September 1897


This document is one of the numerous newspaper clippings tucked between the final pages of the Oberlin W.C.T.U Minute Book. The article in its entirety is a lengthy annual summary of the Oberlin W.C.T.U’s work. I have excerpted the sections that appeared most relevant to our collection. The opening passage is especially revealing as it describes the structure of the W.C.T.U. Consisting of numerous interlocking departments, the organization was free to, as Frances Willard advised, do everything.

One of these departments arranged a visit by Mrs. Whitney, an Oberlin college graduate who, since her marriage, had moved to Honolulu. Similarly, this document introduces Mrs. Stover, who was due to return to Africa in 1898. In conjunction with Neal Dow’s speech and the Union’s concern for conditions in Cuba, the lives of these two women illustrate that temperance work in Oberlin was not an isolated endeavor. Female W.C.T.U members drew upon a wide range of experiences, and, working in collaboration with sister organizations across the country or across the seas, they were exposed to a world far beyond Oberlin, Ohio.

Document Text:1

clipping_Sept_1897_aThe Secretary and Treasurer of the W.C.T.U for the Year Beginning September, 1897

….Nearly all of these departments have had a part of the time of some one meeting, for the presentation of their work, and most interesting and profitable have they been. At one meeting we were addressed by Mrs. Whitney, president of the W.C.T.U of Honolulu;2 by this way we were enabled to come in clipping_Sept_1897_btouch with the works – I was going to say in foreign fields – but no, in a far off corner of our own land.

…March 20th a Union service was held in First Church to celebrate the birthday of the great apostle of temperance, Hon. Neal Dow,3 at that time we were addressed by Rev. I. E. Bill, sr.4 and Mrs. Stover;5 he spoke of the appalling result of the rum traffic in Africa, and said “that nothing but the avarice of the United States prevented shutting it out when the Congo Free State was formed,6 other countries having agreed to the importation.”

…While we have been so busily at work for things here at home we have not forgotten to stretch out a helping hand to our suffering sisters in far off Cuba.7 Considerable time and money were spent in making garments for the hospitals and those in need.




[1] Transcribed by Hanna Van Reed.

[2] Mrs. Mary S. Rice Whitney. Daughter of Lewis L. Rice, a prominent antislavery editor in northern Ohio. A graduate of Oberlin College, she married Dr. J.M. Whitney in 1869 and moved to Honolulu with him. When the first W.C.T.U was organized in Honolulu in 1884, Mrs. Whitney was unanimously elected president, a position she held until 1895

[3] Neal S. Dow (1804 – 1897) was the Mayor of Portland ,1851-1852, and a prominent temperance leader in the postbellum United States. He sponsored the Maine Law of 1851,which prohibited the sale of all alcoholic beverages in the state except for medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes. He co-founded the National Temperance Society and Publishing House in 1865, and was the Prohibition Party’s candidate for President in the election of 1880.

[4] Rev. Ingram Ebenezer Bill Jr. (1836- circa 1887), was a missionary in New Zealand and pastor of the First Yarmouth Baptist church in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He also served as a pastor in Caribou, Maine, Ohio, and New Brunswick. He is labeled as Rev. Bill Sr. in the minute book because his son, Rev. Bill III, was a notable pastor in Oberlin who was typically called Rev. Bill Jr., so the suffix on his name was likely changed to avoid confusion with his son (Heather Rojo, Nutfield Genealogy).

[5] Bertha Dodge Stover, married Rev. Wesley M. Stover, Oberlin Theological School class of 1881, on 12 June 1880. After marriage, the pair moved to Angola, West Africa, where Rev. Stover spent 38 years of service under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In 1920, Rev. Stover’s health would not permit him to remain longer in Africa and he and Mrs. Stover returned to the United States. They lived in Claremont, California, with their only child, Miss Helen Stover, until Rev. Stover’s death in 1922.

[6] The Congo Free State was organized in 1885 into a territory privately controlled by King Leopold II of Belgium. By 1908, Leopold’s brutal mistreatment of the native people and exploitation of natural resources had incited international calls for reform. The Congo was then removed from Leopold’s control and annexed as a colony to Belgium.

[7] After Cuba was proclaimed a protectorate of the United States in 1898, the Cuban War for Independence was transformed into the Spanish-American War. Thousands of Cuban families were made homeless and destitute by the conflict, compelling W.C.T.U members to become involved with the Central Relief Committee by providing bedding, clothing, and medical supplies to refugees. The Tampa W.C.T.U appealed to its sister organizations for assistance, and Unions throughout the country responded with donations.