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Ghosts of Prohibition: Women's Christian Temperance Union Holds Indianapolis Convention

One of the leading forces behind alcohol Prohibition is still alive -- if enfeebled -- and meeting this week at its international convention in Indianapolis. The Women's Christian Temperance Union is bringing anti-alcohol activists from more than 30 countries to continue its 130-year struggle against demon rum.
WCTU booth, Canadian National Exhibition, c. 1945 (
The group's motto, derived from the Greek writer Xenophon, is "Moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful."

The organization, which describes itself as the world's oldest non-sectarian women's organization, began as a group for women concerned with alcohol abuse. Originally organized in upstate New York by women who marched on saloons to urge their owners to close them -- which didn't work very well -- the WCTU proved a workhorse in paving the way to Prohibition. Less than 50 years after its founding in 1874, it helped usher in the era of national alcohol Prohibition in the US.

While the WCTU continues to oppose alcohol, it has also modernized, now also opposing drug use and efforts to reform drug laws. It also opposes abortion, the use of fetal stem cells, gambling, and pornography.

The WCTU's issue page on marijuana uncritically repeats just about every negative claim made about the plant, but actually breaks outrageous new ground with the following, never before heard claim: "In a 1999 report of 664 drug-related deaths, 187 of them resulted from marijuana use alone."

Fortunately, the WCTU is a mere shadow of its former self and now appears to have little interest or ability in crafting new prohibitionist laws. It is, however, still willing to confront confounding issues. On Saturday, convention attendees will hear a lecture on "Wine in the Bible."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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How the mighty have fallen! Don't judge the original WCTUers by this generation. The first generation were among the leading reformers of their generation fighting for women's suffrage, educational reforms, anti-poverty, and in the South even recruited black women into their organization even if in segregated chapters. They formed alliances with the Socialist Party, the Popuulists, and the leading labor union of their time. Its longtime President Frances Willard even said that drunkenness was a natural outgrowth of poverty. Just because the Prohibitionists of our day behave in their self-righteous moralistic way does not mean that has always been the case.


yeah im doing a project on the wemons christian temperance union and i need names of people who were agansit it and who opposed it cause i cant find anything can anyone help any websites everything or anything you have information on will help alot.


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