First Corresponding Secretary, National Woman's Christian Temperance Union
Stories of the Women's Crusades, Chicago, November 8, 1877
The Women's Crusades were protests against alcohol, and soon spread to 31 states. As the women spoke in saloons or prayed in the streets, (in bands), saloons closed and multitudes came to know Christ and quit drinking.
Part Two: The Crusades lead to the Women's Temperance Unions
The women of the Crusades believed in God, and in themselves as among his appointed instruments for the destruction of the rum power. They loved Christ's cause; they loved the native land that had been so mindful of them; they loved their sweet and sacred homes.
And so it came about that, though they had gone forth only as skirmishers, they soon fell into line of battle; though they had innocently hoped to overcome the enemy by a sudden assault, they buckled on the armor for the long campaign.
The Women's Praying Bands, earnest, impetuous, inspired, became the Women’s Temperance Unions, firm, patient, persevering. The Praying Bands were without leadership save that which inevitably results from the survival of the fittest; the Women’s Unions had regular officers. The first wrought their grand pioneer work in sublime indifference to prescribed forms of procedure; the second has good strong "Constitutions” (with By-Laws annexed).
The Praying Bands, looking for immediate deliverance, pressed their numbers into incessant service; the Women’s Unions, aware that the battle was to be a long one, asked their members only for such help as could be given consistently with other duties.
The early "enthusiasm” was replaced with "Patient Purpose” and with the same faith to conduct the Unions to victory, distant, but sure.
Never did any form of philanthropic work afford scope for so great diversity of talent and of method as this temperance reform “of the women, by the women.”
In the days of the Crusade a dear old grandmother said: “I’m of no use except to go along and cry,” and in the same spirit a servant said to the lady for whom she worked: “I be’ant good for much, but I kin hold the ole ombereller over you;” and even the family dog sometimes walked with stately step beside his mistress as she led her “Band.”
So in these blessed days that have succeeded, and which have brought such inspiration to our lives that “I’m glad I’m alive!” is a frequent exclamation, there is a place that seems “just made on purpose” for every honest heart and helpful hand. Some feel a special call to the gospel work, and others to the execution of the law; some give their time to organizing Unions, others to canvassing for subscribers to the paper; some raise money, others raise the tone of public sentiment; some work among the children, others labor for the men who drink and sell, and all are warmly welcomed and find abundant “elbow-room.”
That wonderful Crusade! It broke down sectarian barriers; it taught women their power to transact business, to mould public opinion by public utterance, and to influence the decisions of voters…to take up for their homes and country.
But best of all, it revealed to the mothers and daughters…their opportunity and duty to employ the growing leisure which our advancing civilization affords them, in building up Christ’s empire on the earth.
It is a very plain, practical matter to help organize the kingdom of heaven in a human breast. It is a business enterprise based on an eminently practical treatise known as the New Testament. Replace the brandy flask in the pocket of a drinking man by the Bible—get him to read with sincere wish to understand the words that are spirit and life, and you have set in motion the forces of a new dispensation in his heart. You have built him up within instead of propping him from without.
To give him a loaf of bread, if hungry, would be a good thing, but to put him on track of getting one for himself by feeding him with heavenly bread, is better. To put a broken arm in a sling is a kind act, but if one could by an electric touch make that arm whole, that were the supreme benefaction.
Analogous to that is the loving “gospel work” by which we help to enthrone conscience and enshrine Christ in a man’s soul.
The process is plain and simple: Prayer will cause a man to cease from sinning, as sin will cause a man to cease from prayer.
The whole problem of “how to do it” was wrought out over and over again by the women of the Crusade: “the masses” are to be lifted up one by one.
It is a question of contact. It is “elbow heathen” the Crusaders reached, just because they found them at their elbows. They acted on the principle that the man and woman in the next alley are a part of our parish.
Some people spend a lifetime chasing after “the masses,” and are in such hot pursuit they cannot stop to capture the unit of the mass—and that’s the nearest and the neediest man. The masses elude us—a glittering generality; the man, poor, needy, wicked, sad, is a most unglittering fact.
It is the way an army is recruited—one by one. It is the way Christ’s church adds to its members, and heaven to its souls—one by one.
First, best and most sacred of the lessons taught by the Crusade, was this lesson of individual work for Christ, which must be learned by every disciple before Christ comes as King in government, in society and individual life.
One human life and work signifies little to the world. But O, wherever little children grow to maturity with less to lure them into sin, and tempted manhood finds more helpful hands outstretched to save, there we shall still be blessing, though our names may be forgotten. Press on!