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

By Ian Tyrrell | Go to book overview

2
Origins of Temperance Internationalism

Leavitt's journey merged abrupt shifts in the rhythms of her own life with slow, almost imperceptible changes in the larger world of missions and women's reform. Superficially, the cycle of marriage, domesticity, childbirth, and childrearing did not distinguish her from thousands of other cultured and middle-class women in the mid-nineteenth century. Leavitt was, however, unusual. Her marriage in 1857 to a wealthy Boston landbroker had quickly gone sour in scandal and personal unhappiness. Thomas H. Leavitt was, by all accounts, "a spendthrift," and it is likely that this was not the greatest of his sins.1 When the mismatch ended in divorce in a Nebraska court in 1878, Leavitt had already returned to the classroom and had developed, by 1877, an interest in temperance fueled by a meeting with the then corresponding secretary of the National WCTU, Frances Willard. In 1881 Leavitt gave up teaching to take on temperance and suffrage work full time in Massachusetts. As early as 1882, Willard had tried to get Leavitt to undertake an international assignment, but until the death of her aged father in June 1883, she had refused. Then she abandoned her labors in the eastern states to become superintendent of work on the Pacific Coast.

The liberation from familial restraints provided the opportunity for a new career. But Leavitt left little information to explain her precise motivation in undertaking her unprecedented journey. Buried in the WCTU's Our Union for October 1881 is the most helpful clue. There Leavitt reported a Tremont Temple meeting at which Mary A. Livermore, the suffragist and WCTU worker, had spoken upon her return from a European tour. Leavitt was most impressed with the call that Livermore made for temperance workers to internationalize their movement. After reviewing the prevalence of "alcoholism" in other nations, Livermore stressed the superiority of Americans in the matter of drinking patterns. " America should see that she is the Messiah of' the nations; that she is to give other nations better than they ever dreamed of," reported Leavitt. Along with this encomium went the implied threat that failure to extend the example would bring down

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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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