Museum logo
Museum logo

Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Collection Number RG1072.AM
Collection Name RG1072 Women's Christian Temperance Union (Neb.)
Identifier Organizational records
Size and Materials 0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box
Title Women's Christian Temperance Union (Neb.) records
Date or Date Span 1890-1957
Year Range from 1890
Year Range to 1957
Admin/Biographical History By the middle of the 19th century, temperance leaders saw the need to concentrate on de-legalizing saloons, the social institution, rather than trying to cure the individual drinker. The church started the major advance of this movement. In 1873, Hillsboro, Ohio, women gathered to form the "Modern Crusade" made up of ladies in the community attempting to "pray the saloons out of business." This idea spread throughout the country and in 1874 the Ladies Temperance Society (LTS) was formed in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The goal of this organization was "to promote the moral influence in our city and to further the cause of temperance." The LTS grew rapidly to include some of the most highly respected women of the community; such as Mrs. Butler, wife of the ex-governor, Mrs. H.W. Hardy, Mrs. A.C. Rickets, and Mrs. A.T. Davis. This group was distinctly religious, though interdenominational and planned to close saloons by prayer and personal appeal. When the anti-temperance oriented Lincoln City Council of 1874 passed an ordinance outlawing prayer and singing groups outside saloons, the ladies changed their tactics to petitions and teaching children about ill effects of alcohol.

A national convention of women's temperance movements was held in Chautauqua, New York in 1874, this was the origin of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The Lincoln Chapter of the WCTU was organized in 1875, the first city president was Mrs. Metcalf. The first state president was Mrs. Anson Brown. Three areas of work were stressed by the Nebraska WCTU: (1) creation of public sentiment against liquor traffic; (2) temperance legislation; and 3) teaching children the effects of alcohol upon individuals and society.

Although temperance was the WCTU's main concern, they also studied the areas of public health, moral sanitation, social purity, women’s interests, humane work, dependents and delinquents, and the licensed saloon and how a license is obtained. In 1879 and 1885 petitions by the WCTU to the Nebraska legislature asked for submission of a prohibitory amendment to the state constitution. Both petitions failed narrowly, the first by two votes and the second by postponement.

In 1915 the Anti-Saloon League (ASL), a politically active temperance organization formed in 1898, and the WCTU met in Lincoln to organize a prohibition campaign in the state. The WCTU campaigned vigorously for a "Dry Nebraska"; spreading petitions, planning work in every county and holding public meetings. In March of 1916, the Nebraska WCTU held a mid-continent campaign for workers all over the nation. In May of 1916, a petition was filed for statewide prohibition; over 300 members of the WCTU and ASL met at the capital to support the petition.

In 1917, the National Prohibition Act was passed. The Nebraska legislature of 1917 made full provisions for enforcement of the new amendment. This success was largely the result of determined and persistent leaders throughout the country of such organizations as the WCTU.
Scope & Content This collection consists of one box of manuscript material arranged in six series: (1) Correspondence, 1898-1957; (2) Minutes, 1939-1946; (3) Printed Matter, 1886-1951; (4) Manuscripts, 1892; (5) Newspaper Clippings, 1889-1940; and (6) Miscellany. This collection relates to the participation of WCTU members in community projects and rallies and their political campaigns for nominees on the prohibition ticket. Of particular interest is a detailed history of the organization edited by Ada Bittenbender.
Creator Women's Christian Temperance Union
Other Creators Bittenbender, Ada M., 1848-1925
Finding Aids Women's Christian Temperance Union (Neb.) finding aid
Related units of description See the audio component [RG1072.AU] for five audio discs titled, "Americans to the Rescue," a national Women's Christian Temperance Union radio program.
Subjects Alcoholic beverages
People Bittenbender, Ada M. (Cole), 1848-1925
Ripley, Mary A.
Willard, Frances E., 1839-1898
Search Terms Prohibition -- Nebraska
Temperance -- Societies, etc. -- Nebraska
Women social reformers -- Nebraska
Women's Christian Temperance Union