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Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand

VIII — Woman and the Movement

page 174

Woman and the Movement

Early in the seventies of last century, the crusade movement set Ohio, U.S.A., on fire with holy zeal for the abolition of the saloon. The pentecostal fire spread to neighbouring states and in the sacred flame kindled by such an outpouring of the Divine Spirit, the Women's Christian Temperance Union had its birth. It was born in faith, baptized by prayer, and grew to full stature by the aid of self-sacrificing zeal and missionary fervour. In 1884, Mary Clement Leavitt started her world tour to 1 wind the ribbon round the nations,’ carrying with her the polyglot petition against the traffic in alcohol and drugs, which was to be signed by women of all races, creeds and colours. In February 1885, she landed in New Zealand, and, starting at Auckland, organized a small chain of Unions, extending down as far as Invercargill. Very early in 1886, the first Convention met in the old Woodward Street Church at Wellington. The first New Zealand officers were:—presidnet, Mrs. Dudley Ward; correspondence secretary, Miss Susan Brett; recording secretary, Mrs. Fanny Troy; treasurer, Mrs. C. A. Baker.

It is worthy of note that the women very early saw the need of education on the evil effects of alcohol. The second Convention, which met in Christchurch on February 23, 1887, forwarded a resolution to the Minister for Education asking that scientific temperance instruction should be made compulsory in our schools. This, their first request, they followed up from time to time by resolutions page 175 and by deputations to ministers and to M.P.'s. They showed their eager desire to help in this work by sending over £50 in 1929 to assist the New Zealand Alliance in providing temperance charts for the schools.

The Rechabites and Good Templars had done fine educative work and several of the early officers of the W.C.T.U. were drawn from the Female Tents. In March 1886, the New Zealand Alliance was organized, its aim being to unite all temperance and religious bodies in an organized attempt to abolish the liquor trade. The W.C.T.U., from the first, took a warm interest in this latest enemy to the trade and the women leaders of the new movement were largely drawn from its ranks. This is true even of helpers who came from overseas. As early as 1889, Miss Ackerman, a White Ribboner, spoke at a public meeting in connexion with the Alliance Annual Meeting. It was a most telling speech against compensation and contained many facts to show the successful working of Prohibition in the dry States of the U.S.A.

In 1895, Miss L. M. Kirk represented the W.C.T.U., and Mrs. Tasker the I.O.G.T., upon the Executive Committee of the Alliance. In 1898, Miss Kirk was made a vice-president and appointed organizing agent in which capacity she did good work travelling widely and lecturing frequently. A clear, forceful, logical speaker, her charming personality, her musical voice, her swift transition from grave to gay, and her wide and accurate knowledge made her a favourite with her many audiences.

In 1900, Miss Kirk became Mrs. A. R. Atkinson. For a long period she was a Dominion officer of the W.C.T.U., serving as recording secretary, presi- page 176 dent and vice-president. She represented the W.C.T.U. upon the Alliance Executive for very many years. She gave freely of her best to both organizations, and died in harness in 1921. Her successor as W.C.T.U. representative upon the Dominion Executive of the New Zealand Alliance was the Editor of the White Ribbon.

The fight for local No-License had taught women the value of the vote and a determined effort was made to secure Woman's Suffrage. The leader in this struggle was Mrs. Sheppard, Franchise Superintendent of the W.C.T.U. She was possessed of tireless energy, great tact and organizing ability. Well and ably she marshalled all her forces; much educative work was done; many weary miles travelled with petition forms. The final petition presented to the House was a record for the whole of Australasia.

The granting of the franchise to women lent fresh enthusiasm to their temperance work. They laboured earnestly to teach women the value of the vote and to persuade them to use it for the safety of the home, for the uplift of humanity, and for the honour of God. Mrs. Snackenberg, president, was warmly received at the Alliance Annual Meeting, when she told the story of what her Union had accomplished and what it hoped to do in the future.

Many whose enthusiasm was greater than their knowledge of human nature, expressed disappointment at the first results of the women's vote. At an Alliance Council held in Palmerston North at the end of last century some members were anxious to place a resolution expressing this disappointment upon the minutes. But Miss Kirk rose to her feet, and said that while she was quite prepared to admit
F. A. de la Mare,Noted athlete and temperance worker; Member N.Z. Alliance Executive

F. A. de la Mare,
Noted athlete and temperance worker; Member N.Z. Alliance Executive

Rev. E. Walker,Seven years National Organiser for N.Z.A

Rev. E. Walker,
Seven years National Organiser for N.Z.A

J. Malton Murray,General Secretary N.Z. Alliance and Associate Editor of this volume

J. Malton Murray,
General Secretary N.Z. Alliance and Associate Editor of this volume

Henry Field,First General Secretary N.Z. Alliance, 1886

Henry Field,
First General Secretary N.Z. Alliance, 1886

C. R. Edmond,Ex-General Secretary N.Z. Alliance

C. R. Edmond,
Ex-General Secretary N.Z. Alliance

Rt. Rev. Bishop F. A. Bennett,First Bishop of Aoteroa

Rt. Rev. Bishop F. A. Bennett,
First Bishop of Aoteroa

Sir Apirana Tupura Ngata, LL.B., K.C.M.G., M.P.,A great Macri leader, unfinching in opposition to liquor trafic

Sir Apirana Tupura Ngata, LL.B., K.C.M.G., M.P.,
A great Macri leader, unfinching in opposition to liquor trafic

page 177 that the women had not done their duty at the polls, yet neither had the men.

In 1898, Mrs. Boxall represented the W.C.T.U. upon the Alliance Executive. She and Mrs. Johnston Wright were devoted temperance workers from the earliest times until they received the call to higher service. Both on the platform and in the pulpit, Mrs. Wright lifted up her voice against an iniquitous trade. As Evangelistic Superintendent for the W.C.T.U., she did valuable work in keeping the ethical and spiritual side of the work before the Unions. She was in her place at the Christchurch Convention in 1926, but her strength failed ere the close of the sessions and she returned home to die. Mrs. Boxall was an untiring worker among the girls and young women. Until the close of her life she paid weekly visits to the factories, loved and honoured by the girls to whom she carried her buttonholes with their cheering words.

Mrs. Harrison Lee came over from Victoria in 1899 and again in 1902. Later on she became the wife of Mr. Andrew Cowie, of Southland, and, as Mrs. Lee Cowie, her name has become a household word in this the land of her adoption. She toured New Zealand in 1899 and again in 1902, under the auspices of the New Zealand Alliance. A fluent and ready speaker, with a racy answer for every questioner, she won a welcome wherever she went. She is a world's missionary for the W.C.T.U., and was, for a time, superintendent for ‘Scattered Members' Branch.’ She won many new members, got many to sign the temperance pledge, and kept in touch with them all. She was equally at home in the city hall and the country church, and gave and still gives liberally of her gifts and of herself to page 178 the cause she loves so well and serves with such untiring devotion.

In 1899, Miss Powell was first appointed as organizer for the Alliance. Like many others she was a W.C.T.U. officer, being Dominion corresponding secretary for many years as well as organizing secretary. When the ‘White Ribbon’ was first issued from the press, Miss Powell, together with Mrs. Sheppard, Miss Jessie Mackay and Miss L. M. Smith, shared the heavy task of launching the official organ. She was a valued contributor to its columns, and in her organizing journeys she made it widely known and secured many subscribers. To the lofty faith, the dauntless courage and the earnest devotion of this noble band of women, the W.C.T.U. owes a deep debt of gratitude.

The White Ribbon, which connects the various branches of the Union and co-ordinates its many activities, which does educative work upon temperance and social reform questions, would not to-day be the factor it is in the fight had they not struggled so desperately to pilot it through the dangers of infancy and the troublous times of early life.

During election year, Miss Powell was to be found settled in some electorate winning votes for local No-License. But between polls, she was far afield organizing and educating, building up existing Unions and founding new branches. She never shirked the many difficulties of pioneer work and never spared herself when work was to be done.

In 1899, Sir Robert and Lady Stout severed their connexion with the Alliance owing to Sir Robert's judicial appointment. At the Annual Meeting, Lady Stout was presented with a locket containing a lock page 179 of Frances Willard's hair. At this meeting Miss Kirk read a paper on ‘Liquor and Revenue,’ a subject she was quite at home with, and Mrs. Ostler moved that an open vote be taken in the House on the Continuance of Bellamy's. Despite their other activities, women still were to be found at their old post in the kitchen, and we find that the Annual Public Tea at which two hundred people sat down was provided by the W.C.T.U. All along, the Union has assisted its big brother the Alliance by providing teas at local and general meetings, suppers at socials, as well as lunches at Area Councils.

In 1900 the name of Mrs. Ostler was added to that of Miss L. M. Kirk (now Mrs. A. R. Atkinson) as vice-president. In this year Miss Florence Balganie was enlisted as a speaker by the Alliance. Mrs Napier was appointed as an organizer. She had done fine service in the Suffrage Campaign and now rendered valuable help as organizer. Later on she made her home in Scotland, but during the war period her New Zealand visit became prolonged and she worked as Young People's organizer for the W.C.T.U. in 1916 and 1917, and was one of the speakers in the Wellington Town Hall at a public meeting in connexion with the Annual Meeting of the Alliance.

In 1910 and 1911 began the struggle for National Prohibition. Women took their part here. Miss Ruth Atkinson was made a vice-president of the Alliance. Mrs. Harrison Lee and Miss Hughes were untiring field workers and on platform, in pulpit, and in the open air spoke for Prohibition.

Christchurch, too, had its women warriors. Mrs. Cole, Dominion president of the W.C.T.U., ever worked in close union with the Alliance. She was page 180 a fine organizer, excelled in conduciting business sessions where her quiet but firm rulings gained the respect of all, and her lamented eamented death in 1913 was a distinct loss to the Union and to the temperance cause.

Miss Roberts was another stalwart in the field of conflict. As a teacher her heart had been wrung by the sufferings strong drink inflicted upon the children. She organized and spoke for the Christchurch Prohibition League. As a platform speaker, she was forceful, logical and convincing. Her facts were always reliable and her figures beyond question. Her voice was ever raised against any and every national evil. Many of her ‘White Ribbon’ sisters remember her at Convention and can still hear the emphasis with which she would move a resolution—We emphatically protest.’

Through all these years the W.C.T.U. had been steadily increasing in numbers and influence. Its first Convention, in 1886, reported fifteen branches with a membership of 528. At its twenty-fifth Convention it numbered sixty-four branches with a membership of 2,300, also reporting eleven Maori Unions. When its last Convention met in Wellington in March 1929, the secretary reported two hundred and twenty-six Unions; of these twenty-eight are Young People's branches and eight are Maori Unions. In addition to these Unions, Nuie Island also reports a fine Union and good work, making a grand total of two hundred and twenty-eight Unions. The total membership is 8,360, of which number 658 belong to Nuie Island.

After Mrs. Dudley Ward's retirement from the president's chair, Mrs. Packe became president. She was followed by Mrs. Fulton, then Mrs. Schnackenberg, Mrs. A. R. Atkinson, Mrs. Cole, Mrs. Don, page 181 and Mrs. T. E. Taylor, a worthy succession of great-hearted, earnest souled women.

The W.C.T.U. has special departments for its work among the young. It places the babe upon its Cradle Roll and the mother promises to bring the child up as an abstainer. Each year a birthday card is sent to the child. Special Cradle Roll meetings and picnics are arranged. Mothers are invited with their children. A short address is given on some phase of the question of alcohol in its relation to child welfare. In 1928 the number on the Cradle Roll was 6,499, an increase for the year of 753.

At eight years of age the child is transferred to the Loyal Temperance Legion—the Union's ‘Band of Hope.’ Here they are not only taught the facts about alcohol and the principles of total abstinence, but they are trained to conduct their own meetings under the supervision of their own leader. These young folk are pledged abstainers and are, by a very small capitation fee linked up with the W.C.T.U., and made to feel that they are a part of a world-wide organization. They take a special interest in Willard Home, the home for friendless children, which is owned and conducted by the W.C.T.U. The children send gifts to their less fortunate comrades at Christmas. These L.T.L.'s number sixty-three with a total membership of 3,138.

From the Loyal Temperance Legion the young folk pass on into the Y.P.C.T.U., i.e., the Young People's Christian Temperance Union. This work is now being pushed on very vigorously, A special organizer, Miss C. M. McLay, has been appointed to supervise this work. She is a fine earnest speaker, a capable organizer, and has a wide knowledge of page 182 the scientific and social aspects of the liquor question. Under her wise guidance, the work is rapidly increasing. Speaker's classes have been formed, study circles also, to educate the members upon the evils of alcohol as a beverage and of its menace to the individual and the nation.

The White Ribbon, the official organ of the W.C.T.U., was first published in May 1895. Its first editor was Mrs. Sheppard, associate editors, Miss M. S. Powell and Miss L. M. Smith, while Mrs. Lovell-Smith was business manager. It consisted of eight small pages. Now it has grown to a sixteen page magazine issued monthly. It also contains a fine supplement for the children, and this year has added a four page supplement, The Beacon, especially devoted to the work of the ‘Y’ branches. At first the financial strain was very severe. About 1908, Mrs. Oldham was editor, with Mrs. Low as associate editor, and Miss Harrison as business manager. In 1913, Mrs. Oldham was compelled by ill-health to relinquish the work. She had enlarged the paper and placed it upon a sound basis financially. She was succeeded by Mrs. Peryman as editor and business manager. In 1913, the circulation was about 1,850, now it has increased to 4,900.

The W.C.T.U. has always recognized the value of preventive work. Their department of rest and refreshment booths supplied temperance refreshments to patrons of A. & P. shows at a time when the liquor bar was regularly to be seen on show grounds. In Christchurch especially this work became very large and important. The Union had its own kitchen and dining-room, and, during the two days of the Canterbury A. & P. show supplied many thousand meals.

page 183

During the progress of the Great War, women recognized strong drink as an enemy as much to be dreaded as the Germans. The officers of the W.C.T.U. presented a petition, signed by leaders of Women's Societies, to the Parliament in 1915, asking that liquor be banished from Bellamy's during the duration of the war. Mr. A. S. Malcolm presented this petition to the Lower House, and the Hon. J. G. W. Aitken to the Upper House. When the combined vote of both Houses was taken upon this request, it was lost by a small majority.

The first petition for six o'clock closing was presented by the W.C.T.U., and it contained over 63,000 signatures. Two later petitions for this reform were the combined work of the Union and the Alliance, though few will question that the actual securing of signatures was largly the work of the women.

During the Campaign of 1919, Mrs. Don, Dominion president of the W.C.T.U., gave several months of service as a speaker to the Alliance. Again in 1925 she travelled widely and addressed many meetings. Mrs. Don was one of the first women preachers in the Dominion and the Franchise Campaign brought her on to the platform. An impassioned and inspiring speaker, she has more than a touch of the old prophetic fire. Mrs. Don and Miss Henderson toured the U.S.A. in 1924, and visited England and India. They returned full of enthusiasm and quite convinced that Prohibition is a success in America. While there, Mrs. Don preached the Convention sermon in connexion with the National Jubilee Convention in U.S.A. During her 1925 campaign, she charmed her many audiences with inspiring accounts of what she had seen in page 184 America and urged the electors here to vote ‘New Zealand dry.’

Miss Henderson, B.A., J.P., has been for fifteen years corresponding secretary of the W.C.T.U. She has done much service for the Christchurch Prohibition League, both with voice and pen. As a speaker, she is calm, clear and logical; she knows her subject thoroughly, and her great store of information is ever to be drawn upon by fellow-workers. She is legal and parliamentary superintendent for the Union and keeps close watch upon all legislation bearing upon social and temperance reform.

In 1927 the W.C.T.U. promoted a women's petition in favour of a two-issue ballot paper. This was circulated in every electorate; over 87,000 women's signatures were secured throughout New Zealand, and the petition was presented by each electorate to its own member. Mrs. T. E. Taylor, president of the Union, visited district and local Unions and by her presence and her inspiring addresses stimulated them to work.

In taking a survey of the social history of the Dominion, one is struck by this fact, that women early recognized the liquor traffic as a deadly menace to everything that is best in our national life—that they sought ways of fighting the evil. To the ranks of the Rechabites and the Good Templars came brave, earnest women, eager to organize for the defence of their homes and their loved ones. Many of the earlier officers of the W.C.T.U. had been trained in Rechabite Tents and Good Templar Lodges. Even to-day their influence is felt in its ranks. Mrs. Watson, J.P., Nelson's president, has ever been a leading Good Templar, and the editor page 185 of the White Ribbon commenced her work as a temperance officer in a Rechabite Tent.

Miss Kennedy, an officer of the I.O.R., did yeoman service to the cause of temperance. An earnest, forceful and attractive speaker, she did much to stimulate the various Tents visited by her and greatly helped in the spread of the temperance cause.

Many women's organizations, not distinctly temperance, have combined under the leadership of the W.C.T.U. when national action was required. A notable instance being when the officers of the various women's societies signed an appeal to Parliament to close the bar at Bellamy's during the period of the Great War. The National Council of Women passed a resolution in favour of Prohibition. Mrs. J. Cook, president of the Auckland W.C.T.U., served a term as president of the Dominion N.C.W.

Women also found a field for service in the Prohibition Leagues, which were such a prominent feature of the early days of the campaign. In Christchurch both Miss Roberts and Miss Henderson won their spurs in this work. Miss Bishop did fine work as secretary of the Riccarton Electoral League and also as secretary of the Canterbury Prohibition Council. She was modest and retiring, but a most capable worker and is still in the ranks of the W.C.T.U. Mrs. McCombs, J.P., was another who began as president of the Young People's No-License League. She became a devoted W.C.T.U. worker, holding office as president of the Christchurch Union and still is Sumner's president. For a time Mrs. McCombs was Dominion treasurer of the W.C.T.U. Now her energies are largely devoted to civics and as member of the Christchurch page 186 City Council, the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, she is doing good service to her native city.

All temperance societies gather to confer under the leadership of the New Zealand Alliance. The W.C.T.U. and the Y.W.C.A. are always represented on its Dominion Executive by a woman, and the I.O.G.T. has sometimes sent a female delegate. At the Annual Meeting of the Alliance, all district presidents of the W.C.T.U. have a seat.

Mrs. T. E. Taylor, J.P., Dominion president of the W.C.T.U., is a vice-president of the Alliance. Upon occasions when deputations have been sent by the Annual Meeting to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Taylor has spoken on behalf of the women's societies. In heart stirring-words and with thrilling tones she has voiced the right of the child to be well-born, has told in calm, clear, logical terms how the liquor trade hinders this, and has pleaded for a fair, square deal for the child. Mrs. Taylor represented the W.C.T.U. at the Women's Pan-Pacific Conference held in Honolulu in August, 1928. She is a good speaker, deeply sensible of the importance of her subject; is also a very capable organizer and a well-beloved leader.

The vice-president of the Dominion W.C.T.U. is Mrs. Hiett, of Dunedin. She is a Deaconess of the Baptist Church and a prominent social worker. Knowing well the havoc strong drink makes in the homes and among the youth of our cities and towns, she is heart and soul in the fight for a ‘Dry Dominion,’ and, as president of the Otago district, she is giving all the powers of her consecrated womanhood to lead her forces to victory.

Mrs. Evans, M.A., is the recording secretary of the Dominion Union. She is cultured and scholarly and was one of the first women in the British page 187 Empire to hold a University degree. A gracious and sweet personality, admired by all, and tenderly loved by the inner circle of her fellow-workers.

In Miss Lovell-Smith, the W.C.T.U. has a treasurer who is a trained accountant with a long business experience. A life-long prohibitionist, the daughter of one of the oldest members of the Union, she gives freely of her time and her talent to the cause she loves so well.

The Union's answer to the challenge of the last poll has been the determination of the delegates of 1929 Convention to start a forward movement. They have purchased a fine Headquarters; paid down a deposit of £1,000, and have set out to raise a million shillings. The campaign is well organized and with faith and work combined will, without a doubt, succeed in their effort. This million shilling fund will clear the mortgage off Headquarters and supply a campaign fund for the next poll.