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WCTU and Women's Suffrage

On this date in 1914, Mrs. Harriet Darling Hall, National Women's Christian Temperance Union lecturer and organizer, was in North Dakota traveling around the state and lecturing. She was "said to be a strong and forceful speaker," and many looked forward to her talks.

Her first stop was in Fairmount, where she spoke to about 200 people, and the town held a suffrage parade!

In fact, the Bismarck Tribune noted that Hall had organized "new local WCTU's" which would "make their special work for the summer, the agitation of the suffrage question." In fact, many local chapters would follow this lead, offering speeches and opening conversation on the topic of women's right to vote.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union had an interesting relationship with suffrage. The group was founded in 1874, in response to the effects of alcohol in the community and in the home. However, after Frances Willard became the organization's second president, more social issues became a part of the group. Suffrage was formally endorsed by the organization in 1881. Willard recognized that the women's ballot would be helpful in achieving the organization's goals.

That year, an assessment of attitudes toward women's suffrage among the state-level WCTUs showed that while the Midwest and West were generally supportive of sffrage, the women in the NOrtheast and South were less than excited about the propsect, or opposed to women's suffrage.

Willard reframed the concept of women's suffrage within the WCTU organization to garner support from those members who did not believe women needed to be involved in politics. She promoted suffrage as part of a campaign for "home protection," telling the groups that women's suffrage could protect the home and family--away from the public political arena and into the domestic terrain they were already involved with and wanted to protect.

Incidentally, Willard herself believed in women's voting. She was friends with Susan B. Anthony, and collaborated with her and other women's groups. However, but Willard desired that suffrage be contingent on an educational test, applied to all men and women who would be voting.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

The Dickinson Press, May 23, 1914, p5
Bismarck Tribune, May 31, 1914, p4
The Jamestown Weekly Alert, May 14, 1914, p5

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