In Illinois during the year 1900, temperance and prohibition were prominent issues on the social and political stage. The temperance movement found most of its adherents in middle-class women. Urban women saw the linkages between poverty and alcoholism, while many rural women were aware of how the isolation of farm life amplified the horrors of alcohol abuse. The temperance movement was directly related to the women’s suffrage movement going on across the country. The temperance movement enabled the women of 1900 to express their opinion on a matter of importance (Early WCTU pg 1).
Many people of Illinois did not feel that women should speak out about what they believed in. A example of this is shown in an interview with Mark Hanna, who was a high government official in 1900. He said, If women are going to waste their opportunities over inferior work for which in they are unfitted they will fail in the grosser undertaking of caucuses and political campaigns. His opinion was that women had no right in demonstrating their beliefs and that they should stay at home and rear children instead of trying to change the world (Hanna on Women Suffrage pg 2). However, that did not stop the women of 1900.
Many local unions of the Womens Christian Temperance Union were formed and attended by local women. A union in Springfield, Illinois was led by Mrs. Aaron Anthony. At each of the union meetings, a devotional was conducted. Many contests and charities were also given in order to help raise money for the cause. Speeches were also given by the members on subjects of importance to them (Temperance Union: Local Organization Entertained at the Home of Mrs. Aaron Anthony pg 6). Many women took Carrie Nation as an example and went and stood in bars and sang hymns until everyone who entered was too ashamed to drink.
They also petitioned against the alcohol. Historians say that the women picked alcohol as a topic because alcohol was known to destroy homes. This is the one thing that women were allowed to have strong feelings on because their job was to run the home (Schwarz, Frederic D. pg 108). During November of 1900 the President of the Womens Christian temperance Union came and visited local unions and praised them for their loyalty to the great cause of stopping the traffic of intoxicating beverages throughout the United States of America.
Mrs. Ada Wallace UnRuh was among the older organizers and was honored with the election of president of the Womens Christian Temperance Union for 1897-1900. Speaking to a local union she said of her work, I am only a simple woman, dead in earnest, with something to say and so anxious that people should hear what it that I must say it as attractively as I can. Many women of Illinois in 1900 were thrilled with the idea of meeting such a woman so valuable to the white ribbon cause (Woman and Home pg 3). The anti- canteen movement was dedicated to the removal of alcoholic beverages on an army base.
Many besides the Womens Christian Temperance Union were opposed to this. On May 15, 1900 the Methodists of Illinois held conference in Chicago and expressed their distress of the canteen. They told of their great disappointment in President McKinley when the report stated, Upon the President , as commander-in-chief of our army, rests the responsibility for the canteen saloon, an evil which he has simple power to suppress. The conference also stated that the church would be determined to end this act of evilness against a country which was founded on God (Anti-Canteen Law Comes Up pg 3).
Southern Illinois was especially important in the temperance of alcohol. Carbondale was at the time a dry town. Dr. Keeley, who was a doctor set out determined to help people be set free from the temptation of alcohol, set up a clinic for alcoholics there. In this clinic, patients were slowly treated and then released into Carbondale which was ideal for the clinic (Allen, John W. pg 375-376). Not all temperance movements were after demon alcohol. Many lesser known movements also took place in Illinois during 1900. Miss Lucy Page Gaston of Peoria was well known throughout Illinois as an excellent reform worker.
During the year 1900, she was especially campaigning against cigarettes. On May 14, 1900 Miss Gaston went to the Evanston High School and gave the girls a lecture about her anti- cigarette movement. When told that all of the 200 girls knew someone who smoked cigarettes, she asked who would give up that acquaintance in order to stop the spread of cigarette use in America. Only two of the 200 said they would. What she said in response to that stood as a key question throughout the temperance movement. Is there not one here who is brave enough to do what she knows is right(Cigarette Crusade pg 4)?
In spite of the temperance movement, many people did not agree to prohibition (Not a Foe to the Canteen pg1). At the end of the 19th century, Americans spent over a billion dollars on alcoholic beverages each year, compared with $900 million on meat, and less than $200 million on public education (Early WCTU pg 1). This also was displayed in one mans statement, Beer is older than time (Schwarz, Frederic D. pg 109). The temperance movement had started a decade earlier during the womens crusades. Led by Francis Willard, the temperance movement became a great political issue.
Public sentiment was strongly in favor of prohibition, but the government was reluctant to enforce the Prohibition Act, in part because the sale of Liquor was a major source of tax income. A decade after 1900 was when prohibition was finally gaining ground in the mans world of politics (Temperance Movement to Meet pg 1). In 1900, Illinois was a battle ground for what the next century would prove, that women be able to express their ideas and opinions on political topics without being named aggressive or unladylike (Club Women of Today pg 4).