Our Godly Heritage-Our Commitment To The Future

Mrs. Margaret Ostenstad
World President
Many of you have knowledge about the forming of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in the United States but others of you are new to the work and unaware of our history so allow me the privilege of sharing some of the high lights of our beginning.

On December 14, 1873, Dr. Dio Lewis, a physician from Boston, MA delivered a temperance lecture at a Sunday evening union church service in Fredonia, New York. Dr. Lewis told that his father had been and alcoholic. Many years earlier his mother, with several of her Christian friends, had prayed for and with liquor-sellers until they gave up their business. Dr. Lewis suggested that plan could work again. In answer to this suggestion on Monday morning about 300 men and Woman met at the Fredonia Baptist Church. The men prayed and pledged money to support the effort while in another room the Woman prayed and made plans to visit the nearest saloon. On the following Monday, December 21, approximately 100 Woman met at the church to organize. They are recognized as the first group to call themselves the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
Dr. Lewis continued on to Jamestown, New York where another favorable response was given by the Woman and the WCTU formed there is still in existence today. Dr. Lewis then went on to Hillsboro, Ohio. On December 23rd he delivered his temperance message and there was agreement among the people to meet the following morning-December 24th - at the Presbyterian Church. It was hoped that Eliza Thompson, the daughter of a governor of Ohio and wife of a prominent lawyer, would lead the group. "Family cares" had prevented her from attending the lecture.

Mrs. Thompson's children shared the thrilling events of the evening at breakfast and asked their mother if she was going to the meeting. She retired to her room to pray. Soon there was a knock on the door and there stood her daughter, tears streaming down her face, holding her Bible open to Psalm 146. New meaning seemed attached to these verses and Mother Thompson reported that she felt the Sprit say "This is the way, walk ye in it."

She hurried to the church and took a seat in the back. When asked to come to the front she reported that her legs would not hold her. Her brother, realizing she was embarrassed, suggested to the men present that they needed to move to another room and allow the Woman to get organized. It was then that Mother Thompson felt strength and assumed the leadership role.

She called on a woman for prayer who later reported it was the first time she had heard her own voice in prayer. Then Mother Thompson lined the Woman up two by two with the shorter ones in front. That meant she was at the front of the line. They marched down the street, Bibles in hand, singing "Give to the Winds Thy Fears". At each place where alcohol was sold they stopped, asked to enter, and if it was granted they entered, prayed, and asked the owner to close. If admittance was not given, they knelt on the cold, snow-covered sidewalk and prayed. This activity continued day after day as more and more places closed. The news began to travel across the country.

Within three months the Crusaders had driven liquor out of 250 villages and towns. Open casks of liquor were poured down the streets. By the end of the Woman's Crusade over 900 communities in 31 states and territories had experienced it. Nationwide 750 breweries closed.

Thousands of Woman felt empowered. They had survived abuse and ridicule. Many now had money to clothe, feed, and care for their families. However, in a few months liquor-selling establishments began to open again so the Woman marched again. It soon became apparent to them that they needed to organize and so after meeting informally at the first Sunday School Convention at Chautauqua, New York in the summer, they met in Cleveland, Ohio November 18-20, 1874 to organize the National WCTU. Several states were already organized. At the 1877 National Convention the bow of white ribbon was adopted as the official badge so we often refer to our members as white ribboners.

Annie Wittenmyer served as the first National President. After her five years in office there were over 1,000 local unions in 23 states with over 26,000 members.

The second National President was Frances E. Willard. In 1883 while on a tour with her secretary, Anna Gordon, to visit every town with a population of 10,000 or more, she arrived in San Francisco. After a visit to the opium dens, as Frances Willard looked over the Pacific ocean, she commented "But for the intervention of the sea, the shores of China and the Far East would be part and parcel of our fair land. We are one world of tempted humanity; the mission of the white ribbon Woman is to organize the motherhood of the world for the peace and purity, the protection and exaltation of its homes. We must sound forth a clear call to our sisters across the seas, and to our brothers none the less."

To carry out Willard's vision, Mary Clement Leavitt accepted the challenge to be the first round the world WWCTU missionary. No salary was promised and she answered that she would take her chances. Leavitt made contacts with missionaries throughout her travels. They welcomed her and arranged meetings for her. In seven years of travels. In seven years of travel, Leavitt logged 97,308 miles, formed 6,623 Unions and talked in 47 languages through 228 interpreters. Many more missionaries were sent and the Polyglot Petition was circulated through them.
Ella A. Boole, World President from the USA,(1931-1947) summarized the early years of the WWCTU. "The World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union was the pioneer among international organizations of Woman. In the beginning, there was only an outline map because there was little opportunity for the members to know each other, travel was difficult, and world cooperation unknown. Frances Willard had a vision and a plan to work it out."
I will close this historical report by mentioning that Margaret Bright Lucas of England was appointed the first World President. She passed away before the first World Convention which was held at Fanueil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts in 1891. At that Convention, fourteen countries were represented with 26 members in attendance. The pledge we recited earlier this evening was adopted. Frances Willard was elected Second World President. it is my hope that at our next World Convention we can include historical information from each of your countries.

The WCTU has always stood for three things without discussion-we are Christian, we practice total abstinence, and Woman are in charge. The motivation for our work comes from our Christian beliefs put into action. having researched much of our history, I can tell you without hesitation that I have never read of any time when consideration was given to changing the membership requirement of total abstinence. We appreciate our honorary members(men) and they are supportive but the opportunity to govern ourselves and to make our own decisions has given us wonderful opportunities to develop our talents and to assume leadership roles, something not always available in other settings.

Now that we are aware of this wonderful heritage, how are we of this generation going to build on it? It is my hope that at the end of this convention each one of us will be better equipped and motivated to carry out our mission to create a drug-free world!

In an effort to be more effective in promoting our work, the World Officers have recommend that we reduce the number of departments from eight to four as follows : Christian Outreach ; Education which will include Promotion Methods; Home Protection which will include Alcohol-free Hospitality; and Social Service which will include Citizenship. Public Relations is important but opportunities to publicize our work differ greatly from country to country so each country must develop a plan.

In the United State we are very much project-oriented as the basis for our work. When each member is enlisted to do something for our cause there is more interest and more results. I have been pleased with the increased promotion you have given International FAS Awareness Day each of these past three years. Therefore I am going to offer a specific project for each of the abovementioned departments. I challenge each Union throughout the world to complete these four projects in 2008.

Christian Outreach - The idea of a World Day of Prayer for the WCTU came from Australia. On Sunday, September 28, 2008 I call for a World Day of Prayer to be promoted by the WCTU for the temperance cause. Enlist your church to consider holding a Temperance Day with emphasis on Biblical teaching about drinking during the Bible School hour and with a Sermon promoting the total abstinence life style as God's way for Christians to live. Invite parents of the community to attend an afternoon or evening service where drug problems facing their families can be highlighted, initial steps for taking action to protect the family can be started, and a time of prayer for these concerns can be voiced. The selection of this date will commenmorate the birthday of our founder, Frances Willard.

Education - During the 2008 year hold at least one contest for children and youth to emphasize the drug-free lifestyle. You may choose the category of picture coloring, poster, essay, and/or speech, Contests may be held wherever there are children- in schools, churches, community groups, neighborhoods. Offer prizes but make each one feel like a winner.

Home Protection - The goal is for each Union to have a White Ribbon Recruit Service. This involves obtaining a pledge from parents that they will teach their child(birth to 6 years of age) the values of total abstinence and the dangers of using alcohol and other drugs. We will demonstrate this program on Sunday afternoon.

Social Service- There are people in need of physical assistance in every community- Whether it is to minister to those who are elderly or those with family needs or those suffering from a natural disaster, select a need and make a difference with what the members of your Union can offer. Do it in the name of the WCTU.

As our overall World Project, we want to continue on September 9 at 9 :09 am to observe International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome(FAS) Awareness Day and include Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders(FASD) which is an umbrella term for the broad range of conditions that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during her pregnancy.

For this new three-year period we want to add a concerted effort to reduce tobacco use and consequently save livers. Tobacco has become the leading agent of death around the world.

There are many effective ways to attack this problem : increase the tobacco tax, ban tobacco advertising, establish smoke-free public places, help smokers quit, educate about the harmful effects of tobacco use, and set an example as a non-smoker.

We are cooperating with Tobacco-free Kids which has an international division. We plan to cooperate with them in getting educational materials translated into more languages. We also may from time to time alert you to special programs or incentives that are occurring in your country. Monetary grants, offered each six months, are available for protects that target a specific relevant issue. Ch다 out their web site at
Briefly I want to touch on our theme for this convention, "United in Christian love." Recently I read the book entitled "You Were Made for Love" by Philip Carlson. I recommend it. I will share just a few thoughts from it. "Love points us to the things that matter to God.... We can live in such a way that God uses us to leave" our sphere of influence "better because we were there. And, if we do, we'll find ourselves changed in the process." My prayer is that each of us will become a greater channel of God's love.

World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union

  • World President
  • Mrs. Margaret Ostenstad
  • Norway
  • margaret.ostenstad45
  • World Organization Secretary
  • Mrs. Desiree Lanigan
  • Canada
  • World Treasurer
  • Mrs. Dorothy Russell
  • USA
  • World Recording Secretary
  • Mrs. Susanne Curry
  • Mrs. Susanne Curry
  • USA
  • World First Vice President
  • Mrs. Anne Bergen
  • Australia
  • World Second Vice President
  • Dr. Dora de Barrientos
  • Guatemala
  • dorajudithcolomadebarrientos
  • World Third Vice President
  • Mrs. Young Joo Kim
  • Korea
  • World Fourth Vice President
  • Joy Butler
  • Australia