Ku Klux Klan or KKK and the WCTU: Partners in Prohibition

KKK and WCTU

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) shared common interests. They strongly promoted and defended alcohol prohibition. But they also favored women’s right to vote, Protestantism, and the protection of domesticity. They also shared hostility toward immigrants. For this reason, the two groups cooperated with each other. And they shared many members and leaders.

The temperance goals of the WCTU are widely known. Those of the KKK are not. Yet one of the major supporters of National Prohibition (1920-1933) was the anti-alcohol KKK.

Membership
ku klux klan

Defender of Prohibition

The Ku Klux Klan was “revived in Atlanta in 1915 to defend Prohibition,” which existed in Georgia at that time.1  Support for Prohibition united Klan members throughout the nation. (There were more KKK members outside the states of the former Confederacy than inside them.) To learn more about the Klan’s support and sometimes violent defense of Prohibition, visit The KKK, Alcohol, & Prohibition.

There was much interaction and overlap in membership between the Klan and other prohibition supporters. For example, a top leader of the Klan, Edward Young Clarke, raised funds for both the Klan and the Anti-Saloon League.2

WKKK

Membership in the KKK was limited to males. Women joined the Women of the KKK (WKKK). Lulu Markwell, one of the first leaders of the national WKKK. She also headed the Arkansas chapter of the WCTU for twenty years. Lillian Sedwick served as state head and county director of the young people’s branch of the WCTU. She later became an important WKKK leader. Other women followed the same path. They included Myrtle Cook of Iowa, a member of the WCTU and KKK, murdered for documenting the names of bootleggers. Lillian Rouse of the WCTU and its young people’s affiliate  later joined Sedwick in the WKKK.3

Daisy Douglas Barr

kkkDaisy Douglas Barr was the Imperial Empress (leader) of the approximately 250,000 member WKKK in Indiana and seven other states. Indiana itself was the major center of the KKK power, with about 25% of the total national membership. Barr, along with the Indiana KKK’s “Grand Wizard,” D.C. Stevenson, was considered responsible for electing a Klan-friendly governor in 1924.

In addition to her leadership in the WKKK, Barr was a powerful member of the WCTU. In her role in that group, Daisy Barr was a famous crusader for temperance. As a member of the board of education in Indianapolis, she promoted racial segregation. Professionally, Barr was a Quaker minister in two prominent churches and highly respected.

Facts about the Ku Klux Klan4

  • The Constitution and Laws of the Knights of the KKK prohibited drunkenness. Being intoxicated was an offense against the Klan.
  • The KKK promoted women’s suffrage. It thought  that womens’ voting would promote Prohibition.
  • Klan membership exceeded four million in the mid-1920s. More than a million were in Indiana. The state was the center of KKK influence and power although Ohio had a larger membership. Together, Indiana and Ohio had half the total KKK membership.
  • The Klan tried to organize “colored divisions” in Indiana and other states.
  • The Klan made large financial donations to the WCTU in many communities. Similarly, the WCTU often lent its support to the Klan’s anti-alcohol activities.
  • As unofficial law enforcement officers, members of the KKK would often enforce prohibition laws. In many cases members engaged in entrapment of buyers and sellers of alcohol. They illegally collected evidence to help convict the offenders. These illegal tactics made the enforcement by the Klan particularly effective.
  • The WCTU recognized and supported the vigilante law enforcement efforts of the KKK. In towns and cities where the Klan was unpopular, the WCTU continued to support the group. It applauded its results, despite the intimidation and violence used in the investigations. In effect, the WCTU was an accessory to the Klan’s illegal activities.

It’s clear that the KKK and the WCTU worked hand-in-glove to promote prohibition.

Readings: Ku Klux Klan (I.) and WCTU  (II.)

I. KKK

Books

Blee, K.M. Women of the Klan. Berkeley: U. California Press, 1991.

Chalmers, D.M. Hooded Americans. Durham: Duke U. Press, 1991.

Feldman, G. Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949. Tuscaloosa: U. Alabama Press, 1999.

Gerlach, L. Blazing Crosses in Zion. Logan: Utah State U. Press, 1982.

Goldberg, R. Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Urbana: U. Illinois Press, 1981.

Horowitz, D. (Ed.) Inside the Klavern. Carbondale: Southern Illinois U. Press, 1999.

Jackson, K. The Ku Klux Klan in the City 1915-1930. NY: Oxford U. Press, 1967.

Jenkins, W.D. Steel Valley Clan: the Ku Klux Klan in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley. Kent: Ohio State U. Press, 1990.

Lay, S. Hooded Knights of the Niagara: The Ku Klux Klan in Buffalo, New York. NY: New York U. Press, 1995.

Lay, S. (Ed.) The Invisible Empire in the West. Urbana: U. Illinois Press, 1992.

Loucks, E. The Ku Klux Klan in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, PA: Telegraph, 1936.

MacLean, N. Behind the Masks of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan. NY: Oxford U. Press, 1994.

Moore, L. Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928. Chapel Hill: U. North Carolina Press, 1991.

Newton, M. The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida. Gainesville: U. Florida Press, 2001.

Rice, A.S. The KKK in American Politics. Washington DC.: Public Affairs Press, 1962.

Tucker, R.K. The Dragon and the Cross: The Rise and Fall of the KKK in Middle America. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1991.

Wade, W.C. The Fiery Cross: The KKK in America. NY: Oxford U. Press, 1998.

Articles

Behreus, D. The KKK flares Up on LI: In the early 1920’s, white robes and burning crosses are seen in many villages. Long Island: Our Story.

Bentley, M. The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. McClure’s Magazine, 1924 (May), 58.

Casey, L. When the Klan controlled Colorado. Rocky Mountain News, 1946. (June 17-19).

 

Hux, R.K. The KKK in Macon, 1919-1925. Georgia Hist Q, 1978, 62, 155-168.

Jenkins, W. The KKK in Youngstown, Ohio. Histor, 1978 (November), 76-93.

Jones, L. The Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas during the 1920’s. Emporia State Research Studies, 1975 (Winter), 23.

Marszalek, J. KKK: The 1920s Ku Klux Klan in the Midwest. Timeline, 1994, 11(2).

Miller, R. A Note on the relationship between the Protestant Churches and the revival of the KKK. J South Hist, 1956 (August), 22, 355-368.

Moore, L. Historical interpretation of the 1920s Klan. J Soc Hist, 1990, 24, 341-357.

Moseley, C. Political influence of the KKK in Georgia, 1915-1925. Georgia Hist Q, 1973, 57, 235-255.

Quillen, E. Welcome to Kolorado, Klan Kountry: When the Invisible Empire ran the state, only one major city escaped. Colorado Springs News, May 22-28, 2003.

Our Foremost Duty as Klanswomen. The Kluxer, 27 October 1923, vol. 1, no. 14,

Some Surprises About the Bible. The Kluxer. 20 October 1923, vol.13, no. 1.

Votes for Women: Some Reasons Why They Should Vote. The Kluxer. Vo

Weisberger, B. When white hoods were in flower. Am Herit, 1992, 43(2), 18-19.

II. WCTU

Bradley, E.B. Membership in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Am J Nurs, 1916, 16(10), 1029-1030.

Canfield, P.E. Department of Heredity, Missouri W.C.T.U. Kansas City, MO: H.N Farey, 1886.

Cook, S.A. “Through Sunshine and Shadow”: The Woman’sChristian Temperance Union, Evangelism, and Reform in Ontario, 1874-1930. McGill-Queen’s U. Press, 1995.

Dublin, T. and Scheuerer. Why Did Aftrican-American Women Join the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1880-1900. Binghamton, NY: State U. New York, 2000. OCLC Number:83676674.

Gusfield, J.R. Social structure and moral reform: a study of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Am J Sociol, 1955, 61(3), pp. 221-232.

Gusfield, J.R. Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement. Urbana: U. Illinois Press, 1986.

Hays, A.D. Heritage of Dedication: One Hundred Years of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1974. Evanston, IL: Signal Press, 1973.

Tyrrell, Ian R. Woman’s World/Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880-1930. Chapel Hill: U. North Carolina Press, 1991.

References  

1  Statement from Chancellor Brehm on Benton Mural. Bloomington, IN: Indiana U. press release, March 25, 2002.

2   FBI. The Ku Klux Klan. Section I: 1915-1944. Washington: FBI, July, 1957, p. 21.

3  Tucker, R. The Dragon and the Cross. The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in Middle America. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1991, p. 111.

4  Blee, K. Women of the Klan. Racism and Gender in the 1920s. Berkeley: U. California Press, 1991,  , pp. 27, 31, 35 and 85.