place in the hands of every child, in every school-house, a text-book that should tell the truth concerning the effects of alcoholic beverages upon the human body, as well as other laws of nygiene. It meant the securing of law that no longer left instruction in these vital truths optional, but made it mandatory upon all teachers to pluck and give to the youth of the schools the fruit of this tree of knowledge of good and evil. It meant unyielding conflict, unflagging labor and unceasing prayer, but it meant victory in the thirty-five States, with more to follow, and in all the Territories, in the national military and naval academies, in all Indian and colored schools under national control, covering in all more than twelve-million school children. It meant and still means continued labor for eight States yet to be won for compulsory temperance education and for the right enforcement of laws already enacted, including the origination and projection of plans and methods for the best pursuit of the study in all grades of schools. It meant and still means the overcoming of ignorance and prejudice, and the instruction of teachers themselves. It meant the creation of a new school literature, the revision of the old text-books, and the actual creation of new ones covering the entire courses of instruction concerning the welfare of the body, a work that was carried on until there has been published under Mrs Hunt's auspices many series of text-books on this topic, issued by many different publishing houses for all grades of schools, nearly thirty books in all. For this work Mrs. Hunt has special qualifications from her scientific training, which taught her the insecurity of seeking to establish a point on the results of imperfect investigation. Brilliant and successful as were her campaigns for legislation and organization, they were only the methods or means to an end. The real thing itself was the truth that was to make man free from the bondage of strong drink, which through the channels thus created could percolate more swiftly down to the masses. Of this truth Mrs. Hunt has been a careful student from the inception of the movement, and this study she has kept up through all the pressure of other work, aided in these later years by Miss E. L. Benedict, her literary assistant, who makes a specialty of library research. The latest utterances on medical, physiological, chemical, hygienic, sanitary and biological subjects, all of which contribute to this comprehensive science of right living, are carefully scanned and culled from for the special library on this subject which lines the walls of Mrs. Hunt's study in Hope Cottage, the department headquarters in Hyde Park, Mass.