by Paul R. Spitzzeri
We conclude this three-part post covering the yearbook of the 1913 conference of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Southern California, held in San Bernardino in mid-May with more reports detailing activities of a variety of active members during the course of the previous year
Lecturer Gabrella T. Stickney stated that she mostly worked in Los Angeles County, excepting her attendance at the Ventura County convention and a month in Oregon, including addresses given in two Portland churches during the national convention held in the Rose City. Her endeavors were mainly focused on prohibition campaigns, including the formation and operation of Prohibition Workers’ Leagues, Loyal Temperance Lodge efforts, the instruction of civics, and talks and other activities.
She also ran for state Assembly as a Prohibition Party candidate and finished second. Stickney added that she was the first woman moderator in the Methodist Church’s history at an annual meeting and conducted the first Sunday School Workers’ Temperance Institute, for which she “received compliments and recommendations. She noted how many pages of literature she distributed, brought in seven active members and 36 subscriptions to WCTU publications, and gave five major talks.
Catherine P. Wheat, another lecturer, gave 15 talks to about 1,000 persons during the year and handed out 2,000 pages of WCTU material. Some of her talks were on WCTU founder Frances Willard, motherhood, beautiful houses, physical education, and “The Reason Why Christian People Should Work For Prohibition.”
Lecturer Lucy D. Wilhoite gave over forty lectures and sermons, handed out more 5,400 pages of literature, gathered petition signatures and wrote letters and postcards. She, too, ran for Assembly on the Prohibition Party ticket, but did not indicate where she finished and added she was “devoting much time and energy toward securing women officers in municipal government, also State and National.”
Mrs. E.T. Scott, also a lecturer, reported that her busy year included 25 talks but also three months of field work in the northern part of the state with her husband. She was at the Congress of Reform at Pacific Grove near Monterey, and went to desert communities to push for prohibition measures, went to conventions and institute meetings. She noted that she spoke in Yucaipa the prior May and added that the town “has no saloons.”
Organizers Helen M. Stoddard and Martha W. Law, the latter also a lecturer, talked about organizing in their areas, with Law particularly aggressive in this area, working with several places in Inyo, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties. Law gave 20 talks, held 14 women-only meetings, went to two dozen schools and signed up 90 new members, among other projects. Stoddard ran for Congress on the Prohibition Party ticket and, in doing so, visited unions in five counties, while expressing gratitude for having a union organized at La Jolla that was named for her.
Reports from the superintendents of departments included Sallie R. Ferris discussing work in “Anti-Narcotics” with efforts in public schools deemed successful. A Mr, Jaeger stated that he gave over 400 talks in churches and schools for more than 25,500 children. Copies of material on anti-smoking, young temperance crusaders and “New Arithmetic” were distributed and there were talks given at teachers’ institutes. Four anti-cigarette clubs were formed and Whittier alone had “160 boys pledged against tobacco.”
At Santa Ana, Ferris noted that the school board passed a resolution banning tobacco use at any school activities, including sports contests, class plays, debates and others. It was added that 6,000 names were secured for a petition on an unnamed piece of state legislation, likely the red-light one mentioned in part two of this post. A Pasadena superintendent reported on over 100 talks, more than 10,000 pages of literature disbursed, 1,860 signers to an anti-cigarette petition and over 850 prize essays written.
Etta Burnham Taft of the Christian Citizenship department noted that there were over 200 talks given and above 30,000 pages of literature distributed in Los Angeles County, while members wrote letters and articles to and for newspapers, served on election boards at the polls, spoke at City Council meetings, and secured more than 5,100 signatures for petitions. There was less activity reported elsewhere, though in San Diego County there were petitions passed around, 370 letters written to legislators, and 12,000 pages of literature handed out.
Withoit reported on curfew efforts, stating that Los Angeles Police Chief Charles E. Sebastian suggested that more women be added to police boards adding that “he needs to co-operation of one hundred, strong, good women to assist him.” It was hoped “that the people throughout the United States may see the need and use this means of protecting the young.”
The Flower Mission project was reflected by a chart showing the number of bouquets, plants, cards, visitations, pounds of fruit and vegetables, jelly, clothing, outings, pages of literature and money were processed through the year. More than 23,500 bouquets, 12,000 cards, and nearly 29,000 pages of material (these latter only in Los Angeles County) were reported.
In the “Health and Heredity” section, Ella C. Howard observed that “Southern California is such as “Health Resort,’ that only Los Angeles and Orange Counties seemed to consider it worth while to appoint a superintendent.” In the City of Orange, Miss Cox, it was reported, spoke to school classes on Sex Hygiene and Preparation for Motherhood. Still, Howard expressed disappointment over the lack of activity and asked, “when will the local unions awake to the fact that their neglect to arrange meetings on all the various departments, and invite the State or County Superintendent, is the work of the local superintendent?” After urging more progress, she concluded simply, “We can. Shall We?”
Howard also reported on “Non-Alcoholic Flavors and Perfumes” and affirmed that “yes, we are gaining ground slowly and displacing alcoholic extracts,” but stated that three counties has superintendents, with one doing no work, while trying to do so, but “this sounds bad for the local members.” She then launched into a diatribe on this matter:
Beloved, are you awake? Do you realize that you violate the last clause of your pledge every time you buy, sell or or use flavors or perfumes containing alcohol? Do you fully comprehend that you are certainly patronizing the distiller just the same as the one who drinks?
How long, O Lord? shall the W.C.T.U. be guilty of assisting the distiller and defeat every good work we pray and struggle to support?
Ten million dollars are spent by distillers in California to defeat reform measures. Ten million dollars used annually to make alcoholic extracts. Put on your glasses and re-read these facts.
Awake and buckle on your armor, for this is your fight, your battle, and unless you win and place Original Non-Alcoholic Flavors in all our homes (our friends and neighbors, too), all our groceries, you will lose your battle, because you are furnishing the money for the enemy to defeat your reforms and amendments.
In “Juvenile Work,” M.M. Pentenoy noted efforts in four counties, including at detention homes in San Bernardino and Ventura, while there were 200 cases examined in Riverside where the child labor law, it was averred, was not violated. In Los Angeles, there were more 2,250 cases handled, with 133 boys and girls laced in homes, while “755 others were started upon the right road, put on probation or sent back to their homes.”
After reporting that spoke at public meetings nearly 30 times, Pentenoy called for more systematic efforts in this aspect of WCTU work, adding, “a great Atlantic tide of immorality is sweeping over our land.” She quoted Superior Court Judge Curtis Wilbur, well-known for his juvenile reform efforts with such institutions as the McKinley Home and George Junior (Boys) Republic, as stating that “juvenile workers are looking through a maze thickly strewn with broken hearts” and calling for work that would “construct character in good men and pure womanhood.”
The “Mercy” department report by Ella Whipple Marsh referred to several cases of poor treatment of children and of “dumb animals”; a cruelty arrest in Ventura County; talks given; copies of “Our Dumb Animals” distributed; S.P.C.A. cards used; Humane leaflets handed out; a “Band of Mercy” for adults formed in Los Angeles County; “protests against the wearing of birds made;” and more.
Lucina M. Corrothers reported on “Peace and Arbitration” and began with this prescient preamble:
Although there are wars and rumors of wars, yet the movement for peace and arbitration was never so much thought about, preached and talked about, and I might say never so much needed, as at the present time. This peace will come through federation, co-operation and agitation.
Still, she noted that a report for the region was impossible, but noted that she wrote letters asking for literature distribution and the preaching of peace sermons and sent material to the local unions in Southern California, this latter including 6,450 WCTU leaflets on peace. Corrothers also sent “flags of all nations” for conventions and other gatherings.
She continued that “a goodly number of public meetings in the interest of peace have been held” including for General Peace Day and at WCTU meetings. She added that military drilling was rare in schools and “there is a strong sentiment against military teaching in schools and Sabbath Schools,” though this decidedly changed with the entry of the United States in World War I—Walter and Laura Temple, for example, sent their three sons to military schools during and after the conflict. Notably, Corrothers also claimed that “there is a very strong sentiment against lynching and prize fighting in the State,” though this coupling is strange to see.
L. Fannie King provided statistical information under the “Penal and Reformatory Work” section, including for services held; letters written; court rooms visited; Christmas letters written; hymn and library books provided, Bibles and other religious tracts handed out; clothing given; food distributed; and more. King also visited the San Quentin and Folsom state prisons, but did not provide details, though she also reported that only a third of the counties sent in information and asked that this be avoided in the future.
Under the banner of “Purity,” Frances Drew asked convention attendees for some guidance on what the needs of the department were, adding, “we realize that this is a difficult branch to handle” but the scope and scale should not lead to discouragement. She called, for example, for each union to be sent such publications as “Adolescence;” “Great Black Plague;” and “The Right of Every Child to Be Well Born.”
Drew quoted E. Norine Law, author of The Shame of a Great Nation: The Story of the “White Slave Trade,” published in 1909, as observing that ‘if one-half of the people live in vice and immortality [sic], increasing the population with offspring possessed of the same low standard of purity, the whole nation will become morally diseased and degeneracy must follow as an unchangeable result.” Here is the heart of the eugenics movement that was embedded in regional president Lucy Shackleford Blanchard’s convention address and which called for such extreme measures as sterilizing people with physical and mental attributes considered “degenerate” as well as for couples to have health certificates obtained before marriage.
In the “Purity in Literature and Art” department, Mary S. Sampson noted the motto of “not only to reform impurity, but to preserve purity, to exalt virtue, and expose voice.” She received reports from five county superintendents and noted that there was “Moving Pictures as Educators” topic at one meeting in San Diego County.
In Los Angeles County, she observed there were nine local superintendents, with Pasadena sending out large amounts of pages of literature, while Covina “secured a strong ordinance elevating the moral tone of forms of amusement” and Burbank and Pomona sent articles to newspapers. Other local matters concerned seeking the removal of pictures from shop windows, inspecting movies, interviews with postmasters “in regard to objectionable mail matter,” and an interview about billboards.
Sampson also wrote that
It is hoped that that National Religious Educational Association will hold their convention in 1915 in Los Angeles, and the “Study of the Bible” in the school receives a favorable hearing. North Dakota has placed the Bible in schools as a study in literature . . . Literature and Art are evangels in making the nation dry . . . now that we [women] are citizens [by virtue of voting], a great work is calling you in the Department of Purity in Literature and Art.
Louisa Hedrick reported on the movement to introduce a “Sunday Rest” petition along with letters requesting that the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition at San Francisco be closed on the Sabbath. Attempts to keep people from working on Sunday were further discussed and Hedrick ended with the quote: “A Sabbath well spent/ Brings a week of content / And strength for the work of the morrow / But, a Sabbath profaned / What-so-ever be gained / Is a certain forerunner of sorrow.”
Under “Scientific Temperance Instruction,” Mary M. Coman provided detail on efforts made in schools, institutes, teachers’ meetings and other gatherings to promote the WCTU’s position and noted that there were over 2,300 entries in a Temperance Prize Essay contest in schools. Ruth Russel of Orange captured first place for elementary schools, while John Clark of Covina won at the high school level. Coman added “Orange County is the most enthusiastic this year, with every Union working and an especially good presentation upon the subject by two hundred children of the Santa Ana eighth grade schools.” Also praised was Pasadena, which accounted for half of the work in this area in all of Los Angeles County.
Mary E. Garbutt reported on “Temperance and Labor” and claimed that “the time is coming when the most previous thing in the world will be a human being” and that “then business will be of value only as it contributes to an abundant life for all.” With women receiving the vote in California in 1911, they “generally show and [sic] increased interest in the problems that especially concern our working girls, such as shorter hours, higher wages, [and] better safeguards, moral as well as physical.”
Louisa S. Janvier headed the “Unfermented Wine” department and reminded members that, while “most of the churches have for years used unfermented wine at the Sacrament,” this was not the case for the Episcopalians, so she was determined “to present the claim of the pure juice of the grape for churchly service.” She sent leadership of that denomination “the strongest appeal on the subject” and believed it was “good seed sown.” She added that eight Episcopalian women were WCTU members and ended with “let me ask you to unite with me in constant prayer that the Lord of the Sacramental Table may give his blessing to our work for unfermented wine.”
There were also reports for work among “colored people,” “foreign speaking people,” and Indians, but Hattie E. Funk had little to say on the first because she’d done almost nothing “although the heart has been willing” because of personal matters. She went on, however, to suggest that “until they are educated to be their own leaders,” Black people “must naturally be led by their white sisters.” This form of paternalistic racism was, unfortunately, all-too-common.
On the second, the report was lengthier, with 445 calls made to people of 38 nationalities, along with 566 meetings. Among localities cited as working with foreigners were thse in Azusa, Claremont, Lordsburg, Pomona, Upland, and Redlands in the foothill citrus belt, as well as Riverside, Long Beach, Simi [Valley] and Sawtelle [Westwood area of West Los Angeles.] It was added that members were polled on whether there should be WCTU representatives “at the ports of entry to greet the strangers on arrival?” while Sara C.W. Bowen, the superintendent of this area, asked, “why should not the W.C.T.U. be in the forefront to save them [immigrants] from the drink demon and the saloon, where they learn their first and almost only politics with which they will dominate our country.” Here is another example of an analog of sorts to the “great replacement theory” of current far-right extremists.
With respect to Indians, there was a statement about the Soboba Indians of Riverside County, near Hemet, and that they “are sober, industrious and practically self-supporting.” They farmed grain, as well as corn, melons and vegetables, with these fields said to be in good shape, while “only 2 cases of drunkenness [were] reported this year.” Other tribes, including the Coahuillas, Potreros, and the Santa Rosa were briefly mentioned. Marie E. Fowler also reported on literature sent, a few visits made and some programs presented.
This remarkable yearbook provides fascinating insights into the operations of the WCTU in Southern California during the 1910s and its programs, projects and endeavors are often cast in ways so alien to our modern ways of thinking and acting, while much of the work sought to address major societal problems with earnest effort and good faith.