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Woman's Christian Temperance Union

First temperance meeting at Bismark Grove, near LawrenceThe Kansas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was organized at a camp meeting at Bismarck Grove near Lawrence in 1878, with the first convention being held in 1879. They adopted the badge of the national organization—the white ribbon “symbolic not only of purity and peace, but it includes all correlated reforms that center in the protection of the home.” It took part in the Kansas constitutional prohibition amendment campaign in 1879-1880. The organization also lobbied in favor of a law passed in 1885 that required prohibition or temperance teaching in schools. Members participated in Chautauquas in Ottawa, Winfield, and Cawker City. The KWCTU did not confine itself to issues related to alcohol. It worked against white slavery and began the Girls’ Industrial School, which it later turned over to the state.

After the turn of the century, the KWCTU began supporting two native temperance workers in Africa; Americanization work in the mining camps of southern Kansas near Pittsburg; maintained a home for elderly women in Kansas City (the Carry A. Nation Home); sent field workers to unorganized territories to organize new unions; worked with both prisoners and military men in the state; and concerned itself with issues surrounding tobacco, narcotics, and motion pictures.

The Kansas WCTU was organized around the local union. If there were multiple local unions in a county, a county union could be formed. The county union held two meetings a year and reported to the state organization, which held an annual convention. Before 1915, local and county unions were also organized around the congressional districts of Kansas, but these were disbanded in that year. The state and local organization was organized into departmental work. These departments changed from time to time but they concerned themselves with such issues as child welfare, Sabbath observance, prison reform, social morality, legislation, non-alcoholic fruit products, anti-narcotics, and parliamentary law. The organization also sponsored state and local units of the Young People’s Branch (YPB) for teenagers fourteen years old and over and a Loyal Temperance Legion Branch for children between the ages of six to sixteen.

The KWCTU produced its own periodical, Our Messenger. The Union Signal was the national WCTU publication.

Entry: Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2011

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.