Reference Work Entry

International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

pp 1665-1665

World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union

  • Thomas DaviesAffiliated withCity University

Address of Organization

Rygjehaugvn. 13 4265 Haavik Terrasse Karmøy Norway www.​wwctu.​com


One of the oldest international women's organizations, the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WWCTU) has played an important historical role in the promotion of wider objectives such as peace and women's suffrage in addition to temperance. It currently boasts “approximately forty” national branches, and its peak dues-paying membership was 766,000 in 1927.

Brief History

The WWCTU was conceived in 1883 by Frances Willard, president of the national Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in the United States, which (having been founded in 1874) describes itself as “the oldest continuing nonsectarian woman's organization in the world.” The world organization was designed to confront what was perceived as a transnational problem of alcohol and other drug use, and its first world convention took place in Boston in 1891.


Having previously defined its objective as “the promotion of total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages,” the WWCTU currently describes its purpose as the promotion of “a drug-free lifestyle and Christian values for the home and community.”


The WWCTU claims to carry out projects under six Departments: Christian Outreach, Education, Home Protection, Social Service, Children, and Youth. It produces the quarterly White Ribbon Bulletin and promotes annual observances such as World No Tobacco Day and World No Alcohol Day.

Structure and Governance

“Approximately forty” national unions participate in the World's Union, which describes its governance as follows: eight world officers, each elected for terms of 3 years, are responsible for the decision-making between triennial world conventions at which officers are elected and the constitution and bylaws are amended; an official board comprising national presidents, world field workers, world department directors and world officers approves the appointments and budget and provides “for the other interests of the work.”


The WWCTU has an approximate annual budget of $50,000 and describes its main source of funding as investments. Historically the WWCTU has depended on dues from national unions, donations, and special appeals.


The peak period of the WWCTU's influence was during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when it was important in promoting “women's right to vote for world peace” as well as abstinence from alcohol and other drugs. The WCTU played a critical role in developing the suffrage movement in Australia and New Zealand, and in contributing towards the Eighteenth Amendment in the United States.


Civil Society History V:​ 19th Century

Faith-Based Organizations


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
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