As part of our Archive Project, I have recently been looking at the photographs that we hold to ensure that they are logged and stored appropriately. Within the collection was a group of five black and white images, which appeared to be from the 1940’s/1950’s. There were two group images as shown below, and the signage on the front of the building confirmed that these images were taken at the 18th Convention of the World Women’s Christian Temperance Union, held at White Rock Pavilion, Hastings 3 – 10th June. The year was yet to be identified but after locating the record detailing its planning, the photographs came to life…
The World Women’s Christian Temperance Union was formed from The National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of the USA. Frances Willard, second National President of the WCTU, resolved in 1883 to create an international union, linking together women’s temperance movements across the world and so the World Women’s Christian Temperance Union came into existence. The first world convention for this new union was held on the 11th November,1891 in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). Margaret Bright Lucas, President of our forerunner The British Women’s Temperance Association from 1878-1890, was appointed as the first World WCTU President in 1884. Delegates from England were among the fourteen countries represented at the first World Convention and in 1895 the third Convention was held in London. Over the years different countries have hosted the three yearly conventions including England in the past.
The group image with children are Little White Ribboners (one of the Children’s departments).The children are holding signs displaying what appears to be the number of members of Little White Ribboners for each country represented. The children are definitely dressed in their ‘Sunday best’, although not all are smiling for the camera! The other larger group shows only a small portion of the attendees who came from all over the world including Canada, Egypt and Ceylon. It is interesting to note those wearing the national dress of their countries.
So having recorded these photographs and making a note to find out the year to add to our records, they were then carefully stored away….
A few weeks later whilst I was working on another section of our archive, looking at the old minute books and from the box I pulled out an unmarked blue book, a bit battered and dog eared….
This turned out to be the Minutes of the British Women’s Temperance Association committee for the organisation of the WWCTU Convention the UK were due to host in 1950.The meetings started in December 1947, preparing well in advance for 1950! My mind went back to the photographs of the Convention that I had been looking at, which would fit in with a date of 1950, so it looked like I was reading the original detailed planning for the event shown in the photographs. There were discussions about a suitable town and venue and among the options was indeed Hastings, so it further confirmed their origin.
Plans detailed in the minutes included music, services, children’s depts, publicity, exhibits and hospitality. By February 1948, it was noted that the decision had been made to hold the Convention in Hastings, so it was proof that the photographs were indeed of the 1950 Convention. This was fully confirmed by the minutes of June 1948 when the motion was carried to book the White Rock Pavilion as the venue. Meetings followed over the next 2 years making detailed plans and confirming all the arrangements from initial invitations, through choirs to hotel bookings (by November 1949, 300 rooms had been booked!) and a Civic Reception. It was even noted that there was to be a BBC Radio broadcast from Hastings to be included in Women’s Hour on 12th June. Every detail was planned with military precision!
Locating the WWCTU Report for 1950 confirmed that after ‘years of intensive planning’, nearly one thousand delegates and visitors attended that years Convention. Events included ‘a delightful motor coach ride through the historic Sussex countryside’ with 21 coach loads of delegates and even concluded with tea on the terrace of the House of Lords, though obviously not for all 900 odd attendees!
Looking right back to the beginning….we are lucky to hold a booklet in our collection from 1891 – Minutes of the Executive Committee and First Convention of the WWCTU and also a Report of the First Conference held in England back in 1892, which detail reports and plans of WWCTU work across the globe, including missionary work. When Frances Willard spoke back in 1883, I am sure she would have been delighted to know that an event held over sixty years later in 1950 appeared to be such a success in realising her vision of bringing together women from across the world dedicated to the temperance cause.
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