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

By Ian Tyrrell | Go to book overview

Epilogue
Divergent Meanings of the World's WCTU

From her retirement home in Oakland, California, in the late 1930s, a frail yet still lively Katharine Bushnell looked back at her sixty-year career in the service of the Lord. Bushnell was a long-forgotten figure when she was called upon in 1939 to address the state convention of the California WCTU. There she extolled the memory of Frances Willard and retold the story of her friendship with the great English purity crusader, Josephine Butler. In the process, she recalled her own considerable efforts in the service of the World's WCTU.1

Forgotten were the controversies of the 1890s, the internecine conflicts over policies and personalities, the ultimate defeat of national prohibition, and the illusory dreams of an international order of peace and sobriety led by the example of Christian women. Bushnell remembered instead the more positive side of her experience. Her correspondence and speeches around this time and into the 1940s resounded with the memories of the "militant saints" who fought like Willard to show that women "could represent the cause . . . better . . . than any of the men."2 Over the years her faith had not eroded but was rather strengthened by her reversals. "The Lord was in the W.C.T.U.," she insisted. "We did [temperance campaigning] to the best of our ability and met the best women around the world in doing the work."3 Here the central meanings of the World's WCTU to its champions were made clear in retrospect: Christian service, women's uplift in terms intelligible to contemporaries of the late nineteenth-century Anglo- American middle class, a spirit of adventure, and the companionship of other women. These were her cherished memories, the meanings she found in her life and those of likeminded women.

Writing any history necessarily involves an element of individual judgment. There are in theory as many histories of any episode or phenomenon as historians exist who are willing to write about them. Scholars will therefore continue to find conflicting meanings in the international experience of the WCTU, but this element of flux in historical interpretation does not make all versions of its history equally valid. Any synoptic, intelligible, and historical judgment must capture the internal retrospective synthesis of

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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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