“A Spirit of Co-operation and Helpfulness”: The Year Book of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Southern California, May 1913, Part Two

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

We continue with our look at the yearbook generated from the May 1913 conference of the Southern California chapter Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), held at San Bernardino in the middle of that month and follow on the heels of yesterday’s first part mainly focusing on the address of state President Lucy S. Blanchard.

In the section on reports, Blanchard noted the “arduous and sometimes wearisome” work she had to do, but noted that “there is much pleasure in meeting the faithful women of the various counties, especially those of the rank and file, who ever remain steady at their post of duty.” She noted the work being done in the several counties, including conventions in Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.

The chief executive also lauded Riverside County’s Hattie M. Doughty for helping to establish several branches of the Young People’s Bureau for teenagers and the Loyal Temperance Legion for smaller children. Some 3,000 pledge cards were sent and about 700 new members joined during the previous year, while outreach to public schools was considered both successful and promising.

Moreover, Blanchard and Recording Secretary Hattie Corline Young, en route to the national WCTU convention at Portland, stopped at Sacramento and addressed the meeting of the Northern California chapter, while there were 18 delegates at the Oregon confab and the presence of the Southern California chapter was shown “by our rally cries when Southern California was mentioned from the platform.” Finally, she noted she gave over 170 talks and spoke to well over 3,000 students in the previous year.

Vice-President Hester T. Griffith reported that she traveled more than 3,500 miles, sent well over 300 letters and postcards, went to almost 100 meetings, gave 72 talks, and reached beyond 7,000 persons through these various outreach efforts. Moreover, as a candidate for the Los Angeles City Schools board, Griffith spread the good word on the campaign trail and spoke to the City Council about a municipal lodging house and employment bureau, while successfully lobbying against a free lunch program, the details of which were not given.

Notably, Griffith devoted space in her report to an effort, while Blanchard was away, she mounted in taking a group of White Ribbon-wearing members to visit novelist Gertrude Atherton and “protest her publicly expressed attitude upon the cigarette and marriage question.” The notoriously unconventional writer stated, “I will not promise not to smoke another cigarette, but I will promise not to smoke another one in public in this country” and then followed up with a letter saying she’d kept her vow, despite contrary reports. Griffith added that Atherton was “a writer of note [so] we trust her future writings may bear good results from our call.”

Finally, the vice-president noted that, in addition to conducting memorials and funerals, she helped at a week’s meeting, called a “Congress of Reform” at Pacific Grove near Monterey attended by WCTU members from all over California. Griffith added that she spent twelve days lobbying the legislature at Sacramento “in behalf of the red light abatement and injunction, health certificate for marriage, prison and anti-cigarette bills, [and] also other moral measures.”

The reference to the health certificate is striking, as there were many examples of “scientific” applications of government intrusions into the medical statuses people considered mentally and physically inferior. A 1914 article by Jessie Spaulding Smith in a criminology journal, for example, asserted that “the ideal legislation of the future . . . will require a health certificate fr every person who applies for a marriage license” and ban any nuptials involving people who had a venereal disease, tuberculosis, epilepsy or were blind or deaf, in addition to those considered insane, “feeble minded,” or an alcoholic or drug addict.

Among the reports of county leaders, President Julia D. Phelps of Los Angeles, promoted a program called the “Civic Reading Course,” with the school superintendent “supplying studies in the White Ribbon” of the WCTU. There were also sixteen group institutes, including one for Sunday schools and another for the Loyal Temperance League concept for young children. There were campaigns for prohibition, presumably under the “local option” method, in Long Beach, Pasadena and San Pedro, while the group “also helped carry the county precincts dry.” Finally, eleven county members attended the national conference and Phelps ended by stating “five hundred new members is our rally cry for 1913.”

Corresponding Secretary Celia Noll reported that there were ten new unions set up, while all state groups worked hard on the passage of the red-light injunction and abatement law mentioned above and the anti-cigarette bill, which was very narrowly defeated. In all, there were 123 unions in Southern California with 4,160 members and under 500 who were honorary. There were also a dozen Young People’s Bureau groups with not quite 150 active members, while eighteen examples of the Loyal Temperance League with 700 members existed.

Her transmission of county reports included a statement from Orange County that there were 500 active members, with another 78 in three Young People’s Bureau groups. Also mentioned was “work among the Spanish” and essay contests on tobacco and alcohol. In Los Angeles County, there were two new unions added, making 54 countywide with almost 2,300 paid members along with 190 honorary ones. Three Young People’s Bureaus were organized to the one pre-existing, and there were 13 Loyal Temperance Leagues, with 625 members. Featured were programs on civics, scientific temperance instruction in schools and anti-cigarette efforts. Similar reports were produced for the other eight counties in the region.

Hattie Corline Young’s report as recording secretary began with the observation that the WCTU of Southern California “has gone forth the past year, and, with a firm faith in God, has wrought deeds of love and self-sacrifice, which have helped to enlighten, to uplift and to comfort.” She noted the number of meetings held by leaders that were evocative of “a spirit of co-operation and helpfulness.” She repeated the efforts of delegates to the national convention to make known the distinctiveness of the Southern California chapter and the visit of her and Blanchard to the Northern California meeting.

In addition to recounting the legislative lobbying work led by Griffith, Young noted that four WCTU members ran for elective office, one for Congress and three for the state Assembly, though it appears all were defeated. Interestingly, one of the resolutions passed by the chapter was against a proposal by a Los Angeles Episcopalian clergyman, William MacCormack, “to inaugurate a series of smokers for the young men attending his church.” The WCTU stated “we respectfully protest against such services as lowering the standard of Christian ethics” and “condemn smoking in connection with religious services and in holy places” as injuring the physical, mental and spiritual attributes of those involved and contrary to the teachings of Christ.

Another resolution concerned smoking in streetcars and elevators and the organization petitioned the Los Angeles City Council that, as smoke “poisons the air and is a serious detriment to the health, pleasure and liberty of non-smokers,” that body should “prohibit smoking in the places suggested by the Board of Public Utilities.” At the state level, a resolution was sent requesting that the State Board of Health “forbid smoking in groceries, meat markets, and bake shops.”

For the national political landscape, the chapter published in newspapers a resolution calling on the Democratic, Republican and National Progressive parties to address “The Prohibition of the Liquor Traffic” and “The Protection of our daughters from the White Slave Traffic.” The statement averred that the two main political parties “persistently ignored” these questions, while the Prohibition Party was outspoken in its efforts against these great social evils. Consequently, WCTU members were implored to only support this latter, proclaiming:

no political party that fails to put itself on record as unalterably opposed to these evils, has any right to expect the support of Christian women and especially members of the W.C.T.U. . . . we call upon our members everywhere to withhold their support from any party that fails to antagonize these evils and give their support and encouragement by ballot and otherwise to the Prohibition party, the only party that stands for our principals [sic].

Other projects mentioned by Young were an effort “to secure a space for a permanent exhibit at Exposition Park, Los Angeles;” to work with the Northern California chapter on a statewide campaign for prohibition, mentioned in Blanchard’s convention address; and to work on examination questions on the Science of Government classes held by the WCTU “and review papers when returned.”

Already accomplished was the publication of this course of study for sale at the Temperance Temple headquarters of the chapter in Los Angeles; distribution of thousands of copies of the red-light law published by the state; printing of 1,500 leaflets of a teacher’s prize-winning essay on Scientific Temperance Instruction Work; and the purchase of 500 WCTU song cards for distribution at the San Bernardino meeting. Young noted other business and added that “the many kindnesses and Christian courtesies shown your Recording Secretary have been fully appreciated and for these and the privilege of serving you in this capacity, I do most heartily thank you.”

Hattie Doughty’s report on the Young People’s Branch was very brief and she noted the work done in the five counties that had up to four branches, though little information was given generally, except for San Diego and Los Angeles counties, each of which had more branches and members. Not surprisingly, much more was provided with the latter, including a meting at the headquarters to establish a constitution and by-laws, as well as to elect officers for a county system of branches.

Far more detailed was Ellen Dayton Blair’s reporting on the Loyal Temperance Legion, in which she offered, “I am glad to report a general awakening of interest and enthusiasm in the work” of the branch, which totaled 25 legions with 900 children, “many of them [500] pledged and active members.” Reiterating that the most potential for the WCTU was “to plant its work in the brain and heart of a child,” she allowed that her report was not complete because leaders of the local units did not return the forms they were sent, while others sent information that was not sufficient for the purposes of her statement.

Of the total number of legions, almost half were new within the prior year (there were ten the year before that), while there were “several more in prospect.” She reviewed the work in the several counties with, again, more detail from Los Angeles, which had more than half the total of legions and close to 70% of all members and which, it appears, included “fully 500 boys and girls in the Charitable Homes of Los Angeles County.”

Blair lauded the work of the Pico Heights Christian Church and the Long Beach Federation for their units and she noted that, among her many visits and presentations, there was “one in a Chinese Mission to over 100 Chinese mothers and their children,” while another mission was reached, so that there were a total of “at least 3000 children [instructed] with picture lessons upon total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.

After outlining other activities in which she engaged, Blair offered eight recommendations, including that the Unions hold at least two meetings per year for the LTL branches and that each county convention “reserve a generous space upon their programs for the children and the promotion of L.T.L. work;” that leaders of the lodges be property supported; that there be neighborhood legions with one woman working with a few children on this very localized level; that legions be more incorporated into Sunday schools, church societies and other aspects for “Temperance Sundays;” that meetings be continued in the summer, but to do so outdoors to draw more participants; and to have local leaders keep proper reports.

We will return next time with the third and final part of this yearbook and the very interesting and instructive content it contains about the work of the regional chapter of the WCTU, one of the most prominent women’s organizations of the era, so please check back for that.

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