KKK and the WCTU: Close Partners in Prohibition

The KKK and the WCTU worked closely together to promote and defend alcohol prohibition. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) shared common interests.

They both 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.


I.   KKK


III. Daisey Douglas Barr

IV.  Facts about  the KKK

V.   Resources

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.


kkk and the wctu
KKK supported 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 was Edward Young Clarke. He raised funds for both the Klan and the Anti-Saloon League.2


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

III. 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. It had about 25% of the total national membership.

Barr worked with Indiana KKK’s head, D.C. Stevenson, on an election. Many considered them responsible for the election of 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. Barr was a Quaker minister in two prominent churches and highly respected.

Rev. Daisy Douglas Barr illustrates the cooperation between the KKK and the WCTU.

IV. 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. Both the KKK and the WCTU 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. But 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. And 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 highly effective.
    • The WCTU 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.

KKK and the WCTU

V. Resources

A = KKK, B = WCTU.


    • Blee, K. Women of the Klan.
    • Chalmers, D. Hooded Americans.
    • Feldman, G. Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949.
    • Gerlach, L. Blazing Crosses in Zion.
    • Goldberg, R. Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado.
    • Horowitz, D. (Ed.) Inside the Klavern.
    • Jackson, K. The KKK in the [NY] City 1915-1930.
    • Jenkins, W. The KKK in Ohio.
    • Lay, S. Hooded Knights of the Niagara.
    • ______. (Ed.) The Invisible Empire in the West.
    • Loucks, E. The KKK in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, PA: Telegraph, 1936.
    • MacLean, N. Behind the Masks of Chivalry.
    • Moore, L. Citizen Klansmen.
    • Newton, M. The KKK in Florida.
    • Rice, A. The KKK in American Politics.
    • Tucker, R.K. The Dragon and the Cross. .
    • Wade, W. The Fiery Cross. .
    • Behreus, D. The KKK flares Up on LI. Long Island: Our Story.
    • Bentley, M. The KKK in Indiana. McClure’s Mag, 1924 (May), 58.
    • Casey, L. When the Klan controlled Colorado. Rocky Mountain News, 1946. (June 17-19).
    • Hux, R. The KKK in Macon, 1919-1925. GA Hist Q, 62, 155-168.
    • Jenkins, W. The KKK in Youngstown, Ohio. Hist, 1978 (Nov), 76-93.
    • Jones, L. The KKKin Eastern Kansas. Emporia: State Res Stud, 1975 (Winter), 23.
    • Marszalek, J. The 1920s KKK in the Midwest. Timeline, 11(2).
    • Miller, R. A Note on the relationship between the Protestant Churches and the revival of the KKK. J South Hist, 22, 355-368.
    • Moore, L. Historical interpretation of the 1920s Klan. J Soc Hist, 24, 341-357.
    • Moseley, C. Political influence of the KKK in Georgia. GA Hist Q, 57, 235-255.
    • Quillen, E. Welcome to Kolorado, Klan Kountry. CO Springs News, May 22-28, 2003.
    • Our Foremost Duty as Klanswomen. The Kluxer, 27 Oct 1923,  1(14).
    • Some Surprises About the Bible. The Kluxer. 20 Oct 1923, 3(1).
    • Weisberger, B. When white hoods were in flower. Am Herit, 43(2), 18-19.
Books & Articles
    • Bradley, E. Membership in the WCTU. Am J Nurs, 1916, 16(10), 1029-1030.
    • Canfield, P. Department of Heredity, Missouri W.C.T.U.
    • Cook, S. The WCTU, Evangelism, and Reform in Ontario.
    • Dublin, T. and Scheuerer. Why Did Aftrican American Women Join the WCTU, 1880-1900.
    • Gusfield, J. A study of the WCTU. Am J Soc, 61(3), 221-232.
    • ______. Symbolic Crusade.
    • Hays, A. One Hundred Years of the National WCTU.
    • Tyrrell, I. Woman’s World/Woman’s Empire.

1  Statement from Chan. Brehm on Benton Mural. Bloomington, IN: IU. press release, March 25, 2012.

2   FBI. The KKK. Sec I: 1915-1944. Wash: FBI, July, 1957, p. 21.

3  Tucker, R. The Rise and Fall of the KKK, p. 111.

4  Blee, K. Women of the Klan, pp. 27, 31, 35 and 85.