Woman and temperance: or, The work and workers of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

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Whoo-ee, another gripping page-turner of a book about prohibition! There’s something a bit disconcerting about the lavish praise heaped on Frances Willard by her adoring minions of the WCTU… they devote an introductory chapter of this book to describing in great detail St. Frances’ upbringing (“sprung from that strong New England stock which, when transplanted into Western soil, often finds the best conditions of growth”). Skip the encomiums and get right to the heart of the beast, Willard’s attempt to describe the history and advocates of the WCTU. It’s fairly dry stuff, pun partially intended. With all the praying and hymnal singing and speech-making, there’s not a lot that my brain wants to linger on here. Part of the reason this section of the prohibition story remains under-appreciated is because the characters are all too good and godly. Where’s the scandal? Where’s the drama? Instead, we have chapter after chapter (punctuated with grim line drawings) of the ladies involved. My head nearly bursting with Jesus picnics and earnest entreaties, I began to focus only on the stories of those ladies labeled Miss, not Mrs, hoping for something of more interest (nope). On page 227 there is a recipe for unfermented wine, should you be in the market for such a thing (crushed grapes and water boiled then strained, sugar added). With this, I leave my Willard wanderings and hop onto more colorful characters.