Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, March 19, 2021

WCTU in Sherburne County


During Women’s History Month we recognized several women impacting community and culture in Sherburne County.  We also need to note at least one of the many community organizations, led by women, that worked to impact and improve life in Sherburne County.  The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (the WCTU) remains one of the more important of these groups.

1911 Star News headline reporting vote
results on alcohol sales. 
Nationally the WCTU organized in 1874 urging abstinence from alcohol.  Beginning in 1878, under the leadership of Francis Willard, the group also advocated for prison reform, labor laws, and suffrage.  Many regarded the group as one of the largest and most influential of reform societies in the United States during the 1800s.

In Sherburne County, the WCTU organized late.  In 1895, the Elk River Star News reported meetings at the Elk River Methodist Church.  Not until 1910 did the WCTU formally organize in Becker.  The leadership included Mrs. Howard Reed, Miss Dell Clitty, and Mrs. C. A. Johnson.  Two years later, a chapter organized in Big Lake. 

The chapters, apparently, held some influence.  In local elections held in 1911, while Elk River and Zimmerman voted to sell alcohol, Becker (by a slim three vote margin) voted to go dry.  According to the newspaper reports, Elk River had been dry for two years leading up to the 1911 vote.

Until national Prohibition became the law in 1920, groups in Sherburne County maintained an on-going debate about the deleterious effects of alcohol.  Local chapters of the WCTU clearly held some influence in the discussions and decisions.  An impact worth noting during Women’s History Month.


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