WCTU Discussion (Feb 1997)


Query From Carol Horton horton@macalester.edu 6 Feb 1997

I have a student conducting an independent research project on the WCTU. While obviously historical, he wants to analyze it from a perspective informed by contemporary social and feminist theory, focusing in particular on the significance of race, class and gender indentities in the movement. As this is not at all my area of expertise, any suggestions about where to start with this research would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.

Responses:

>From [no name] epsteia@email.uc.edu 07 Feb 1997

An interesting way to look at the WCTU is through race and the organization's connections with nativism and in particular, the Klanswomen. Your student might not be interested in the 1920s, but Kathleen Blee's book _Women and the Klan_ could be helpful. Blee is a sociologist at U of Kentucky.

>From Nancy Marie Robertson nmr1675@is4.nyu.edu 07 Feb 1997

Be sure to have him look at Glenda Gilmore's new book, _Gender and Jim Crow_, which has an excellent part on black women and the WCTU, a topic that has been overlooked by many.

Lucy Thurman and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper were both Superintendents of the WCTU's "colored work" program. Harper appears in many books and collections on African American women. Also, he should look for accounts of the major "to do" between Ida B. Wells Barnett and Frances Willard over racism and white women. Good luck.

>From Sally Hermsdorfer chermsdorfer@msuvx1.memphis.edu 07 Feb 1997

Have your student look at Marsha Wedell's _Elite Women and the Reform Impulse_, published about 1992. Looks at pre-progressive era women from the South, and examines how many had their first political/social activist experience with the WCTU. Good luck.

>From Jo Freeman jfrbc@cunyvm.cuny.edu 07 Feb 1997

I found lots of references to the WCTU in the six volume _History of WOman Suffrage_. The authors give the WCTU major credit for many campaigns to get state legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to the voters. In the 19 century the WCTU was large and the suffrage organizations were small. Frequently the head of the Suffrage Department of the WCTU would found, or be a part of the leadership, in the state Equal Suffrage Association.

>From Laura Briggs lbriggs@boaz.anthro.arizona.edu 10 Feb 1997

Be sure to have your student take a look at Ian Tyrrell's fascinating _Woman's World, Woman's Empire_ on the World's WCTU. Too many works end in the 1890s, with the death of Frances Willard, and ignore the massive growth of the WCTU outside the U.S. and Britain in the 20th century.

>From William B. Turner drturner@mindspring.com 10 Feb 1997

Certainly for race, and perhaps for class as well, in studying the WCTU the starting point must be the basic question of the group's willingness to include black women at all. For recent explorations of the problem of racial exclusion--usually unintentional, but no less effective for that-- see bell hooks' _Feminist Theory from Margin to Center_ and Nancie Caraway's _Segregated Sisterhood_, as well as the classics _Homegirls: a Black Feminist Anthology_ and _Some of Us Are Brave_/

>From Elaine S. Caldbeck eca792@lulu.acns.nwu.edu 10 Feb 1997

One useful source is the book Carolyn DeSwarte Gifford edited: _Writing Out My Heart: Selections from the Journal of Frances E. Willard, 1865-96_(U of Illinois Press, 1995). She includes a thorough bibliography and her introduction discusses her methodology as historian and author whose books helped her formulate a method for the project. I have found it useful.

>From Nancy Lutgens nlutgens@alexia.lis.uiuc.edu 10 Feb 1997 [...] Another place to try might be the Alcohol and Temperance listserve at ATHG@Miamiu.acs.muohio.edu
Good luck with the research.

>From Marilyn Whiteley marilyn@freespace.net 10 Feb 1997

there is an excellent analysis in a book by Sharon Anne Cook, _Through Sunshine and Shadow: The Women's Christian Temperance Union, Evangelicalism, and Reform in Ontario, 1874-1930_ (McGill-Queens U Press, 1995).


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