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

By Ian Tyrrell | Go to book overview

10
Women, Suffrage, and Equality

The experiences of temperance women in peace and purity campaigns underlined the necessity of voting rights. Women could, through the Polyglot Petition, attempt to shame men into action on moral issues, but the reality was that women lacked political power. So familiar is this point that most historians readily concede the significant role played by the WCTU in the training of converts to the cause of suffrage. Just as surely, a consensus exists over the meaning of the WCTU's support for voting rights. The impact of the WCTU's experience was, so the argument goes, inherently conservative. Temperance women wanted the ballot not for its own sake but to advance the women's culture of evangelical domesticity.1 In this view, the American WCTU's endorsement of the vote reflected the dissemination of the doctrines of expediency in the larger Anglo-American suffrage movement. In place of the arguments of justice based on John Stuart Mill's liberal creed, British and American suffragists came increasingly in the late nineteenth century to argue for the ballot on instrumental grounds.2

This contrast between justice and expediency must not be overdrawn, as it frequently is. Suffrage supporters used both sets of arguments after the turn of the century, though literature emphasizing the instrumental value of suffrage was more common. Consider the case of the WCTU. For an organization routinely placed in the expediency category, a surprising amount of its propaganda involved 'justice arguments, which revealed a deep ambivalence over the instrumentalist case for voting rights. This eclecticism has been overlooked precisely because the WCTU/suffrage connection has not seemed problematic. Researchers interested in emphasizing the radical character of the quest for suffrage have naturally looked to other groups whose feminist credentials seem less open to challenge.3

Comparative perspectives can illuminate these issues. In the same era that the WCTU was organizing its international movement for women's emancipation, suffrage workers were stepping up their own campaigns. The formation of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1902 testi-

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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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