59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Records, 1887-1974

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard Museum, Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU 392
Creator Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Chilmark Chapter Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Oak Bluffs Chapter Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union. West Tisbury Chapter
TitleWoman's Christian Temperance Union records
Extent3 boxes
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractThe records of the Chilmark, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury chapters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union contain bound journals of minutes, treasurer's accounts and membership rolls. The collection also includes Dukes County Convention reports, materials published by the Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union, poetry written by members, newspaper clippings and other ephemera.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to the library's staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 392, Woman's Christian Temperance Union Records.

Acquisition Information

Chilmark Chapter records, gift of Mrs. Johnson Whiting in 1946. (Accession no. 1946.032). Oak Bluffs Chapter records and Dukes County Convention materials, gift of Jean Baird in 1976. (Accession no. 1976.027). Additional Dukes County Convention and Oak Bluffs Chapter materials, gift of Carl Siktberg in 1978. (Accession no. 1978.014).

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Nancy Cole in May 2012 and updated by Insley Julier in January 2013. Machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick April 2014.

 Processing of this collection and creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury through the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act. Machine-encoding of the finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Index Terms


  • Account books
  • Annual reports
  • Clippings
  • Correspondence
  • Fliers
  • Membership lists
  • Minutes
  • Publications

Geographic Name(s)

  • Chilmark (Mass.)
  • Dukes County (Mass.)
  • Martha's Vineyard (Mass.)--Social life and customs
  • Oak Bluffs (Mass.)
  • West Tisbury (Mass.)


  • Clubs--Massachusetts--Martha's Vineyard
  • Prohibition--Massachusetts--Martha's Vineyard
  • Temperance--Massachusetts--Martha's Vineyard
  • Women--Massachusetts--Dukes County--Societies and clubs
  • Women--Massachusetts--Chilmark--Societies and clubs
  • Women--Massachusetts--Oak Bluffs--Societies and clubs
  • Women--Massachusetts--West Tisbury--Societies and clubs
  • Women--Massachusetts--Martha's Vineyard--Societies and clubs
  • Women social reformers--Massachusetts--Martha's Vineyard

Biography/Historical Note

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is a national organization with local and statewide chapters. It purports to be the oldest continuing, non-sectarian woman's organization in the United States. It was begun in 1874 by women who were concerned about the abuse of alcohol and its impact on families and civil society. The members chose total abstinence as their lifestyle and the protection of the home as their goal.

In the 1800s, alcohol was widely used. It was indispensable as a beverage, as water was often scarce in urban areas, and both water and milk were known to carry diseases. The medical community widely accepted alcohol as an anesthetic and analgesic. During the Civil War, the production and consumption of alcohol climbed and did not abate in the post-war prosperity. By the late 19th century, the saloon was seen as a major social curse and society itself a drunken one.

The WCTU saw alcoholism as a consequence of larger social problems rather than a personal failing. As a result, it was interested in several social reform issues, including prostitution, sanitation, public health and international peace. The WTCU was also instrumental in organizing woman's suffrage leaders and in helping more women become involved in American politics. By the late 1800s, the WTCU's membership peaked, with over 200,000 dues paying members. As of 2006, its membership was approximately 8,000. On Martha's Vineyard, a chapter was formed in Oak Bluffs in 1887. Other chapters formed in Vineyard Haven, West Tisbury and Chilmark.

Scope and Content of Collection

The records of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), 1887-1974, include bound volumes containing membership rolls, minutes and treasurer's accounts for the Oak Bluffs, Chilmark and West Tisbury chapters. Many of the record books contain mixed material, for example, the membership lists are often included with the minutes. Records for some years are missing. The collection also includes materials from the Dukes County WCTU, which collected dues from the various towns and organized island-wide initiatives. The county union also held an annual convention.


  • Series I: Dukes County and Oak Bluffs Chapter Records, 1887-1974
  • Series II: West Tisbury and Chilmark Chapter Records, 1900-1939
  • Series III: Publications, 1924

Collection Contents

Series I. Dukes County and Oak Bluffs Chapter Records, 1887-1974 

Scope and Content

The Oak Bluffs Chapter of the WCTU is particularly well-documented in this collection. Organizational records are handwritten in bound volumes, which include membership lists, minutes and treasurer's accounts, 1887-1974. Clippings and other ephemera are inserted between the pages of these record books. Annual conventions, which rotated amongst the towns, were held under the auspices of the Dukes County WCTU and the series contains reports of county executive meetings and other activities. In some instances Dukes County and Oak Bluffs records are intermingled; however they have been retained in their original order. The Dukes County account book, reveals that the county-wide WCTU collected dues from the different chapters or unions, including, Chilmark, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and West Tisbury. Edgartown did not have a paying chapter.


The series is arranged by geographical area and therein chronologically. Miscellaneous materials are filed at the end of the series.


Oak Bluffs Chapter Records, 1887-1899 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Treasurer's Book, 1922-1937 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Roll of Members, 1922-1970 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Minutes, 1925-1929 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Minutes, 1933-1935 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Minutes, 1935-1941 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Minutes, 1950-1962 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Treasurer's Book, 1950-1974 


Oak Bluffs Chapter Minutes, 1962-1967 


Dukes County Convention Reports, 1920-1931 


Dukes County Convention Reports and Oak Bluffs Chapter Reports, 1926-1932, 1958 


Dukes County WCTU Account Book, 1918-1961 


Dukes County Miscellaneous Fliers and Receipts, 1893, undated 


Series II. Chilmark and West Tisbury Chapter Records, 1900-1939 

Scope and Content

The members of the Chilmark and West Tisbury Chapters of the WCTU appear to have met together, and bound volumes combine minutes and other organizational records from both chapters, particularly for the years 1900-1916. Later volumes, 1916-1939 seem to focus primarily on the West Tisbury Chapter. Miscellaneous papers include certificates, fliers, reports, prayers or devotionals, and poetry.


Materials are arranged chronologically, except for miscellaneous papers which are filed at the end of the series.


Chilmark and West Tisbury Chapter Minutes, 1900-1916 


West Tisbury Chapter Minutes, 1916-1935 


West Tisbury Chapter Minutes, 1935-1939 


West Tisbury Miscellaneous Papers, 1933-1938, undated 


Series III. Publications, 1924 

Scope and Content

Series contains publications issued by the Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union on the occasion of their golden jubilee in 1924. The Massachusetts WCTU formed in 1874.


The series is arranged chronologically.


The Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union: Golden Jubilee Magazine, 1924 


Note: Contains two copies.