From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Negro Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Kentucky [Sojourner Truth WCTU]

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The earliest Negro branches of the Kentucky Woman's Christian Temperance Union (KWCTU) were organized around 1906 in Pineville, KY, with 15 members, and in Hopkins County, KY, with 30 members (three men were honorary members). Each branch was a sub-unit of the white branch of the KWCTU in the area. The development of Negro branches was a big step for Kentucky; it came about much later than Negro branches in some other states but had finally happened. The national Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded in Cleveland, OH, in 1874, for white women. Their goal was to promote abstinence from alcohol in order to make women and families safe from the destruction resulting from alcohol use. WCTU is the oldest voluntary, non-sectarian women's organization. Chapters were formed throughout the U.S. and Canada. As more of the branches did work with the Negro populations, it was decided by the national union that there needed to be Negro branches to work with their people. The Work Among Negroes Department was formed in 1883. On the state level, the Kentucky Woman's Christian Temperance Union (KWCTU), was formed in 1881 by Mrs. Judson, who lived in Ohio, and Julia Shaw was elected president. The first state convention was held in Lexington in 1881. Though there was some work with Negroes in Kentucky, the membership was not opened to Negro women until a discussion of the topic during the KWCTU Executive Committee Meeting in 1905. It was voted that KWCTU branches would be requested to organize auxiliary unions among Negroes. In 1945, the Negro auxiliary branches were separated from the KWCTU and reorganized under the Kentucky Sojourner Truth Woman's Christian Temperance Union, with Mrs. Elizabeth B. Fouse as president. The Sojourner Truth Union was a second union in Kentucky, an auxiliary to the national WCTU. In 1956, Mrs. Decora A. Williams was president of the Sojourner Truth Union. During the KWCTU Executive Meeting, May 10, 1963, a motion by Mrs. T. E. Bowen was passed to accept Negro women members rather than have the union segregated, if the Negro women agreed. Below is a list of some of the Negro unions that were formed in Kentucky, 1906-1963.

  • 1906 Pineville (Bell County)
  • 1906 Hopkins County
  • 1907 Carlisle (Nicholas County) - Mrs. Sadie Hall
  • 1907 Lexington Negro Woman's Christian Temperance Union established a Colored industrial school in the old Good Samaritan Hospital on East Short Street. The school had a day nursery, and plans included having Negro nurses for baby care. The goal of the school was to prepare Negro children to go into the field of labor [source: see Lexington Leader below].
  • 1908 Henryville (Nicholas County)
  • 1911 Princeton (Caldwell County)
  • 1912 Paducah (McCracken County)
  • 1912 London (Laurel County)
  • 1914 Lexington, Beauchamp #2 (Fayette County) - Mrs. C. M. Freeman
  • 1915 Pembroke #2 (Christian County)
  • 1917 Winchester #2 (Clark County)
  • 1918 Nicholasville (Jessamine County)
  • 1923 Violet Whyte was paid for organization work in Winchester, Mt. Sterling, Wilmore, Nicholasville, and Harrodsburg
  • 1932 Middlesboro (Bell County)
  • 1939 Beatrice Laine, from Richmond (Madison County), endorsed as National Organizer among Negroes
  • 1939 Esther B. Isaacs, a Negro worker sent to Kentucky by the national WCTU
  • 1945 Negro KWCTU auxiliary branches are reorganized under the Kentucky Sojourner Truth Woman's Christian Temperance Union
  • 1949 Paducah (McCracken County) Sojourner Truth WCTU
  • 1952 Henderson (Henderson County) Sojourner Truth WCTU
  • No date - Jessamine County; Louisville Local No. 2 (Jefferson County) - Mrs. Annie Rice, President; Lexington Sojourner Truth WCTU (Fayette County) - Mrs. Ballard and Mrs. Elizabeth B. Fouse
For more, see the chapter by F. E. W. Harper, "The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Colored Woman" in Standing Before Us, by D. M. Emerson, et al. The chapter is a reprinted article from the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review, July 1888; A Glorious Past & a Promising Future, by P. Woodring; and "Industry," Lexington Leader, 08/31/1907, p. 8.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Standing before us: Unitarian Universalist women and social reform, 1776-1936
NKAA Source: A Glorious past & a promising future: a brief history of the Kentucky Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1880-1995
NKAA Source: Lexington leader (newspaper)

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NKAA Entry:  African American Schools in Lexington and Fayette County, KY

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“Negro Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Kentucky [Sojourner Truth WCTU],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed November 22, 2017,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 13:51:51