Woman's World/Woman's Empire: The Woman's Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880-1930

By Ian Tyrrell | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

On the fifteenth of November, 1884, a woman sailed from the city of San Francisco, bound for Honolulu and beyond on board the steamship Alameda. Nothing in her demeanor or her departure hinted at the significance of her undertaking. The event itself was inauspicious, marked only by the well-wishes of a few close friends. Yet this woman's journey would touch off one of the most unusual and intriguing episodes in the history of women, in the history of evangelical reform, and in the history of American relations with the rest of the world. Mary Clement Leavitt, a former Boston schoolteacher and the mother of three, had embarked on a mission of reconnaissance on behalf of Frances Willard, the American president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Leavitt left in the knowledge that her voyage was the vital first step toward the creation of an international women's temperance organization.

What she did not know at the time were the epic proportions of the journey she would complete and the extent of the organizing work she would set in motion. The trip across the Pacific to join the hemispheres in battle against all "brain poisons" would eventually take her around the world and involve eight years away from home, much of the time in the company of men alone, rarely in the presence of anyone who spoke the Queen's English, or even the American variety. Women had certainly embarked before on long international trips, and as missionaries had voyaged to exotic lands unprotected by male companions. Some may have gone around the world. But none had, so far as can be ascertained, undertaken so solitary and protracted a journey through so many countries. When Leavitt returned triumphant to Boston and an appointment as honorary World's president of the WCTU in 1891, she was sixty-two and, allegedly, the heroine of a half-million temperance women in five continents. She was, Frances Willard said, "our white ribbon Stanley."1

This story is not Leavitt's alone, but that of many women who contributed to the missionary impulse of the WCTU from the 1870s to the 1930s. Only one of these women individually rivaled Leavitt's prodigious feat, but together their efforts made the WCTU an international force in the temperance and women's movements. The World's WCTU had spread to more

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Woman's World/Woman's Empire: The Woman's Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880-1930
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Origins of Temperance Internationalism 11
  • 3 - The World's Wctu 35
  • 4 - Bands of Ribbon White Around the World 62
  • 5 - In Dark Lands 81
  • 6 - Sisters, Mothers, and Brother-Hearted Men 114
  • 7 - Alcohol and Empire 146
  • 8 - Peace as A Way of Life 170
  • 9 - A Fatal Mistake? 191
  • 10 - Women, Suffrage, and Equality 221
  • 11 - Women and Equality 242
  • 12 - Prohibition and the Perils of Cultural Adaptation 255
  • Epilogue - Divergent Meanings of the World's Wctu 285
  • Appendix 291
  • Notes 295
  • Index 365
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