The Swarthmore Woman's Club Bldg. at 118 Park Ave.
Early History of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Delaware County
In 1885, the year our Delaware County Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was organized, we celebrated at the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union convention held that year in Philadelphia the one hundredth anniversary of the temperance movement in our land, which dates from the time Dr. Benjamin Rush gave to the world his remarkable essay entitled, “The Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Mind and Body.” Dr. Rush felt called to write his essay because of the deplorable excessive drinking customs in social life at that time. The temperance reformation was then begun and has kept moving on ever since. Temperance societies of various kinds were soon formed in different States, and among the first were the National Temperance Society and the Good Templars.
MADE MAINE DRY – In 1851 through the efforts of that grand man, Neal Dow, a prohibitory law was passed by the state of Maine and this law has never been repealed. In 1873 the Woman’s Crusade Against the Liquor Saloon was started in Hillsboro, Ohio, and soon spread to other towns.
Through the blessed influence of these faithful praying women many saloons were closed and a great work for temperance was done. The earnest women very soon realized that much could be accomplished by an organized force of workers so the next year, 1874, a call was sent out for all who were interested in the temperance movement to meet in Cleveland, Ohio in November of that year, and at this gathering the National W.C.T.U. was organized with our Frances E. Willard as corresponding secretary, and from that time on she devoted her time and thought and all she had to this society of “white ribboners.” It was Miss Willard who planned the department systems we are using and which have always been found so effective.
During the following year, 1875, the Pennsylvania W.C.T.U. was organized and very soon county organizations were effected through our great State.
CHESTER W.C.T.U. ORGANIZED – As the original members have told you, it was in 1885 that Delaware County W.C.T.U. was founded: “on May 29th an all-day meeting was held in Chester for that purpose. Three “white ribboners” came from Philadelphia W.C.T.U. to help with the organization. They were Mrs. Rose E. Patton, Mrs. Mary H. Jones and Mrs. H.H. Forrest. Thirty women signed the constitution adopted, but only one local union was reported – Chester W.C.T.U.
“After a good lunch” the county officers were elected: Mrs. R.K. Carter, president; Mrs. Henry Martin, vice president; Miss Carrie N. Wilson, recording secretary; Mrs. H.B. Harper, corresponding secretary, and Mrs. P. Hill, treasurer.
Four departments of work were adopted and these superintendents were appointed: Sunday school, Mrs. Agnes Ocheltree; Temperance Literature, Mrs. McConnell; Scientific Temperance, Mrs. McCauley, Unfermented Wine, Mrs. Thompson.
The county Executive Committee met in July with six members present. The Evangelistic Department was added with Miss Carrie N. Wilson, superintendent.
The Darby local union had been organized one month before this executive meeting and the president gave a hearty invitation to hold the first semi-annual county convention in Darby. This was held there on November 19th, 1885, and in the record we find that Mrs. McConnell, president of Darby W.C.T.U., gave a hearty address of welcome that will ever be a reminder of the pleasant time at our first county meeting.” Five minutes were given for pledge signing at this meeting. The department reports were all good and committees were appointed on Resolutions, Plan of Work and Finance.
THE FIRST CONVENTION – The first annual convention was held on May 19, 1886, in Prospect Park M.E. church. So much good temperance organizing work had been done that seven unions were represented – Chester, Darby, Thurlow, South Chester, Chester No. 2, Chester Y.W.C.T.U. and Ridley Park.
Two more departments were added, Franchise and Purity.
When the executive met on April 20, 1887 a county banner was ordered and for it $10 was donated from the county treasury. There was also consent to give $2.00 to each superintendent “as far as the money in the treasury would go.” There was some juvenile work done from the beginning, but in 1888 five L.T.L’s were organized with 580 members.
At the third annual convention, May 25th 1888, Mrs. Thomas McCauley was elected president; Miss Carrie N. Wilson, vice president; Mrs. Agnes Ocheltree, treasurer. The county banner was finished in 1890 painted by Miss Anna Shaw.
Mrs. S.M. Gaskill was elected president in 1892, and Miss Carrie N. Wilson for 1893 and 1894. Mrs. Mary Sparks Wheeler was our leader in 1895 and for the next four years Mrs. Clara B. Miller was our county president, then Mrs. Mary B. Russell was president, then Mrs. Mary B. Russell was president for five years. In 1905 Mrs. Shrigley became president after serving as recording secretary for thirteen years.
Through all these twenty-five years annual and semi-annual conventions, executive meetings and special county gatherings have been held and enjoyed.
Our members have increased from 30 at the organization to 752 at our last convention. We have 22 local unions, two branches and 20 departments with able superintendents.
SALOONS DECREASING – Did time permit, an account of the steady growth of temperance sentiment during these 25 years would be most interesting. About one-half the population of our county sis now living in saloon-less territory and fifteen millions are living in States with prohibitory liquor laws.
During these years some of our best workers have passed on to the higher life and I know that many of you are thinking of faithful white ribboners who can meet with us here no more. Of those who served as county officers we recall with live and gratitude Mrs. Thomas McCauley, Mrs. Malin, Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Ocheltree, who was vice president and for several years, treasurer; also, Mrs. Katherine McKnight, who was called home last year after serving as corresponding secretary for 19 years. We still feel their influence and inspiration while we continue to carry on the work of the W.C.T.U. they so dearly loved.
FOR A GREATER WORK – A twenty-fifth anniversary is always a most important period and for our county W.C.T.U. let us make it the beginning of even greater work for humanity than we have before attended.
The words of our beloved national president at the close of her address in 1899 seems most appropriate to us today. I repeat them: “We know not what the future may bring to us of discouragement or cheer, but we never doubt the righteousness of our cause and we know that time is now on our side as it has been with all of the just reforms of the past, and we know that the great social forces and the forces of God and of right are moving on toward victory. How soon that victory shall come depends much upon our faithfulness. Let us be loving, hopeful, faithful.
“The dawn is not distant,
Nor is the night starless;
Love is eternal!
God is still God, and
His faith shall not fail us;
Christ is eternal!”
Our Seventh Annual Military Might is May 27th!
Come learn about the history of America at war and honor the sacrifices made for our freedoms at our Military Might Day!
Join us on Saturday, May 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for our Military Might event!
The day includes artifact displays covering America's history at war, reenactors, demonstrations and more! It is a perfect start to your Memorial Day weekend and provides a place to learn about the history of the nation and to reflect on the sacrifices made to secure our freedom.
Many of the artifacts on display are from private collections. Our Executive Director, Tim Betz, wrote our latest Log Blog about a personal collection he is sharing at Military Might and easy things that can be done to preserve personal collections. To read it, click here.
Military Might is free and open to the public.
For more information, please call 215-368-2480 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This year's temporary exhibit,
"How It's Made: Furnishing the Log House,"
looks at some of the objects that the families living in the Morgan Log House would have owned and how they would have been manufactured in the colonial period.
The exhibit is sponsored in part by Printworks and Co here in Lansdale. You can view it on a house tour--Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Sunday noon to 3 p.m., with the last tour of the day leaving at 2.