Women’s Christian Temperance Union March on Washington

“Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Not Touch Ours ”

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 1874. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) formed as an organized group, inspired by the “Women’s Crusade” a direct action, anti-liquor effort during the winter of 1873- 1874. During the nineteenth century, women began participating in social reform movements and the primary purpose of the WCTU was to combat the influence of alcohol on families and society. 

Following the Civil War, alcoholism was rampant in many parts of the United States and contributed greatly to poverty and domestic abuse. Women were the primary crusaders against the consumption and sale of alcohol as a result of their lack of civil rights. At this time, women could not vote, they did not have control over their property or the custody of their children in the case of divorce, and there was little to no legal protections against physical and sexual abuse of women and children. 

In 1879, Frances Willard became president and used political organizing and moral persuasion in an effort to ultimately achieve total abstinence. The WCTU promoted social reform in many different facets of American society, including suffrage, shelters for abused women and children, equal pay for equal work, founding of Kindergartens and uniform marriage and divorce laws. 
On December 10, 1913, one of the largest prohibition demonstrations took place within Washington, D.C. 1,000 women from the WCTU were joined by 1,000 men from the Anti-Saloon League as they marched silently towards the Capitol. Thousands of bystanders also joined the two groups as they continued to march forward. Including the two groups, a total of  of 4,000 protesters participated in the march. The WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League met with Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas and Alabama Representative Richmond P. Hobson at the steps of the Capitol. Sheppard and Hobson were then presented with multiple petitions for the creation of a new constitutional amendment that would prohibit the making and selling of intoxicants in the U.S. Later that day, Sheppard introduced the proposed constitutional amendment to the Senate.

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