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

By Ian Tyrrell | Go to book overview

12
Prohibition and the Perils of Cultural Adaptation

The coming of national prohibition in 1919 was for the WCTU the beginning, not the end, of its campaigns. Of course the Eighteenth Amendment in the United States would have to be safeguarded, but above all in the hour of victory, thoughts turned to the spread of prohibition around the globe. The WCTU announced as its goal "To Make the World All White," through the triumph of the White Ribbon, and promised the annihilation of the liquor traffic internationally by the end of the decade. A map published in the Union Signal indicated how much had been achieved and yet how far there was to go. The "'Wet' and 'Dry' Map of the World" divided up the globe into areas that were already under prohibition, those that had local option, those in which religious sentiments or customs made them practically dry, and those that were thoroughly wet. Finland and Iceland were on a par with the United States, and Canada was said to be "a near-prohibition country," while Russia and Norway were listed, dubiously and vaguely, as dry too.1 In its propaganda, the WCTU also drew attention to the "large extent of territory in Asia and Africa under so-called prohibition as a result of one of the teachings of Mahomet."2 What matters is not the accuracy of these claims but the evidence they reveal of the international aspirations of the WCTU. The 1920s witnessed the apogee of all attempts to make the world dry in the American image.

This export of American institutions embodied several impulses. Wartime enthusiasm for moral intervention in the affairs of Europe contributed. Andrew Sinclair puts the point nicely: "The mentality of war and the fantastic hopes of a millennial peace encouraged the drys' sense of international mission." If Woodrow Wilson had sought to make the world safe for democracy, the president of the ASL hoped to make "a democracy that is safe for the world, by making it intelligent and sober everywhere."3 Such enthusiasms featured heavily in the pronouncements of the WCTU as well. Postwar strategists like Anna Gordon and Union Signal editor Julia Deane believed that their new struggle called for "a grandeur of consecration that

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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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