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Woman's Christian Temperance Union

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The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is the oldest continuing non-sectarian women's organization in the US and worldwide. The women of Fredonia, New York are credited with being the first of the women's groups to visit the saloons. Subsequently, on December 22, 1873, they were the first local organization to adopt the name, Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

The purpose of the WCTU was to combat the influence of alcohol on families and society. Frances Willard, a noted feminist, was its second president.

They were inspired by the Greek writer Xenophon who defined temperance as "moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful." In other words, should something be good, it should not be indulged in to excess. Should something be bad for you, it should be avoided altogether -- thus their attempts to rid their societal surroundings of what they saw (and still see) as the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, etc.

The WCTU also formed in Canada in 1874, in Ontario. In 1885 Letitia Youmans founded a nationwide organization which was to become the leading women's society in Canada's temperance movement. An Australian arm commenced operation in Australia in 1888, it was important in both the temperance and women's suffrage movements. In addition to campaigning against alcohol, the WCTU addressed social ills stemming from drunkenness such as domestic violence. It also campaigned for reforms that would improve the status of women in society, such as the right to vote. The WCTU was a major force in Prohibition-and was also influential in creating laws banning prostitution and recreational drugs in the United States.

Current issues for the WCTU include alcohol, which the organization recognizes as North America's number one drug problem, and illegal drugs. The WCTU has warned against the dangers of tobacco since 1875. They continue to this day in their fight against those substances which they see as harmful to society.

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