Document 8: Oberlin W.C.T.U Minute-Book Entry,
12 July 18991

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Nearly three months after Mrs. Louise Renthinger posted her letter in West Africa, the Oberlin W.C.T.U. noted its receipt in their ledger book. Mrs. Baird's presentation of the letter is interspersed with local W.C.T.U. issues, giving a sense of the breadth and diversity of issues with which the Union was concerned. The formulaic beginning of the meeting, including the introductory prayer and Treasurer's report, appears in nearly every entry we examined. Coupled with Mrs. Renthinger's appeal for prayer on the behalf of African women and the popularity of the "White Ribbon Hymnal," the preeminence of this opening invocation firmly situates Oberlin women's temperance efforts within a religious framework. Called by their faith to moral reform and encouraged by Miss Willard's leadership to explore all avenues of improvement, Oberlin women of the Union confronted a wide variety of issues ranging from hospital visitation, to Curfew Law, to African missionary work.

Document Text:

July 12th, 1899. The meeting opened by singing the Lord's prayer, found via the White-Ribbon Hymnal.2 Mrs. Baird, our Supt. of Evangelist work read a very helpful and encouraging lesson from Ezekiel 47th and led in prayer.2 The union than sang, Press On.2 Minutes of the last meeting were read and accepted. Treasurer2 replied $19.54 in the treasury; 91 members; she wished we could make it up to one hundred before the next meeting. She had made 25 calls since the last meeting on behalf of the Union, some were successful and others were not. She wished some ladies would help her to get 100, Miss Delia Cheney was chosen our pianist and Miss Minnie Hart - assistant. The union here sang "For God, and Home, and Native Land."6 Mrs. Bateham who was for many years Supt. of "Sabbath Observance" was introduced and spoke a few words to us; she was very thankful that she had been able to do something in this blessed work, and hoped with renewed strength to do much more. Mrs. Baird read at letter from Mrs. Renthinger, Benito W. Africa7 thanking the Union for the book "Do Everything"8 by Miss Willard9 and for their sympathy and the assurance of their prayers for the women of Corisco.10 She said, "were it not for the rum bottle and its accompanying evils, conquests for the Gospel of Christ would be much more easily made on the Dark Continent." Mrs. Hart11 reported her investigation in regard to the proposed visit to the Co. Infirmary. Mrs. Crafts12 spoke about the Curfew Law13 and read a memorial which she presented for the action of the Union.

[1] Transcribed by Hanna Van Reed

[2] Refers to the 1892 book compiled by Anna Gordon (1853-1931), The White Ribbon Hymnal, or, Echoes of the Crusade: Compiled for the National and World's Woman's Christian Temperance Unions. It was collected after the 1892 National Convention unanimously authorized Gordon to create a temperance hymnal that would include the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that had inspired the White Ribbon Women since the 1874 birth of the WCTU.

[3] Ezekiel 47, King James Bible: The River from the Temple.

[4] L.M Gardner, Jason R. Randall, "Press On," The White Ribbon Hymnal, or, Echoes of the Crusade, 1861

[5] Mrs. Ellen Body.

[6] Rev. J.E. Rankin, D.D., J.W. Bischoff, "For God and Home and Native Land," The White Ribbon Hymnal, or, Echoes of the Crusade, 1892.

[7] A missionary station established in Spanish Guinea in 1864. It became the central station of the Mission after 1900, when the Mission's name was changed from the "Gabon and Corisco Mission" to the "West African Mission."

[8] Frances Willard's 1895 Do Everything: a Handbook for the World's White Ribboners, which proposed a comprehensive temperance strategy encompassing numerous interlocking departments and concurrent lobbying, petitioning, preaching, publication, and education.

[9] Frances Willard (1839-1898),President of the National W.C.T.U. 1879-1898.

[10] A small island located in the Bay of the Mitémélé River, in the Gulf of Guinea, that was acquired by colonial Spain in 1843. It was incorporated into Equatorial Guinea when the nation gained independence from Spain in 1986

[11] Jennie B. Hart (1871-1936), corresponding secretary of the Oberlin W.C.T.U.

[12] Annie Francis Crafts (1873-?) married Walter Crafts in 1898. Born in Shandon, Ohio, she was living in Paddy's Run, Ohio, when she enrolled at Oberlin, 1890-1897.

[13] As part of national platform the W.C.T.U supported the enforcement and heightening of nightly curfew restrictions. Fearing the "evils which grow in frightful proportion because of the presence of boys and girls on the street late at night," temperance women lobbied police forces to "check the roaming about of girls and boys through the public streets and their congregating in front of places of amusement and wherever there is any local attraction on the streets" (Temperance: A Monthly Journal of the Church Temperance Society, Church Temperance Society: 1908).