Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mystery History -- Solved

Chris wins with his 7:05 a.m. Tuesday guess 'Beer or? boys'?? They look like the Women's Christian Temperance Union gals who protested at bars around the country, especially in Pasadena, in the 40's. Or maybe they're that evening's live karaoke. The bartender likes them."

In the 1947 photo above, members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union chide a customer in a Pasadena bar. The WCTU visited several drinking establishments in Pasadena that day, and they knew how to work a publicity machine.

Life Magazine covered their day-long mission and published several photos in the May 19, 1947, issue.

These marching grandmothers will seem strange to many younger Americans. But to older people, who can recall the violent days of hatchet-wielding, saloon-smashing Carry Nation, they will seem like nothing more than a wisp out of the past. In their own simple and direct way these women are exhibiting a peculiarly American penchant for reform by a peculiarly American form of enterprise.

These ladies have replaced the direct action of earlier days with persuasion. Like members of other dry organizations who are becoming active again, they are advocating measures short of an immediate campaign for outright prohibition. Using only prayer and petition, and guided, as they believe, by God, they paraded last week into barrooms of Pasadena, Calif. There they urged barkeepers to seek "more honorable" jobs. They pointed out possible law violations to proprietors. They pleaded with customers to sign no-drink pledges. At one bar they found a mother with her daughter, embraced the mother and prayed for her. Later the mother joined them in singing "Onward Christian Soldiers."

The marchers are, of course, Woman's Christian Temperance Union members. They are led by Mrs. Bessie Lee Cowie, 86, one of demon rum's most persistent foes. Tears came to Mrs. Cowie's eyes as she said, "Again and again girls have told me that their fall began with a glass of wine."

The barroom customers, however, appeared to have the attitude of Finley Peter Dunne's Mr Hennessy, who once remarked to the more famous Mr. Dooley, "Th' man who dhrinks modhrately ought to be allowed to have what he wants." Dooley's reply was, "What is his name? What novel is he in?"

There's a Southern California chapter of the WCTU.

I keep promising to do a post about how liquor was involved -- or not -- in Pasadena's founding. It's a fun and fascinating history, but too much info for this post. I will, I will!


Chris said...

Thanks, Ann. Great photo!

Bessie Lee Cowie was an interesting character. She became active in the WCTU in her native Australia in the 1880's and gained quite a following, making speeches and publishing booklets. Her 1893 booklet "Marriage and Heredity" was quite controversial, as it advocated abstinence except for procreation, even within marriage. She urged abstinence not just to stay free from sin but also as a form of women's rights. She was married twice, and moved to Honolulu in 1930 for medical reasons. Women were urged to leave Hawaii when WW2 broke out and she settled in Pasadena where she continued to campaign until her death in 1950.

Petrea said...

Fascinating as always, Ann. I always look forward to more, no matter what historical subject you choose.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Does the future post involve South Pasadena? Congratulations Chris; thankx for the additional info on Bessie

Thal Armathura said...

Ann, this bar interior looks like the Green Hotel's Green Room Bar and Lounge, I believe it was called. Love the saying on the wall and the old biersteins and the 40's curving moldings. Looks like a fairly upscale place. The history of Pasadena saloons, bars and lounges is a great subject.