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[p. 90]

Female Union temperance Society.

by Helen Tilden Wild.
Written by request of the surviving members.

EXTRACTS from selectmen's records given on a previous page show the situation in Medford in the '30's and '40's. Rev. Caleb Stetson, Rev. Hosea Ballou, 2d, Deacon Galen James, James O. Curtis and others were leaders in the crusade against liquor sellers. The ‘Washingtonian Movement,’ so called, had between 1840 and 1845 found many supporters all over the country, and a desire to help in the great reform brought into being the ‘Female Union Temperance Society,’ which continued its organization for fifty-two years. Mrs. James 0. Curtis, the first secretary, recorded, ‘Several ladies of Medford met at a room in the house of Mrs. W. Peake on Friday eve, Dec. 12, 1845, for the purpose of forming themselves into a society to promote the cause of temperance. The meeting was called to order by Mrs. C. Stetson. Mrs. Doctor Fuller was chosen Moderator.’

The constitution was adopted December 23, 1845. It defined the objects of the society as follows: 1st, to promote the cause of temperance by procuring lecturers, and by such other methods as may from time to time be adopted. 2d, to encourage those who have abandoned intemperate habits by affording relief in certain cases to their suffering families.

The members pledged themselves ‘to abstain wholly from intoxicating drinks, to discountenance the use of them in the Community and to purchase nothing whatever at stores or shops where they are known to be sold.’

This pledge was amended in 1851, by introducing ‘except as a medicine’ after the abstinence clause. The charter list contained the names of one hundred of the best known matrons and young ladies in the town, representing all churches and all walks of life.

The work of charity for ‘reformed inebriates’ was immediately begun, and courses of lectures were carried on during the four succeeding winters, Rev. Mr. Bosworth, [p. 91] the young and popular minister of the Baptist Church, delivering the first one, January 3, 1846. The ‘Mystic Vocalists’ furnished music.

At the April meeting, 1846, after a lecture, a moderator was chosen, and several gentlemen ‘spoke upon the subject of approbating a certain individual in town to sell rum, which had been done by the Selectmen.’

In the same month a mass meeting was held, and the following resolution adopted. ‘That inasmuch as the traffic in intoxicating liquors is the direct cause of a large proportion of the poverty, crime and wretchedness in the community, it is the duty of every good citizen to endeavor to suppress it by the use of every lawful means.’

The Fourth of July, 1846, was celebrated by an oration by Rev. Thomas Starr King in the Unitarian Church, followed by a procession, headed by the Medford Band, which marched to a grove on Forest street, belonging to Mr. N. H. Bishop, where a public dinner and post prandial speeches were enjoyed.

The society would accept aid only from total abstainers, reasoning, ‘How can it be right for them to give their money to suppress what they countenance and support by their practice? If it is wrong for them to do this it must be wrong for us to become their Agents.’

Decrease in membership, disappointment that many ‘returned to their cups’ after receiving aid, and the waning of popular enthusiasm, threatened the life of the society in 1854. The annual report for that year stated that $153 had been given ‘for the suppression of the sale of intoxicating drinks, and if we have failed it is not our fault. . . . Let us hope for a law to do what we cannot do.’

The society revived with a moderate membership and held its own, encouraging temperance work and organizations, doing general charity and patriotic work until one by one the members were called to ‘Come up higher.’

Mrs. James O. Curtis continued her work, generally [p. 92] as an officer, until her death in 1858. Mrs. Ruth Osgood died in 1869. She is spoken of as ‘Our oldest member’ and ‘one of the first to put her name to the Constitution.’ Mrs. Samuel Joyce and Mrs. Ira Barker were charter members and continued in active service as long as the society existed. Mrs. Joyce was elected president in 1856 and held the position for over forty years. In March, 1874, her birthday was celebrated for the first time by the society, and thereafter, every year while she was able to receive her friends, the occasion was a gala day.

In 1870, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the society was celebrated, and Mrs. Ira Barker read an historical sketch. In 1895, the fiftieth anniversary was held at the house of the aged president and is the last recorded meeting of the association. The secretary, Mrs. Burrell, reported, ‘A few that were at the commencement of our society and have through all these years done what they could’ [were present] ‘and now though the hair is white and the eyes need assistance the same interest is manifested in the cause.’

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