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Superintendent of Scientific Temperance Union (STI)

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

Involvement with the WCTU

President of the WCTU

Superintendent of the Department of Scientific Temperance Union (STI)


As one might expect, temperance was a major focus of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Education campaigns were thought to be key to achieving the goal of prohibition and as a result, the WCTU had a special department devoted to formal education, entitled the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction (STI).

In the United States, the WCTU had succeeded in having laws enacted in every state that made temperance instruction mandatory in public schools. Louise McKinney, because of her experience with the WCTU in the United States, was chosen to be Superintendent of STI in Alberta.

In order to achieve the goal of effective temperance education in every school, McKinney had to research what the current curriculum was and who was responsible for deciding what was taught. She discovered that due to scarce resources for either teachers or students, temperance education was ineffective. So she contacted the MLA for MacLeod, F. W. G. Haultain, to find out what could be done along legislative lines. When McKinney found out that the Department of Education had full control over curriculum, textbooks, and teachers' resources, she wrote letters to the Departments of Education in Regina, Saskatchewan and Edmonton, Alberta. When letter-writing proved ineffective, she followed up by meeting with the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as officials from the provincial Departments of Education. When they failed to keep their promises, she teamed up with other interested groups to bring pressure to bear on public officials.

In addition to approaching policy makers to change curriculum, STI activists addressed teachers at their annual meetings, and at Normal Schools, as well as visiting individual teachers, donating books and STI literature to school libraries, and running essay contests. They believed that if teachers learned why and how alcohol and tobacco were harmful, they would be motivated to teach their students about the dangers.

The WCTU appealed to other groups to help promote temperance education, including the United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA), the Temperance and Moral Reform League, the Alberta Council of Education, the Teachers' Associations, candidates for election, and other prominent people. The UFWA recommended to the government that more emphasis be placed upon teaching hygiene—particularly as it related to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes—in the Normal Schools of the Province (where teachers were trained). They also made similar recommendations regarding implementing STI in the public and high schools.

In 1922, partial success was achieved, and scientific temperance and hygiene education were officially given equal importance with other subjects in public schools. To the disappointment of STI promoters like McKinney, the high school course was never approved.

Cooperating with other groups to achieve their aims provided the WCTU with much greater bargaining power—particularly around election time, when they threw their collective support behind candidates favourable to prohibition and Scientific Temperance Instruction.

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