Frances E. Willard (1839-1898). National president of Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1879 until her death. Influential beyond her lifetime for an array of social and labor reforms.
Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Leadership
Mrs. J.D. Tanner (from Morro Bay), San Luis Obispo County President
Mrs. Augusta C. Bainbridge, California State “Leader”
Mrs. R.S. Brown, President
Miss Kate Hatheway, Secretary
Headquartered in the Methodist Church
Mrs. Daisy M. Scott, San Luis Obispo County President
Mrs. Helen M. Stoddard, California State President
Local Temperance Information was Reported Regularly in San Luis Obispo County Newspapers
On March 12, 1908, Union Meeting of the Paso Robles WCTU, Mrs. George Spurrier, President of the local organization presided. Mrs. L. Fannie King, of California WCTU state organization presented an address to its members.
1912 San Luis Obispo, Financial backing for a prohibition/temperance local periodical did not materialize. Attorney P.C. Kibbe and several local temperance fighters abandoned the proposition. The quote found was that the “moving spirit drops it.”
“Drys Win at Paso Robles” from an article found in the San Francisco Chronicle, October 20, 1913.
Paso Robles, October 19, 1913, “A hotly contested wet and dry election, held here yesterday, resulted in a victory of the “dry” element by 325 to 305. Paso Robles is one of the most largely frequented tourist towns in the State and the belief that this feature of the town’s prosperity would be affected made the night most strenuous.”
Temperance Organizations in San Luis Obispo County listed in City Directories
- Good Templars Lodge of the Baptist Church, San Luis Obispo
- The Methodist Episcopal Church, Nipomo 1907
- Epworth League, 1909, San Luis Obispo
- The Temperance Loyal Legions, 1909, San Luis Obispo
- Anti-Saloon League local affiliate, 1905-1906, San Luis Obispo
Pro-Prohibition Booth at Parents’ Exposition Week, Grand Central Palace; 2/23/1929; Records of the Internal Revenue Service, Record Group 58. National Archives Identifier: 16972692.
In 1917 in order to save grain for producing food, President Woodrow Wilson introduced a temporary wartime prohibition. During the Great War in Europe, crops were creating a severe food crisis. The President wanted to support the allies of the United States by sending grain abroad. But this led to dialogue in our country on whether to prohibit the production of alcohol because grain was an essential ingredient in the production of whiskey. You know that eventually this led to a discussion in the country about whether to prohibit the production of alcoholic beverages.
Of course, there were sides taken on this issue. The “Drys” believed America would be better off without alcohol, and the “Wets” believed their personal liberties were being infringed upon, opposing a government ban.
We know from an earlier article on Prohibition that drinking was in excess in America for many years, in fact, centuries. Temperance groups rose up and attempted to stop this excessive drunken behavior all across the country. One of the major organizations that led this movement was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) which was founded in Hillsboro, Ohio on December 23, 1873, by Annie Turner Wittenmyer (1827-1900) and Frances Willard (1839-1898).
Social Reform Movement
Willard took the opportunity to link two major reform movements with each other by linking women’s suffrage and temperance. Her educational background included attending the Milwaukee Female College and finishing her degree at North Western Female College in Evanston, Illinois. Between 1866 to 1867 she taught at Genesee Wesleyan Seminary. She toured the Middle East and Europe from 1868 to 1870. From 1871 until 1873 she served as the President of the Evanston College for Women, making her the first woman president of a college in the United States. In 1873 Evanston College merged with Northwestern University making her the first Dean of Women at an American university.
Frances participated in the founding convention of the WCTU in November 1874 and was elected the first corresponding secretary which provided her the task of corresponding with and traveling to many small towns and cities in the United States. She thrived during these early years, broadening the reform movement to include women’s suffrage (global expansion of women’s rights and instrumental in the passage of the 19th Amendment), labor reforms (the eight- hour workday), women’s rights (raising the age of consent in many states), temperance reforms (influence was instrumental in the passage of the 18th Amendment) and education reforms. In 1879 Frances Willard was elected President of the WCTU.
Because of Willard’s leadership, WCTU became the largest organization of women during the nineteenth century, training women to accomplish societal reform and encouraging them to become involved in both local and national politics. Both women and men mobilized because of her leadership ability. And remember, she got this all to happen even though women still could not vote.
In 1905, the first woman to be chosen to be honored in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol building in the District of Columbia was Frances Willard; her statue was presented to that collection by the state of Illinois.
Introduction of Temperance Education in California
Alcohol education, the mission of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, was an important part of the temperance movement. The legislative measure sponsored by the WCTU, known as the Scientific Temperance Instruction law, passed in 1887 in California. Why? Because in Sacramento, the state capitol of California, the lobby had the WCTU organization using pressure tactics. According to a writeup within the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction information, the WCTU strategy included “having members pressure state legislators to mandate temperance instruction and to promote the nomination and candidacy of pro-temperance candidates in election years.” The technique was effective. The result in California was the bill was unanimously passed in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
California School Law Section 1672
“Any school district town or city the officers of which knowingly allow any schools to be taught in violation of these provisions forfeits all right to any State or county apportionment of school moneys (sic) and upon satisfactory evidence of such violation the Superintendent of Public Instruction and School Superintendent must withhold both State and county apportionments Not much can be said of the enforcement of the law as it was passed last March and the fall term of school has but just commenced Having wisely secured the introduction of temperance physiologies in seven-eighths of all the schools of the State before the law was enacted great advantage is found in being obliged to make no abrupt changes now At the last stated examinations all teachers were required to pass a severe test on these points.”
This meant that all children were being required to learn about temperance; “teaching that alcohol is dangerous and seductive poison, that fermentation turns beer and wine and cider from a food into poison, that a little liquor creates by its nature the appetite for more, and that degradation and crime result from alcohol.” By 1900, almost every state, along with the District of Columbia and all U.S. possessions had strong legislation mandating all students receive anti-alcohol education.
San Luis Obispo Temperance Events of Note
There were at least three famous women who spoke in San Luis Obispo County during the “fight”/temperance/suffragist period.
On May 12, 1896, Anna Howard Shaw, a Methodist minister, physician, and temperance lecturer spoke at Maennerchor Hall, on Marsh Street in San Luis Obispo, where she was introduced by Mayor E.P. Unangst. The event was sponsored by the local Political Equality Club; the first of these clubs was founded in 1887 in Jamestown, New York.
As a note, the Berkeley California Political Equality Club, one of the largest suffrage organizations on the West Coast, spearheaded a state-wide Women’s Congress to drive for a suffrage referendum in 1895-1896. The energetic campaign mobilized hundreds of women across the state, but the measure failed to pass, doing especially poorly in urban areas. The failure of the suffrage referendum was blamed on the alliance between women’s suffrage and the anti-alcohol temperance movement, a cause that was especially unpopular in cities.
Many women formed or joined these clubs which advocated for women’s suffrage, which taught women about civic institutions and parliamentary procedure, shared news of women’s issues around the nation and world and promoted the election of women to local school boards. Rev. Anna Howard Shaw, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt and other noted suffrage lecturers regularly appeared at Political Equality Club meetings around the country.
On October 12th and 13th, 1896, Susan B. Anthony spoke at another event at Maennerchor Hall again sponsored by the Political Equality Club. She committed herself to two speaking engagements in San Luis Obispo. On October 12, she addressed the Political Equality Club meeting and the following evening, she was scheduled to say a few words at a rally for Republican Senator George C. Perkins. Anthony always emphasized that the suffragist movement did not support any political party. Her appearance on a Republican platform enraged the editor of the Populist newspaper, The Reasoner, who “wrote with some bitterness that she had kept any political sense she had ‘along with her best gown safely locked in her trunk.’ These comments led to increased local newspaper coverage of the suffrage movement in San Luis Obispo County. According to an article written in the Tribune on October 10, 2011, titled “Suffragists’ Success: League of Women Voters, others record history in SLO County:”
“… it was Therese Staniford Crittenden and her mother, Sarah Staniford — founding members in 1896 of the San Luis Obispo Political Equality Club — who lobbied their influential father and husband, George Staniford, for thorough and supportive coverage of suffrage issues in his newspapers, The Tribune and The Breeze.”
The wheat and barley ranchers in the northern and eastern parts of San Luis Obispo County were part of the Populists and were especially strong among the membership of the Farmers’ Alliance. Both the Methodists and Congregationalists in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles were temperance-oriented and their members supported the suffrage referendum. It appears that Susan B. Anthony had tried to keep the prohibition issue out of the 1896 election in California. That issue has been noted by historians that she thought that it would alienate many working-class men, especially those from recent immigrant groups such as the Italians and the Portuguese.
And because Anthony is said to have believed that San Francisco was a “bastion of hearty drinkers”, she also had persuaded Frances Willard’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) to refrain from holding its 1896 annual meeting in that city. Her visit to San Luis Obispo was at the request of the Women’s Suffrage Committee of the Farmers’ Alliance, which wanted her for their October 8th meeting.
But on October 8th, the Women’s Suffrage Committee was told that Anthony could not come until the 12th. Susan B. Anthony had integrated her visit into a statewide train tour from San Francisco through Santa Barbara and on to Southern California, returning north through towns in the San Joaquin Valley.
“In 1896, leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony transfixed a sellout crowd in San Luis Obispo, urging that “to settle the matter and have peace in the family the men might just as well vote ‘yes’ this time.” (A majority of San Luis Obispo County men indeed voted “yes” in the first election for women’s suffrage in 1896, though it lost statewide that year.)
Anthony also paid the charming and sophisticated Harriet May Mills to negotiate San Luis Obispo County’s notoriously bad roads to speak at every town and meeting house — even to hot tubbers at Sycamore Hot Springs.
Harriet May Mills was both a gifted speaker and an effective organizer. She was a friend and respected associate of the leading suffragists of the day – Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. According to my readings she helped lead suffragist meetings in California, Ohio, Michigan and other states and was often called on to do so.
Harriet May Mills (1857-1935), after obtaining a degree from Cornell University, was a very important woman in the struggle for political equality for women in the United States; was born into a family of prominent abolitionists. She dedicated her life to the cause of suffrage including being a candidate for New York statewide elective office and active in the Democratic Party, eventually becoming a member of the Electoral College that sent Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House in 1933.
Carrie A. Nation (1846-1911). Early temperance movement campaigner notorious for using a hatchet to smash up taverns and saloons. Speaker and author of The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation.
Carrie Amelia Moore Gloyd Nation (1846-1911), born in Kansas, was always on the move; she lived in Kentucky, then in Missouri, and moved to Texas in 1862 during the Civil War. Carrie returned to Missouri in 1863. She moved back to Texas in 1867 with Charles Gloyd, her first husband, whom she married in November. She relocated to Kansas when her only child, Charlien, was born in 1868. Following her divorce, Carrie attended the Normal Institute for four years in Warrensburg, Missouri to obtain a teaching certificate. Carrie married a second time, returning to Texas in 1877 with her husband David Nation. Her commitment to the anti-saloon movement and her outrageous actions alienated her second husband. She finally landed in Arkansas during the last years of her life.
Carrie married twice, first to an alcoholic doctor and the second to a widower who was a lawyer, preacher and a journalist. In 1901 he eventually filed for divorce for desertion because Carrie and her notoriety axing and smashing of saloons began to dominate their lives as her popularity in the anti-saloon movement rose throughout the United States.
Nation believed that drunkenness was the cause of many problems in society and eventually around 1890 organized a chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). In Kansas, illegal men’s clubs and bars still served liquor even though the WCTU had helped to pass a Kansas law against selling alcohol. She was determined to get rid of bars and began standing outside them, praying loudly and singing hymns. Within the year she had changed her methods; she threw bricks at the bars and when someone handed her a hatchet in Topeka Kansas that was her new ‘weapon’ of choice. People noticed that this six foot tall woman began to lead crowds of followers to speak against alcohol and smash saloons. She was beaten and jailed many times along the way changing her name to Carry A Nation in 1903. But she also was known to state that she believed in a democratic process of voting for women because “the loving moral influence of mothers must be put in the ballot box.” So it seems that she, too, would link the two social reforms of women’s suffrage and temperance together.
On February 28, 1903, Carry A. Nation participated in an event that took place in Paso Robles according to the San Francisco Call Bulletin newspaper dated March 1, 1903. At that event she stated that her mission was, “to clean out all the joints and smash them with rocks and hatchets.” During these early years of the twentieth century, Paso Robles had many saloons and bars surrounding the central village green.
Learning all this, do you think it was okay to violate the law to vindicate drinking?
The constitutionality of the Wylie Local Option Law which was a reform bill passed in the state legislature and in 1912 this statute brought the dry crusade into almost every local election campaign in the state. This law was tested following the election in the city of Paso del Robles (Paso Robles), and the California State Supreme Court declared it constitutional. To understand what this meant, I looked into what the Wylie Local Option was. It permitted the people to vote saloons out, but did not let them vote saloons in. It also was not a majority rule law because it went into effect if one-half of the voters favored it. It deceived the people by masquerading as an anti-saloon law, when in reality it absolutely forbade the retail sale of wine, beer, and all liquors, not only in saloons, but in grocery stores, hotels, cafes, drug stores, clubs, and other commercial businesses. The Anti-Saloon League went into places where the liquor business was conducted on a high scale of respectability and they stirred up dissension, bitterness and ultimately divided the community against itself. The towns would be unnecessarily injured and the Anti-Saloon League agitators would have made a profit.
States Ratified Eighteenth Amendment in following order:
Mississippi (January 7, 1918)
Virginia (January 11, 1918)
Kentucky (January 14, 1918)
North Dakota (January 25, 1918)
South Carolina (January 29, 1918)
Maryland (February 13, 1918)
Montana (February 19, 1918)
Texas (March 4, 1918)
Delaware (March 18, 1918)
South Dakota (March 20, 1918)
Massachusetts (April 2, 1918)
Arizona (May 24, 1918)
Georgia (June 26, 1918)
Louisiana (August 3, 1918)
Florida (November 27, 1918)
Michigan (January 2, 1919)
Ohio (January 7, 1919)
Oklahoma (January 7, 1919)
Idaho (January 8, 1919)
Maine (January 8, 1919)
West Virginia (January 9, 1919)
California (January 13, 1919)
Tennessee (January 13, 1919)
Washington (January 13, 1919)
Arkansas (January 14, 1919)
Illinois (January 14, 1919)
Indiana (January 14, 1919)
Kansas (January 14, 1919)
Alabama (January 15, 1919)
Colorado (January 15, 1919)
Iowa (January 15, 1919)
New Hampshire (January 15, 1919)
Oregon (January 15, 1919)
North Carolina (January 16, 1919)
Utah (January 16, 1919)
Nebraska (January 16, 1919)
Missouri (January 16, 1919)
Wyoming (January 16, 1919)
Minnesota (January 17, 1919)*
Wisconsin (January 17, 1919)*
New Mexico (January 20, 1919)*
Nevada (January 21, 1919)*
New York (January 29, 1919)*
Vermont (January 29, 1919)*
Pennsylvania (February 25, 1919)*
New Jersey (March 9, 1922)*
*needed a ¾ majority to pass
Two States Never Ratified the Eighteenth Amendment
Prohibition, Armistice and Influenza
The Eighteenth Amendment was introduced in Congress during December 1917.
In 1918 the “drys” in the U.S. Congress pushed for full statutory wartime prohibition, including beer and wine in their statements. They voted it through Congress on November 21st; the result was that production of all alcoholic beverages became illegal on July 1, 1919. Logically this made no sense. Armistice had been signed ten days prior to Congress passing this bill.
The South and Midwest led ratification of this prohibition amendment. The vote on the state of California prohibition propositions took place four days before the Armistice. At the same time, the country was being attacked by the worst epidemic of influenza in history. The weekly list of sick and dead was appalling. Pickers worked long hours to get the grapes in early, wearing masks to guard against influenza; they made wonderful money doing so. The California voter turnout was 35 percent smaller than in the previous off-year election. Interestingly, both the anti-saloon and bone-dry measures were defeated in California.
Beginning in January and through December of 1918, only fifteen states had ratified the 18th Amendment; thirty-six, or three-fourths of the states, needed to do so to pass the amendment nationwide. In January 1919 the tide was turning. Between January 2nd and 9th, six more states did so. In California, the state Senate ratified with a 25-14 vote on January 10th, 1919 and by January 13th the state Assembly voted to ratify the amendment with a 48-28 vote. Note that the only requirement to pass at the state level was a majority vote.
Between January 13th and 17th, nineteen states ratified the amendment. What changed across the country to create this “dry” energy is still being researched and theorized to this day. The rush of “dry” victories basically happened in a nine day period of time and wine men in California didn’t know what to do. No one had predicted this result.
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.
Nine months after the 18th Amendment had been ratified in January 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, also known as the National Prohibition Act, even though President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed the Act. This provided the “rules” of enforcement for prohibition. One year and a day, on January 17, 1920, prohibition went into effect and the United States became officially “dry”.
In 1920, women were granted the right to vote. Women’s voting rights were the key to strengthening the “dry” forces and would continue to initiate referendums for the California ballots prohibition propositions until 1924.
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