THE WOMAN'S CRUSADE.
For every one saved through the agency of inebriate asylums and reformatory homes, hundreds are lost and hundreds added yearly to the great army of drunkards. Good and useful as such institutions are, they do not meet the desperate exigencies of the case. Something of wider reach and quicker application is demanded. What shall it be? In prohibition many look for the means by which the curse of drunkenness is to be abated. But, while we wait for a public sentiment strong enough to determine legislation, sixty thousand unhappy beings are yearly consigned to drunkards' graves.
What have temperance men accomplished in the fifty years during which they have so earnestly opposed the drinking usages of society and the traffic in alcoholic drinks? And what have they done for the prevention and cure of drunkenness? In limiting the use of intoxicants, in restricting the liquor traffic and in giving a right direction to public sentiment, they have done a great and good work; but their efforts to reclaim the fallen drunkard have met with sad discouragements. In the work of prevention, much has been accomplished; in the work of cure, alas! how little. The appetite once formed, and the unhappy victim finds himself under the control of a power from which he can rarely get free. Pledges, new associations, better and more favorable surroundings, all are tried, and many are saved; but the number of the saved are few in comparison with those who, after a season of sobriety, fall back into their old ways.
In all these many years of untiring efforts to lift up and save the fallen, what sad disappointments have met our earnest and devoted temperance workers. From how many fields, which seemed full of a rich promise, have they gathered only a meagre harvest. But still they have worked on, gaining strength from defeat and disappointment; for they knew that the cause in which they were engaged was the cause of God and humanity, and that in the end it must prevail.
Meantime, the bitter, half-despairing cry, "O Lord, how long!" was going up from the lips of brokenhearted wives and mothers all over the land, and year by year this cry grew deeper and more desperate. All hope in man was failing from their hearts. They saw restrictive legislation here and there, and even prohibition; but, except in a few cases, no removal of the curse; for behind law, usage, prejudice, interest and appetite the traffic stood intrenched and held its seat of power.
At last, in the waning years of the first century of our nation's existence, their failing hope in man died utterly, and with another and deeper and more despairing cry, the women of our land sent up their voices to God. Not now saying "O Lord, how long!" but "Lord, come to our help against the mighty!"
What followed is history. The first result of this utter abandonment of all hope in moral suasion or legal force, and of a turning to God in prayer and faith, was that strange, intense, impulsive movement known as the "Woman's Crusade."
BEGINNING OF THE CRUSADE.
Let us briefly give the story of its initiation late in the month of December, 1873. Dr. Dio Lewis, in a lecture which he had been engaged to deliver at Hillsboro, Ohio, related how, forty years before, his pious mother, the wife of a drunkard, who was struggling to feed, clothe and educate her five helpless children, went, with other women who had a similar sorrow with her own, to the tavern-keeper who sold their husbands drink, and, kneeling down in his bar-room, prayed with and for him, and besought him to abandon a business that was cursing his neighbors and bringing want and suffering into their homes. Their prayers and entreaties prevailed. After telling this story of his mother, the lecturer asked all the women present who were willing to follow her example to rise, and in response, nearly the entire audience arose. A meeting was then called for the next morning, to be held in the Presbyterian church.
Dr. Lewis was a guest at the old mansion of Ex-Governor Trimble, father of Mrs. E.J. Thompson, a most cultivated, devoted Christian woman, mother of eight children. She was not present at the lecture, but "prepared," as she writes, "as those who watch for the morning, for the first gray light upon this dark night of sorrow. Few comments were made in our house," she continues, "upon this new line of policy until after breakfast the next morning, when, just as we gathered about the hearth-stone, my daughter Mary said, very gently: 'Mother, will you go the meeting this morning?' Hesitatingly I replied: 'I don't know yet what I shall do.' My husband, fully appreciating the responsibility of the moment, said: 'Children, let us leave your mother alone; for you know where she goes with all vexed questions;' and pointing to the old family Bible, left the room. The awful responsibility of the step that I must needs next take was wonderfully relieved by thought of the 'cloudy pillar' and 'parted waters' of the past; hence, with confidence, I was about turning my eye of faith 'up to the hills,' from whence had come my help, when, in response to a gentle tap at my door, I met my dear Mary, who, with her Bible in hand and tearful eyes, said: 'Mother, I opened to Psalm cxlvi., and I believe it is for you.' She withdrew and I sat down to read the wonderful message from God. As I read what I had so often read before, the Spirit so strangely 'took of the things of God,' and showed me new meanings, I no longer hesitated, but, in the strength thus imparted, started to the scene of action.
"Upon entering the church, I was startled to find myself chosen as leader. The old Bible was taken down from the desk, and Psalm cxlvi. read. Mrs. General McDowell, by request, led in prayer, and, although she had never before heard her own voice in a public prayer, on this occasion 'the tongue of fire' sat upon her, and all were deeply affected. Mrs. Cowden, our Methodist minister's wife, was then requested to sing to a familiar air--
"'Give to the winds thy fears! Hope, and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears: He will lift up thy head.'
"And while thus engaged, the women (seventy-five in number) fell in line, two and two, and proceeded first to the drug stores and then to the hotels and saloons."
Thus began this memorable Crusade, which was maintained in Hillsboro for over six months, during which time the saloons were visited almost daily.
Within two days, the women of Washington Court-House, a neighboring town, felt the inspiration of their sisters, and inaugurated the movement there. A description of what was done at this place will afford the reader a clear impression of the way in which the "Crusaders" worked, and the results that followed their efforts. We quote from the account given by Mrs. M.V. Ustick:
"After an hour of prayer, forty-four women filed slowly and solemnly down the aisle and started forth upon their strange mission, with fear and trembling, while the male portion of the audience remained at church to pray from the success of this new undertaking; the tolling of the church-bell keeping time to the solemn march of the women, as they wended their way to the first drug store on the list (the number of places within the city limits where intoxicating drinks were sold was fourteen--eleven saloons and three drug stores). Here, as in every place, they entered singing, every woman taking up the sacred strain as she crossed the threshold. This was followed by the reading of the appeal and prayer, and then earnest pleading to desist from their soul-destroying traffic and to sign the dealers' pledge. Thus, all the day long, going from place to place, without stopping even for dinner or lunch, till five o'clock, meeting with no marked success; but invariably courtesy was extended to them.
"The next day an increased number of women went forth, leaving the men in the church to pray all day long. On this day the contest really began, and at the first place the doors were found locked. With hearts full of compassion, the women knelt in the snow upon the pavement to plead for the Divine influence upon the heart of the liquor-dealer, and there held their first street prayer-meeting. The Sabbath was devoted to a union mass-meeting. Monday, December 29th, is one long to be remembered in Washington as the day on which occurred the first surrender ever made by a liquor-dealer of his stock of liquors of every kind and variety to the women, in answer to their prayers and entreaties, and by them poured into the street. Nearly a thousand men, women and children witnessed the mingling of beer, ale, wine and whisky, as they filled the gutters and were drunk up by the earth, while bells were ringing, men and boys shouting, and women singing and praying to God, who had given the victory.
"On the fourth day, the campaign reached its height; the town being filled with visitors from all parts of the country and adjoining villages. Another public surrender and another pouring into the street of a larger stock of liquors than on the day before, and more intense excitement and enthusiasm. In eight days all the saloons, eleven in number, had been closed, and the three drug stores pledged to sell only on prescription.
"Early in the third week the discouraging intelligence came that a new man had taken out license to sell liquor in one of the deserted saloons, and that he was backed by a whisky house in Cincinnati to the amount of five thousand dollars to break down this movement. On Wednesday, 14th of January, the whisky was unloaded at his room. About forty women were on the ground and followed the liquor in, and remained holding an uninterrupted prayer-meeting all day and until eleven o'clock at night. The next day--bitterly cold--was spent in the same place and manner, without fire or chairs, two hours of that time the women being locked in, while the proprietor was off attending a trial. On the following day, the coldest of the winter of 1874, the women were locked out, and remained on the street holding religious services all day long. Next morning a tabernacle was built in the street just in front of the house, and was occupied for the double purpose of watching and praying through the day; but before night the sheriff closed the saloon, and the proprietor surrendered. A short time afterwards, on a dying bed, this four-day's liquor-dealer sent for some of these women, telling them their songs and prayers had never ceased to ring in his ears, and urging them to pray again in his behalf; so he passed away."
From this beginning the new temperance movement increased and spread with a marvelous rapidity. The incidents attendant on the progress of the "Crusade" were often of a novel and exciting character. Such an interference with their business was not to be tolerated by the liquor men; and they soon began to organize for defense and retaliation. They not only had the law on their side, but in many cases, the administrators of the law. Yet it often happened, in consequence of their reckless violations of statutes made to limit and regulate the traffic, that dealers found themselves without standing in the courts, or entangled in the meshes of the very laws they had invoked for protection.
In the smaller towns the movement was, for a time, almost irresistible; and in many of them the drink traffic ceased altogether. But when it struck the larger cities, it met with impediments, against which it beat violently for awhile, but without the force to bear them down. Our space will not permit us to more than glance at some of the incidents attendant on this singular crusade. The excitement that followed its inauguration in the large city of Cleveland was intense. It is thus described by Mrs. Sarah K. Bolton in her history of the Woman's Crusade, to which we have already referred:
HOW THE CRUSADERS WERE TREATED.
"The question was constantly asked: 'Will the women of a conservative city of one hundred and fifty thousand go upon the street as a praying-band?' The liquor-dealers said: 'Send committees of two or three and we will talk with them; but coming in a body to pray with us brands our business as disreputable.' The time came when the Master seemed to call for a mightier power to bear upon the liquor traffic, and a company of heroic women, many of them the wives of prominent clergymen, led by Mrs. W.A. Ingham, said: 'Here am I; the Lord's will be done.'
"On the third day of the street work, the whisky and beer interest seemed to have awakened to a full consciousness of the situation. Drinkers, dealers and roughs gathered in large numbers on the street to wait for the praying women. A mob, headed by an organization of brewers, rushed upon them, kicking them, striking them with their fists and hitting them with brickbats. The women were locked in a store away from the infuriated mob, who, on the arrival of a stronger body of police, were dispersed, cursing and yelling as they went. The next day, taking their lives in their hands, a larger company of women went out, and somewhat similar scenes were enacted. Meantime, public meetings, called in the churches, were so crowded that standing room could not be found. The clergy, as one man, came to the front. Business men left their stores and shops, ministers their studies, and a thousand manly men went out to defend the praying women. The military companies were ordered to be in readiness, resting on their arms; the police force was increased, and the liquor interest soon made to feel that the city was not under its control. The mob never again tried its power. For three months, with scarcely a day's exception, the praying-bands, sometimes with twenty in each, working in various parts of the city; sometimes with five hundred, quietly and silently, two by two, forming a procession over a quarter of a mile in length, followed by scores in carriages, who could not bear the long walks, went from saloon to saloon, holding services where the proprietors were willing, and in warehouses which were thrown open to them, or in vacant lots near by, when they were unwilling. Men took off their hats, and often wept as the long procession went by. Little children gathered close to the singers, and catching the words, sang them months afterwards in their dingy hovels. Haggard women bent their heads as they murmured with unutterable sadness, 'You've come too late to save my boy or my husband.' Many saloon-keepers gave up their business and never resumed it. Many who had lost all hope because of the appetite which bound them, heard from woman's lips the glad tidings of freedom in Christ, and accepted the liberty of the Gospel."
In many other places the crusaders met with violence from exasperated liquor-dealers and their brutish associates. A pail of cold water was thrown into the face of a woman in Clyde, Ohio, as she knelt praying in front of a saloon. Dirty water was thrown by pailfuls over the women at Norwalk. At Columbus, a saloon-keeper assaulted one of the praying-band, injuring her seriously. In Cincinnati, forty-three women were arrested by the authorities for praying in the street and lodged in jail. In Bellefontaine, a large liquor-dealer declared that if the praying-band visited him he would use powder and lead; but the women, undeterred by his threat, sang and prayed in front of his saloon every day for a week, in spite of the insults and noisy interferences of himself and customers. At the end of that time the man made his appearance at a mass-meeting and signed the pledge; and on the following Sunday attended church for the first time in five years.
DECLINE OF THE CRUSADING SPIRIT.
From Ohio the excitement soon spread to other Western States, and then passed east and south, until it was felt in nearly every State in the Union; but it did not gain force by extension. To the sober, second-thought of those who had, in singleness of heart, self-consecration and trust in God, thrown themselves into this work because they believed that they were drawn of the Spirit, came the perception of other, better and more orderly ways of accomplishing the good they sought. If God were, indeed, with them--if it was His Divine work of saving human souls upon which they had entered, He would lead them into the right ways, if they were but willing to walk therein. Of this there came to them a deep assurance; and in the great calm that fell after the rush and excitement and wild confusion of that first movement against the enemy, they heard the voice of God calling to them still. And, as they hearkened, waiting to be led, and willing to obey, light came, and they saw more clearly. Not by swift, impetuous impulse, but through organization and slow progression was the victory to be won.
In the language of Frances E. Willard, in her history of "The Woman's National Christian Temperance Union," to be found in the Centennial temperance volume: "The women who went forth by an impulse sudden, irresistible, divine, to pray in the saloons, became convinced, as weeks and months passed by, that theirs was to be no easily-won victory. The enemy was rich beyond their power to comprehend. He had upon his side the majesty of the law, the trickery of politics and the leagued strength of that almost invincible pair--appetite, avarice. He was persistent, too, as fate; determined to fight it out on that line to the last dollar of his enormous treasure-house and the last ounce of his power. But these women of the Crusade believed in God, and in themselves as among His appointed instruments to destroy the rum-power in America. 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 ignorantly hoped to take the enemy by a sudden assault, they buckled on the armor for the long campaign. The woman's praying-bands, earnest, impetuous, inspired, became the woman's temperance unions, firm, patient, persevering. The praying-bands were without leadership, save that which inevitably results from 'the survival of the fittest;' the woman's unions are regularly officered in the usual way. They first wrought their grand pioneer work in sublime indifference to prescribed forms of procedure--'so say we all of us' being the spirit of 'motions' often made, seconded and carried by the chair, while the assembled women nodded their earnest acquiescence; the second are possessed of good, strong constitutions (with by-laws annexed), and follow the order of business with a dutiful regard to parliamentary usage. In the first, women who had never lifted up their voices in their own church prayer-meetings stood before thousands and 'spoke as they were moved;' in the second, these same women with added experience, and a host of others who have since enlisted, impress the public thought and conscience by utterances carefully considered. The praying-bands, hoping for immediate victory, pressed their members into incessant service; the woman's unions, aware that the battle is to be a long one, ask only for such help as can be given consistently with other duties."
As the result of this intelligent effort at effective organization by the women who inaugurated and were prominent in the "Crusade," we have "The Woman's National Christian Temperance Union," with its auxiliary and local unions in nearly every State; one of the most efficient agencies in the practical work of temperance reform which the country has yet seen.