Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is a nonprofit organization that works to lessen social
problems. The organization's official name is the National Woman's Christian Temperance
Union. It is also commonly called the WCTU. One of the WCTU's chief aims is to educate
people, especially youths, on the harmful effects of alcohol, other narcotic drugs, and
tobacco. The WCTU has helped enact state laws requiring public schools to teach about such
The WCTU's programs also promote good citizenship, child welfare, and world peace. In
addition, the WCTU takes leading roles in other areas that deal with humanitarian
concerns. These areas include child abuse and equal justice for women and minority groups.
The WCTU has branches in all the states of the United States and in Puerto Rico and the
Virgin Islands. It was founded in 1874. The WCTU developed out of the Women's Temperance
Crusade of 1873. During this campaign, women church members went into saloons, sang hymns,
prayed, and asked the saloonkeepers to stop selling liquor. The Temperance Crusade swept
over 23 states, and resulted in the closing of thousands of places that sold liquor
throughout the nation.
Members of the Temperance Crusade attending the Chautauqua Sunday School Assembly in 1874
discussed the need for a national temperance organization. These discussions resulted in
the organization of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union in November 1874 at
Cleveland, Ohio. The WCTU's first president was Annie Wittenmyer, and the second was the
noted educator and reformer, Frances E. Willard (see WILLARD, FRANCES E.).
The organization grew rapidly, and its influence increased with its growth. It worked
through schools, churches, and other groups. Finally the Eighteenth Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States (passed in 1919) prohibited the manufacture, import,
export, and sale of alcoholic beverages. This amendment remained in force from 1920 until
1933, when the 21st Amendment repealed it. See PROHIBITION.
In 1883, Willard founded the first international organization for women, called the
World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union. It is made up of women's temperance groups in
72 countries and has about 500,000 members. The WCTU has headquarters at 1730 Chicago
Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201.
Critically reviewed by the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union.