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Nellie McClung and the WCTU

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Nellie McClung and the WCTU

Life in Edmonton


Looking back at our life in the small town I see we owed much to the activities of the W.C.T.U. and these initials, I hasten to explain, stand for "Woman's Christian Temperance Union," and not "Women Continually Torment Us," as some have believed.

                                                           —Nellie McClung

In The Stream Runs Fast, Nellie McClung claims that the first time that she "felt the stirrings of ambition to be a public speaker" was at a Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) Convention in the town of Manitou. She had been a member of the organization for some time, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome the delegates on behalf of the local union.

McClung determined that she would not bore the audience with statistics, but rather would strive to fire their imaginations—a difficult task with so hard a word as prohibition. She recognized that people drank to add some excitement to their lives, so she wanted to capture their imaginations with hopes of a new and better world without alcohol.

McClung had come under the influence of the WCTU at an early age, for Mrs. A. McClung, who became her mother-in-law, was President of the Manitoba Provincial division. As a result of this connection, Mrs. McClung asked Nellie to give public readings from her novel, Sowing Seeds in Danny, in order to raise money for a Home for Girls in Winnipeg that was fostered by the WCTU. This event is often viewed as giving a kick-start to Nellie's career as a public speaker.

Heritage Trail: Liquor Control in Alberta, Part Seven: The Liquor Control Board
The first hotel to be granted a liquor licence under the new Alberta Liquor Control Act of 1923 was the Palliser Hotel in Calgary. This signalled a great boom for the hotel industry, which had collapsed after the introduction of Prohibition in 1916. But according to historian David Leonard, the hotels still had to meet very strict criteria. Listen Now
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