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Evanston and the Fight for the Vote

Woman's Christian Temperance Union


The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was formed to combat one of the major social evils of the nineteenth century: alcohol. For decades, individual men and women had been urging their friends and neighbors to give up drinking alcohol. For these reformers, intemperance, which included smoking and doing drugs as well as drinking, was the root of most social evils. Women reformers in particular took action against intemperance in order to combat other societal problems. Fighting against prostitution, domestic abuse, and for womens' rights became part of the temperance crusaders' quest.

In the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the anti-alcohol reform effort was organized on a national level. The WCTU was founded in 1874, and under presidents Annie Wittenmeyer, Frances Willard, Lillian Stevens and Anna Gordon, fought for legislation to improve women's lives. Local chapters contributed to a state organization, which were part of the national organization. Thus, the WCTU had all of the groundwork in place to make notable contributions to the fight for women suffrage. 

The WCTU's role in the women's suffrage movement was significant. From the beginning, they had acknowledged the importance of legislative efforts, including lobbying, to achieve their temperance goals. Under the presidency of Frances Willard, the WCTU shifted its focus from simply lobbying to active campaigning for women's right to vote, and found themselves at the forefront of the fight for the franchise. 

Woman's Christian Temperance Union