Thursday, December 15, 2011

Women's Christian Temperance Union

At the end of the nineteenth century (post-bellum), there was a lot of controversy surrounding alcohol in the United States. It was perceived by some (and you might say more specifically by pious women at the time) as a social problem. Men were out boozing while the women were at home with the children worried about their husbands. Some say there are also (feminist) politics involved, in that it was a way for women (and one by God approved) to exercise power and authority over their husbands. Arguably also these temperance movements culminated in the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, leaving the United States a dry nation. That didn't last long though.

One of the organized forces that tried to battle the bottle in the late nineteenth century was the Women's Christian Temperance Union, better known as the WCTU of course in the ever-so-abbreviations-happy United States. The artwork (and let's not forget photography!) surrounding this union is quite amazing.


 I wonder if any lips touched theirs at all really.

 Carrie Nation going around wrecking liquor bars with her hatchet!

 Pioneering women Frances Willard

 Great detail from a larger print.

Smash it up!

The WCTU made use of quite militant imagery. The lady up there looks like a knight! I bet today it would be considered a terrorist organization. These ladies were a force to be reckoned with indeed. What strikes me most about the photographs though is the deep deep bitterness. In part probably because they were, but perhaps also because the "smile for the camera" ideal was not yet in place. They were miserable and they were going to show it! Ah what times of honesty they were!

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