Women's Christian Temperance Union
The Original White Ribbon Campaign
As Owen Sound became increasingly known for drunkenness and rowdy behaviour, it is not surprising that Temperance societies within the city soon formed. One of the first was the Women’s Prohibition Society, organized in 1874. This society would later become the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and was the first organization of its kind in Ontario.
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union unified rural and urban women in the belief that alcohol and other addictive substances were detrimental to society. W.C.T.U. members were an exceedingly vital organization when it came to lobbying the government to pass liquor control laws, both at a local and national level.
Canadian W.C.T.U. organizations used the White Ribbon Bow as a motif that signified loyalty to God, humanity, and country.
Mrs. R.J. Doyle (Mary Stevens) and her sisters c. 1890s
Front (l-r) Rachel (Mrs. John Layton), Mary
Back (l-r) Ellen (Mrs. David Layton), Eliza (Mrs. George S. Miller)
This emblem appeared on many of their publications, and women often wore white ribbons as membership badges. The ribbon also represented the fellowship between the W.C.T.U. members who referred to one another as “White Ribbon sisters”.
Mary Doyle nee Stephens (1829-1892) was the founding member of the W.C.T.U. in Owen Sound, and was influential in the national organization. She was born in Halton County and moved to Owen Sound in 1851. It was here that she met and married her husband, Robert Judson Doyle. Together they had four children. Two of her daughters, Eva and Winnifred, were also members of the Union and carried on their mother’s work. These two sisters owned and operated Seldon House as a Temperance hotel for approximately 30 years, offering a quiet and “dry” option to travellers and local citizens.