Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Women's Temperance Crusade

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Our Church's Involvement
in the
Women's Temperance Crusade

(from "The First United Methodist Church, London Ohio, The Early Years" Rebecca B. France, published 1994)

One historian mentions the "high society" of pioneer Ohio, referring to the prevalence of alcohol.  Much was consumed at work sites, militia musters and wherever men gathered.  Whiskey served as a kind of currency, being used as partial pay on some jobs.  Distilleries were common.

In January of 1874, a woman wrote to the editor of the London Times newspaper relating the fact that on her way to town her buggy had been crowded off the road and nearly overturned because several drunks on horseback had been racing down the roadway.  In town she had to content with some inebriates who were on foot as well as a drunk trying to drive  a two-horse wagon.  She concluded, 'God speed the time when London shall be noted for temperance and order as it is now for intemperance and disorder!"

Soon afterward a group of women met at our church to organize a temperance movement in London.  After enlisting the Presbyterian women, their number grew to one hundred.  Included were the wives of four attorneys and the wives of the editors of two of the town's three papers.

The local papers and even the Columbus Journal carried accounts of their activities which continued for several months.  Two prayer meetings were held each day, the morning meeting at the Presbyterian Church and the evening meeting at the Methodist Church.  The churches were filled.  Men supporting the cause closed their places of business in order to attend the morning meetings.

A petition was drafted which pledged the signer to abstinence.  This petition had over one thousand names within one week.  A dealer's pledge was prepared which indicated signers would not sell or give away intoxicating liquors of any kind.

Documents in hand, groups of two women visited all the local druggists and persuaded them to stop selling liquor by the drink.  Then the women went to all of the town's thirty saloons and requested compliance.  Where the owner refused to sign the pledge, a larger group returned daily to pray, sing and read scripture.

Church bells were rung when a saloon was closed.  A month later the town council passed and ordinance prohibiting the sale of beer and ale within the corporate limits of London.

The temperance movement in London spread throughout the county.  Statewide, similar efforts were being undertaken.  The Women's Temperance crusade swept over twenty-three states in 1873 and 1874 and resulted in the organization of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in November of 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio.  As a national organization the W.C.T.U. continued to oppose the liquor traffic.  Temperance was an issue affecting elections and laws for many years.

In the stairway of the Fourth Street foyer of our church, there is a small window depicting a woman at a well.  This window was dedicated to the W.C.T.U. and contains the motto of the organization.  "For God and Home and Native Land".

In an interesting side note:  Over the years, many women of the church would rub the cheek of the woman at the well when they wished to become pregnant.  If you look at the window, you will see that the color of the stained glass on her cheek has been rubbed away from this practice.