Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Timeline
Timeline Home Page
Progressive Era to New Era
Prohibition: A Case Study of Progressive Reform
The Do-Everything Policy

The following primary source document, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921, is excerpted from an address delivered by Frances Willard to the 20th Annual Conference of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1893. The conference was held in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition (or World's Fair) in Chicago, Illinois. What is Willard's justification for what she called the "Do-Everything Policy"? What are some of the reasons Willard identifies for the failures of the prohibition movement to move farther and faster? Do any of these have a familiar ring concerning contemporary politics?

View the entire document from which this excerpt was taken. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

Beloved Comrades of the White Ribbon Army:

WHEN we began the delicate, difficult, and dangerous operation of dissecting out the alcohol nerve from the body politic, we did not realize the intricacy of the undertaking nor the distances that must be traversed by the scalpel of investigation and research. In about seventy days from now, twenty years will have elapsed since the call of battle sounded its bugle note among the homes and hearts of Hillsboro, Ohio. We have all been refreshing our knowledge of those days by reading the "Crusade Sketches" of its heroic leader, Mrs. Eliza J. Thompson , "the mother of us all," and we know that but one thought, sentiment and purpose animated those saintly "Praying Bands" whose name will never die out from human history. "Brothers, we beg you not to drink and not to sell!" This was the one wailing note of these moral Paganinis, playing on one string. It caught the universal ear and set the key of that mighty orchestra, organised with so much toil and hardship, in which the tender and exalted strain of the Crusade violin still soars aloft, but upborne now by the clanging cornets of science, the deep trombones of legislation, and the thunderous drums of politics and parties. The "Do Everything Policy" was not of our choosing, but is an evolution as inevitable as any traced by the naturalist or described by the historian. Woman's genius for details, and her patient stedfastness in following the enemies of those she loves "through every lane of life," have led her to antagonise the alcohol habit and the liquor traffic just where they are, wherever that may be. If she does this, since they are everywhere, her policy will be "Do Everything ."

Everything is not in the Temperance Reform, but the Temperance Reform should be in everything.

There is no better motto for the "Do-Everything-Policy," than this which we are saying by our deeds: "Make a chain, for the land is full of bloody crimes and the city of violence."

If we can remember this simple rule, it will do much to unravel the mystery of the much controverted "Do-Everything-Policy," viz: that every question of practical philanthropy or reform has its temperance aspect, and with that we are to deal. . . .

The Prohibition agitation in America has not been as great in the past year as formerly, and the reasons are not far to seek. A presidential campaign always lowers the moral atmosphere for a year before it begins and a year after it is over. Legislators become timid, politicians proceed to "hedge," journalists, with an eye to the loaves and fishes, furl their sails concerning issues that have at best only a fighting chance; the world, the flesh, and the devil get their innings, and the time is not yet. In the past year the attention of the nation has been focused on the World's Fair and the endless difficulties to which that has given birth. There has been an incalculable amount of ill-will set in motion as the result of personal financial interest and ignoble ambition. All this savours not the things of God or of humanity. The re-adjustment of political parties is still inchoate; men's hearts are failing them for fear; leaders in the traditional party of moral ideas have thrown off all disguises and grounded any weapons of rebellion they may once have lifted against the liquor traffic. The financial panic has rivetted the attention of the public on their own dangers and disasters, and the spirit of money-making has lamentably invaded the ranks of the temperance army itself; but prohibition is as lively an issue to-day as emancipation was in 1856; an issue that stirs such deadly hatred is by no means dead. It is still quick with fighting blood, and its enemies know this even better than its friends. . . .

A Bill has been for many years before Congress for the appointment of a commission on the investigation of the liquor traffic; and I have never failed to call attention in my Annual Address, to this great movement inaugurated by the National Temperance Society nor to urge the co-operation of the W.C.T.U., which I need not say has been always given. The vast importance of this measure is demonstrated by the ceaseless efforts of the whiskey power to defeat its passage, in which they have thus far been successful, and are likely to be for many years to come. The power of the saloon is nowhere more conspicuously manifested than in the annual defeat of this great measure. Congress has appointed commissions on well-nigh every conceivable subject,-the investigation of the slums of our cities, of sweating establishments, of agricultural interests, of farm mortgages, of imigration, quarantine, railroads, monetary problems, cattle diseases, fisheries, and I know not what besides; but to investigate the liquor monopoly is to touch the very ark of the covenant with hell, and agreement with damnation to which the American people has been sworn by their political leaders. In spite of all this, we have gained an intelligent idea of the business from the internal revenue reports and from state and police records; but what we want is the attestation of the national government to the truth of these figures of perdition. If Congress persists in its refusal, why shall not the W.C.T.U. make a sweeping, and thorough investigation of the liquor traffic? Undoubtedly the political machinery of state and nation would place all possible obstacles in our way; but we have a personnel in every community throughout the republic, than which none that exists is more intelligent and devoted. Such a commission would be absolutely reliable so far as information could be obtained, and unless Congress in creating such a commission would agree to place upon it two or three prohibitionists or White Ribbon women the returns would be unreliable; for no politicians of the two leading parties would dare to weaken their great stronghold-the saloon. One of our best superintendents of legislative work has written of her devotion to this idea, and I bring it forward hoping the Convention may take favourable action.
top of page

View the entire document from which this excerpt was taken, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.