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The Newberg Women's Christian Temperance Union Spirit of Activism


By Phyllis Kirkwood

              A look into the minutes of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Newberg Chapter from 1888, held in the archives of George Fox University, reveals a small but active group of ladies dedicated to educating the community about the evils of drinking.  Mrs. Haworth, Mrs. Edwards, and Mrs. Hoskins were among these prohibition warriors who organized dinners, passed out literature, and monitored the polls.  Their influence may have helped to delay the advent of liquor sales in Newberg until the year 1966.
Evangeline Martin, one of the members of the Newberg Women's Christian Temperance Union, with her Newberg Friends Church Sunday school class, including a young Herbert Hoover on the far right front row. Circa 1885. Photo courtesy of the George Fox University Archives.

      The Superintendent of Press Work sent a weekly column to the newly- established Newberg Graphic. The Committee on the Band of Hope held meetings with children and youth in which the young people were encouraged to sign a pledge not to drink.  Delegates were sent to District and State Conventions. The Union maintained an extensive list of honorary members, including men who agreed with their cause.
       An ecumenical group, meetings were often held in the members’ homes, Friends Hall, the Evangelical Church or “The Academy” (precursor to Pacific College, founded in 1891, which became George Fox University).  They would often pay a man fifty cents to build a fire in the stove. Meetings consisted of devotional readings, essays written and read by members, committee reports, and strategic planning.  Committee superintendents not turning in a report might be fined and their names listed in the minutes as being delinquent.
      Prohibition was not the only concern of the Union.  The Committee on Sabbath Desecration visited the owner of Wald’s Drug Store to encourage him not to open the store on Sunday.  The Ladies were influential in having inappropriate pictures removed from the train station and created an attractive reading room with wholesome literature.  They supported the Industrial Home in Portland, the efforts of White Shield to aid unwed mothers, and distributed information on personal hygiene.  They advocated for public kindergarten nearly a hundred years before its adoption in Oregon.
     The W.C.T. U. minutes, written in the swirling Spencerian penmanship of the day, provide a window into community activism more than a century ago,  the spirit of which continues to this day.

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