The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, officially established in 1874, was the first mass movement for social reform carried out internationally by women. Referencing Xenophon, it promoted temperance in the form of “moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful”. Though they took up many causes they believed to have an adverse effect on the nation’s character of Christian purity, the chief focus of their campaigning was alcohol, which they believed — not without some justification — to be a major cause of social problems.
By 1910, the W.C.T.U. had amassed an impressive membership of 235,000 and had had a palpable hand in bringing in Prohibition.The respect they commanded, however, was far from universal, and Quentin is here mocking Deacon by implying that the company he kept in the street sweepers’ section of the parade was several rungs below the coterie of military heroes and fine ladies he lays claim to.
Watch a W.C.T.U.-sponsered film about the pernicious effects of alcohol.