By Jack Suderman 

My mother recently fired up my memory when she handed me a small white pin in the shape of a bow. My great grandmother wore the pin from the 1880s through the period of 'prohibition' here in the United States. If you're like I am, the 'Temperance Movement' is a historical fact, bound to show up on a high school history final. It has been a long time since high school. The pin from my great grandmother peaked my curiosity.

I have discovered that my grandmother wore her white ribbon pin along with several thousand other women. They were called 'White Ribboners' and they were known to be very vocal about 'demon rum.' Today, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, more popularly known as MADD, and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups are prominent in our struggle with a destructive elements in our society: alcohol and drugs. Over 100 years ago Francis Willard rallied women in her fight to keep "our men & our sons from the destruction of alcohol." She called it the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). 

The Women's Christian Temperance Union is alive and still active today. Its Headquarters Office in Evanston, Illinois, has been located there since the late 1800s. It reports active chapters throughout the United States and chapters in some foreign countries. 

The WCTU first reached into Arizona in 1881 when the wife of a local army officer, Mrs. Glendenning, organized the first Women's Christian Temperance Union chapter here in Prescott. In 1901, an article about "Women's Work in Prescott" reported the "Women's Christian Temperance Union is an efficient organization." It must have been. The census of 1900 showed Arizona as having one saloon to 175 people. But by 1914, two years after achieving statehood, an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit liquor was passed by 3,000 votes. 

The 1901 article also referred to the local WCTU's president, Mrs. Long, who was the wife of the Pastor at the Congregational Church in Prescott. The minutes of the 1904 WCTU State Convention in Phoenix show the Prescott chapter reporting...."[we] are gaining strength in this rum cursed town." 

On occasion the 'White Ribboners' were known to shatter a bit of glass in the local tavern. The archives of Sharlot Hall Museum mention Lillian Stambaugh as a member of the local chapter. Her granddaughter, Becky Stambaugh West, tells a story passed down the generations about her grandmother, Lillian. She had been invited to attend a social event where she witnessed the punch bowl being filled with 'distilled liquor.' She promptly picked up her walking stick and, with remarkable accuracy, shattered each cup hanging from the rim of that punch bowl, one at a time. 

Although Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the Women's Christian Temperance Union continued. Records show that a state-wide convention was held in October of 1949 at the First Methodist Church on Gurley Street in Prescott. Mrs. J. LeMay was a local chapter president and her records, located in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives, show an active chapter into the early 1970s. 

It has been exciting to discover so much in a simple little pin that my grandmother once wore. My kids and my grandkids will know about my grandmother and the part she had in making our country great. 

Jack Suderman is a volunteer at the Sharlot Hall Museum

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb023f10i1)
Reuse only by permission.

Above, members of the Arizona Christian Temperance Union in 1954. Mrs. J. LeMay is second from the right. She was a local chapter president and an active chapter member into the early 1970s.