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

By Ian Tyrrell | Go to book overview

5
In Dark Lands

Temperance Missionaries and Cultural Imperialism

I leave now for dark lands; again my woman's heart almost fails me sometimes, but your prayers are back of me, and back of all is our Father, with all his promises. . . . My health holds out; but I have grown very old, and my hair is quite white, but it is all in His service." So wrote the WCTU's second round-the-world missionary, Jessie Ackermann, to her colleagues in California as she prepared to leave Australia for Burma in the latter part of 1892, midway through an odyssey that in many respects eclipsed that of Leavitt.1 When she returned to the United States in 1895, Ackermann had been traveling for seven years and had circumnavigated the world twice. Her statements to reporters summed up a vast if apparently bleak experience of peoples and cultures: "I shall never take up work in heathen lands again. I have no message to the heathen; if I have a mission or a message it is to the voters of Christian lands."2

With that enigmatic statement, a woman who had been hailed by John G. Woolley as "the second greatest woman in America" behind Frances Willard quickly faded into obscurity. Her exploits, comparable to those of Leavitt, did not warrant a place in modern scholarly biographical dictionaries, either of her native land or of countries like Australia where she did so much to stimulate temperance reform. When she finally died in a Los Angeles nursing home in 1951 at the age of 94, Ackermann's passing was barely noted even by the World's WCTU on behalf of which she had undertaken such arduous labors. Not until 1962 did the Australian WCTU, which she had served as first president in 1891, nominate her for a memorial membership to honor her vivid but forgotten contribution.3

Ackermann's gloomy epitaph hardly reveals the pleasure with which she consumed experience. She boasted, for example, that when traveling by sea she adopted the practice of scaling the mastheads of ships to hail other vessels; on one occasion she had been washed overboard during a storm in the Indian Ocean and had to be rescued by a passing ship. She claimed she

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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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