WCTU Time Line,

Red Letter Days, &
a Brief Summary of

National Presidents' Terms

(Pictures of Presidents available in the History section.)

December 1873 - 1874

Woman's Crusade

August, 1874

An organizational meeting of the WCTU was held on the Chautauqua Grounds at Chautauqua, New York

November 18-20, 1874

The First National Convention of the WCTU was held in Cleveland, Ohio.  They began the project of erecting water fountains in the downtown areas of cities.


Annie Wittenmyer, First National WCTU President During the Civil War she had been responsible for creating diet kitchens in the army hospitals which saved thousands of lives.  She was also responsible for the development of a home in Iowa for orphans of soldiers and sailors. As first National President, she helped the organization grow to  1,000 local unions in 23 states with over 26,000 members


Concern was expressed about the use of tobacco in addition to alcohol - the primary focus.


A pledge of total abstinence from alcohol was adopted as the basis for WCTU membership. (It remains the same today.)


Frances E. Willard, Second National President
Prior to her election, she served as the first female president of a woman's college. As WCTU President, she adopted the ``Do Everything" policy which  encouraged women to learn to speak in public, be involved in every social issue needing a woman's  perspective, and to own their own businesses. She founded the World's WCTU.


Frances Willard and her secretary, Anna Gordon, visited every city and town in the US with a population of over 10,000.


The WCTU endorsed and promoted kindergartens.


The WCTU promoted physical education for women; Frances Willard had her own personal trainer and learned to ride a bicycle.


Death of Frances Willard


Lillian M. N. Stevens, Third National President
She continued as President of Maine while National President. She loved children.  She promoted shelters and reformatories for women and campaigned for matrons in jails.  She was active in legislative matters which lead to prohibition after her death. Her horse, Madge, pulled her carriage 50,000 miles.


The National Headquarters of the WCTU was moved to the former home of Frances Willard in Evanston, Illinois.


Every state required the teaching of scientific temperance instruction in all public schools.


The Statue of Frances E. Willard was placed in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol in Washington, D. C. It was over 50 years before another woman was so honored.


The Literature Building was erected behind the home of Frances Willard.  Yearly 56 - 60 million pages of temperance material was distributed.


Death of Lillian Stevens


Anna Gordon, Fourth National President
She was musical and full of fun. She served as Willard's secretary and made all the travel and speaking arrangements for the popular Willard. She developed  the temperance program for children (Loyal Temperance Legion) and wrote many songs for them.

January 16, 1919

The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) prohibited the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, and exportation  of alcohol. (Only men could vote.)

August 26,1920

The 19th Amendment gave the vote to women.  WCTU members had actively campaigned for this right.


The Headquarters Building was added on to the Literature Building


Ella A. Boole, Fifth National President
She was a great orator and champion of prohibition. She also was an administrative genius who could give attention to details without losing sight of larger concerns. After prohibition was repealed, she stated that "Repeal will not change the nature of alcohol."

December 5,1933

The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment. 

1933 - 1944

Ida B. Wise Smith, 6th National President
Before being elected, she helped promote child welfare and research at the University of Iowa. President Hoover appointed her to the White House Conference on Child Health. She had a far-reaching vision and never wavered in her efforts.


The Frances Willard Memorial Library was added to the Headquarters Building


Mamie Colvin, 7th  National President
As a young student, she was famous for championing  the unpopular prohibition cause. She won many medals for her oratory. She received many honorary degrees. After her retirement she collapsed while speaking at a Temperance Sunday church program and died.           


Agnes D. Hays, 8th National President
During her adminstration, sales of Signal Press (WCTU Publishing House) materials doubled. She initiated the college oratorical contests and sermon contests. She authored the 100th-anniversary history of the WCTU, Heritage of Dedication


The first Intercollegiate Oratorical Contest was held at the National Convention.  They are still held each year.


Ruth Tooze, 9th National President
She promoted the ``Hour of Social Freedom" which encouraged the use of non-alcoholic drinks. The 18 departments of work were reduced to 8. The media remembers her for this statement: ``My name is Tooze, it rhymes with booze, and I'm a'gin it."


``Rest Cottage" as Frances Willard had called her home, was now called Willard House and was placed on the National Historic Landmark Register.

Week of April 23, 1967

Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson to proclaim National Youth Temperance Education Week. (The fourth week of April is still observed as YTE Week.) Special materials, including church bulletin inserts and activity pages and leaflets for children and teens, are promoted.


100th Anniversary of the WCTU was celebrated


Edith K. Stanley, 10th National President
 She had been a member of The Evangels, the first woman's gospel quartet to broadcast coast to coast. She believed that anything worth doing was worth doing right. She was a strong promoter of the organization and mentored many young people.


Martha Edgar, 11th National President
She was a pastor's wife. Ever gracious, she encouraged the recruitment of new members and putting  them to work. During her presidency the nation began awakening to the alcohol problem and its addictive nature. 


Rachel B. Kelly, 12th National President
She had been a teacher and administrator prior to her presidency. She believed much could be accomplished if there was no concern about who received the credit. She initiated several programs to modernize the organization as listed below. The idea of a yearly  National Project was introduced.


Creation of the National Board of Education


Restoration of the exterior of the Willard House


Formation of the Frances Willard Historical Association
1996 - 2006

Sarah F. Ward, 13th National President
Website was begun in 1996. She authored the history for the 125th year, The White Ribbon Story: 125 Years of  Service to Humanity. A new initiative to involve younger women is being promoted as Project Managers.


The First Annie Wittenmyer White Ribbon Award was presented to C. M. Newton, Director of Athletics at the University of Kentucky, for refusing to accept any alcoholic beverage advertisements at the University's  athletic events.


Celebration of the 125th anniversary of the WCTU was observed.  During the National Convention a visit was made to Chautauqua Institution and Fredonia, NY where the first group was called WCTU.

2006 - 2014

Rita K. Wert, 14th National President.

2014 -

Sarah F. Ward, 15th National President