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School Lessons - February 6, 2015

A formal portrait of the members of the 1897 Executive Committee of the Kansas chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society /

Q: In 1885, the Kansas Legislature passed a law that required schools to teach this in the classroom. What was it?


A: Temperance (or prohibition: refraining from alcohol consumption)

According to the Kansas Historical Society, the Kansas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (KWCTU) was organized at a camp meeting at Bismark Grove near Lawrence in 1878, with the first convention being held in 1879. They adopted the badge of the national temperance organization - the white ribbon “symbolic not only of purity and peace, but it includes all correlated reforms that center in the protection of the home.” The KWCTU took part in the Kansas constitutional prohibition amendment campaign in 1879-1880. The organization also lobbied in favor of a law passed in 1885 which required prohibition or temperance teaching in schools.

The group did not confine itself to issues related to alcohol. It also worked against white slavery. After the turn of the century, the organization began supporting temperance workers in Africa, maintained a home for elderly women in Kansas City (the Carry A. Nation Home), worked with both prisoners and military men in the state, and concerned itself with issues surrounding tobacco, narcotics and motion pictures. The KWCTU also concerned itself with such issues as child welfare, Sabbath observance, prison reform, social morality and campaigned against narcotics.

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