The women of the 19th Century also had a huge part to play with regard to the temperance movement in the 19th century. Below you'll find an excerpt from History of the Woman's temperance crusade: By Annie Wittenmyer, Frances Elizabeth Willard © 1878
Ours is a famous country for protection. There is the tariff to protect industry, while the patent laws are a safeguard to invention. There are the land grants for railroads, subsidies for steamship companies, charters for corporations. In many of the States we have societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and in nearly all, laws for the protection of game. Busy with all these gentle, wise, and patriotic measures, there is one place our brothers have forgotten adequately to protect, and that is—Home. The Women's Temperance Crusade, embalmed in the pages that follow, was a protest against this forgetfulness and this neglect. It was the wild cry of the defenceless and despairing, whose echo rose to Heaven and still resounds in every ear that is not deaf. At the height of that wonderful uprising, a sweet-voiced Quaker woman led her band to the chief saloon in an Ohio village. "What business have you to come here?" roared the affrighted dealer. Going to the bar she laid her Bible down and said: "Thee knows I had five sons and twenty grandsons, and thee knows that many of them learned to drink right in this place, and one went forth from here maddened with wine and blew his brains out with a pistol ball; and can't thee let his mother lay her Bible on the counter whence her boy took up the glass, and read thee what God says: ' Woe unto him that puts the bottle to his neighbor's lips?''
The saloon-keeper had but to point to the wall behind him, where hung his " License to sell," bearing the names of prominent citizens of the village, and emblazoned with the escutcheon of the Commonwealth. They all met in that little scene—Gospel and Law, man's failure, woman's grief; while the reason why, and the place in which they met, gave ample answer to the question heard so often : What did the Crusade mean ?
There is another question quite as often asked: What did the Crusade do ? One of its leaders made this reply to the Temperance Sojourner, who writes these lines: "Well, let me answer from my own experience. Until it swept over our place, though I had lived there twenty years, I knew so little about this drinking business that I couldn't have pointed out a saloon in the whole town. I thought the queer-looking places with blinds and screens were barber-shops. Since then I have found out that they are shops where men get shaved—not of their beards, but of their honor. Since then, too, I took my little four-year-old boy to market with me one morning, and feeling his clasp of my hand tighten, I looked down and saw his head turned backward apprehensively. 'Why, Willie, what's the matter ?' I exclaimed. There were volumes of meaning in the reproachful roll of his solemn blue eyes as he whispered: ' Didn't mamma know that her little boy was a-passin' a saloon ? ' Surely it was the crowning achievement of the Crusade that it opened the eyes of millions of women and children in this land to the existence and the dangers of the rum-shop. In consequence of this the public finger points to-day with imperious gesture at the saloon, and woman's voice in tones of irresistible persuasion cries, 'Look there !' "
What did the Crusade do ? Take another illustration. In front of a saloon that had refused them entrance, knelt a crusading group. Their leader was also the most prominent Methodist lady of the community. Her head was crowned with the glory of gray hairs; her hands were clasped, her sweet and gentle voice was lifted up in prayer. Around her knelt the flower of all the churches of that city—Congregationalists, Baptists, Presbyterians—many of whom had never worked outside their own denominations until now. At the close, an Episcopal lady offered the Lord's prayer, in which joined Unitarians, Swedenborgians, and Universalists; and when they had finished, a dear old lady in the dove-colored garb of the Friends' Society was moved to pray, while all the time below them on the curbstone's edge knelt Bridget with her beads and her Ave Marie.
"Going out on the street" signified a good deal when one comes to think about it. First of all, it meant stepping outside the denominational fence, which, properly enough, surrounds one's home. The Crusaders felt that "unity of the Spirit" was the one essential, nor feared to join hands with any who had the Bible and the temperance pledge for the two articles in their "Confession of Faith"—who rallied to the tune of " Rock of Ages cleft for me," or had for their watchword: " Not willing that any should perish." Best of all, "going out on the street" brought women face to face with the world's misery and sin. And here I may be pardoned a bit of personal reminiscence. Never can I forget the day I met the great unwashed, untaught, ungospelled multitude for the first time. Need I say it was the Crusade that opened before me, as before ten thousand other women, this wide, "effectual door?" It was in Pittsburgh, the summer after the Crusade. Greatly had I wished to have a part in it, but this one experience was my first and last of " going out with a band." A young teacher from the public schools, whose custom it was to give an hour twice each week to crusading, walked arm-in-arm with me. Two school-ma'ms together, we fell into the procession behind the experienced campaigners. On Market street we entered a saloon the proprietor of which, pointing to several men who were fighting in the next room, begged us to leave, and we did so at once, amid the curses of the bacchanalian group. Forming in line on the curbstone's edge in front of this saloon, we knelt, while an old lady, to whose son that place had proved the gate of death, offered a prayer full of tenderness and faith, asking God to open the eyes of those who, just behind that screen, were selling liquid fire and breathing curses on his name. We rose, and what a scene was there! The sidewalk was lined by men with faces written all over and interlined with the record of their sin and shame. Soiled with "the slime from the muddy banks of time," tattered, dishevelled, there was not a sneering look or a rude word or action from any one of them. Most of them had their hats off; many looked sorrowful; some were in tears; and standing there in the roar and tumult of that dingy street, with that strange crowd looking into our faces—with a heart stirred as never until now by human sin and shame, I joined in the sweet gospel song:
" Jesus the water of life will give
Freely, freely, freely ! "
Just such an epoch as that was in my life, has the Crusade proved to a mighty army of women all over this land. Does anybody think that, having learned the blessedness of carrying Christ's gospel to those who never come to church to hear the messages we are all commanded to "Go, tell," we shall ever lay down this work? Not until the genie of the Arabian Nights crowds himself back into the fabulous kettle whence he escaped by expanding his pinions in nebulous bars—not until then! To-day and every day they go forth on their beautiful errands—the " Protestant nuns" who a few years ago were among the "anxious and aimless" of our crowded population, or who belonged to trades and professions overfull—and with them go the women fresh from the sacred homehearth and cradle-side, wearing the halo of these loving ministries. If you would find them, go not alone to the costly churches which now welcome their voices, while to those who are " at ease in Zion " they gently speak of the great, whitened harvest. But go to blacksmith shop and billiard-hall, to public readingroom and depot waiting-room, to the North End in Boston, Water street, New York, the Bailey coffeehouses of Philadelphia, the Friendly Inns of Cleveland, the Woman's Temperance Room of Cincinnati, and Lower Farwell Hall, Chicago, and you will find the glad tidings declared by the new " apostolic succession," dating from the Pentecost of the Crusade.
There is another question often asked, to which this thought of woman's temperance work conducts us, viz.: What is the Crusade doing now ?
Those who ask it with supercilious glance furnish an added illustration of the immense power of the human mind to resist knowledge.
" John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul is marching on."
Just so with the Crusade. It has come and it has gone—that whirlwind of the Lord—but it has set forces in motion which each day become more potent, and will sweep on until the rum power in America is overthrown. There was but one Pentecost; doubtless history will record but one Crusade.
A phenomenon no less remarkable, though certainly much less remarked, has succeeded that wonderful uprising—indeed, is aptly termed its sober, second thought. This is the phenomenon of organization. The women who went forth by an impulse sudden, irresistible, divine, to pray in the saloons, became convinced, as weeks and months passed by, theirs was to be no easily-won victory. The enemy was rich beyond their power to comprehend. He had upon his side the majesty of law, the trickery of politics, and the leagued strength of that almost invincible pair—Appetite, Avarice. He was persistent, too, as Fate. He had determined to fight it out on that line to the last dollar of his enormous treasure-house, and the last ounce of his power. But these women of the Crusade believed in God, and in themselves as among his appointed instruments for the destruction of the rum power. They loved Christ's cause; they loved the native land that had been so mindful of them ; they loved their sweet and sacred homes. And so it came about that, though they had gone forth only as skirmishers, they soon fell into line of battle; though they had innocently hoped to overcome the enemy by a sudden assault, they buckled on the armor for the long campaign. The Women's Praying Bands, earnest, impetuous, inspired, became the Women's Temperance Unions, firm, patient, persevering. The Prayirfg Bands were without leadership save that which inevitably results from the survival of the fittest; the Women's Unions are regularly officered. The first wrought their grand pioneer work in sublime indifference to prescribed forms of procedure; " So say we, all of us," being the spirit of "motions" often "made, seconded and carried" by the Chair, while the assembled women nodded their earnest acquiescence; the second are possessed of good strong "Constitutions" (with By-Laws annexed), and follow their "Order of Business" with a dutiful regard to parliamentary usage. The Praying Bands, looking for immediate deliverance, pressed their numbers into incessant service; the Women's Unions, aware that the battle is to be a long one, ask their members only for such-help as can be given consistently with other duties. Enthusiasm—"a God in us"—enabled the Praying Bands to accomplish prodigies; patient purpose, with the same faith that inspired the Crusade, is conducting the Unions to victory—distant, but sure. To-day twenty-three States are organized, with thousands of local auxiliaries, and all confederated in a National Union.
It is safe to say that never did any form of philanthropic work afford scope for so great diversity of talent and of method as this branch of the temperance reform " of the women, by the women." In the days of the Crusade a dear old grandmother said: " I'm of no use except to go along and cry," and in the same spirit a negro servant said to the lady for whom she worked: " I be'ant good for much, but I kin hold the ole ombereller over you ; " and even the family dog sometimes walked with stately step beside his mistress as she lead her "Band." So, in these blessed days that have succeeded, and which have brought such inspiration to our lives that " I'm glad I'm alive ! " is a frequent exclamation, there is a place that seems "just made on purpose " for every honest heart and helpful hand. Some feel a special call to the gospel work, and others to the execution of the law; some give their time to organizing Unions, others to canvassing for subscribers to our paper; some raise money, others raise the tone of public sentiment; some work among the children, others labor for the men who drink and sell, and all are warmly welcomed and find abundant "elbow-room."
It was the great Iconoclast, that wonderful Crusade ! It broke down sectarian barriers; it taught women their power to transact business, to mould public opinion by public utterance, to influence the decisions of voters, and opened the eyes of scores and hundreds to the need of the Republic for the suffrages of women, and made them willing to take up for their homes and country's sake the burdens of that citizenship they would never have sought for their own.
But best of all, it revealed to the mothers and daughters in our Israel their opportunity and duty to employ the growing leisure which our advancing civilization and multiplied mechanical contrivances afford them, in building up Christ's empire On the earth. It is a very plain, practical matter to help organize the kingdom of heaven in a human breast. It is a business enterprise based on an eminently practical treatise known as the New Testament. Replace the brandy flask in the pocket of a drinking man by the Bible—get him to read with sincere wish to understand the words that are spirit and life, and you have set in motion the forces of a new dispensation in his heart. You have built him up within instead of propping him from without. To give him a loaf of bread, if hungry, would be a good thing, but to put him on track of getting one for himself by feeding him with heavenly bread, is better. To put a broken arm in a sling is a kind act, but if one could by an electric touch make that arm whole, that were the supreme benefaction, and analogous to that is the loving " gospel work " by which we help to enthrone conscience and enshrine Christ in a man's soul. The process is plain and simple as the Rule of Three. The geometric formula that "all the angles of a triangle equal two right angles " is not more demonstrable upon the blackboard than this rule is demonstrable in a life, namely: Prayer will cause a man to cease from sinning, as sin will cause a man to cease from prayer. The whole problem of " how to do it" was wrought out over and over again by the women of the Crusade. They proved anew to the great church militant that its solution involves, and ever must, the individualism of Christ's own way of working; that " the masses " are to be lifted up one by one, and not otherwise. It is a question of contact. It is " elbow heathen " the Crusaders reached, just because they found them at their elbows. They acted on the principle that the man and woman in the next alley to us are a part of our parish in the geographical nature of things. Some people spend a lifetime chasing after " the masses," and are in such hot pursuit they cannot stop to capture the unit of the mass—and that's the nearest and the neediest man. The masses elude us; the next-door neighbor couldn't if he would, and wouldn't if he could. The masses are a glittering generality; the man, poor, needy, wicked, sad, is a most unglittering fact. It is the way an army is recruited—one by one; it is the way commerce marches across a continentand captures it for civilization—one by one; it is the way Christ's church adds to its members, and heaven to its souls—one by one. And first, best, and most sacred of the lessons taught by the Crusade, was this lesson of individual work for Christ, which must be learned by every disciple before Christ comes as King in government, in society and individual life.
Travelling through Ohio two years ago, and resting for a night in some dear temperance woman's home, how many times I said: " Now talk to me of the Crusade," and how significantly uniform was the reply: " O, that was something only to be felt and lived; to be wept and prayed over—it wasn't to be told."
But as you, dear sisters of Ohio, Indiana, and other States both east and west, were helped to do a work so wonderful, even so, as I believe, has our dear President of the National Union, which grew out of the Crusade, been helped to be its faithful Chronicler. We, who can but claim to be eleventh-hour laborers at best, may never see the passion flower that burst into such splendid bloom before your eyes, but evermore we shall be grateful to her whose patient hands gathered up its scattered petals and preserved them for the herbarium of our memory. Nay, not for ours alone. Posterity will listen to the story and place its heroines in the Pantheon of undying fame. And yet how well I know you have not wrought for this; nor is it a regret to you that, as in this History our friend has written, so in later times the record shall embalm your deeds, but not your names. One human life and work signifies little to the world. But O, if we have tried to bless the lives about us, whether in the sweet evangelism of our homes or in the grand philanthropies by which society becomes the fosterparent of thousands who are worse than motherless, we shall not have lived in vain. Wherever in the nobler future of the land we love, there are safe and happy homes, they will be safer and more happy because we have lived and toiled. Wherever little children grow to maturity with less to lure them into sin, and tempted manhood finds more helpful hands outstretched to save, there we shall still be blessing, there we shall still be blessed, though our names may be forgotten. O, " may we join the choir invisible," whose voices, sounding onward through the ages, shall speak to sad humanity of Him who yesterday, to-day, forever, abides the same !
" In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o'er the wreck of time;
All that's bright in human story
Radiates from its form divine! "
FRANCES E. W1LLARD.
Chicago, Nov. 8, 1877.