Woman's Christian Temperance Union Children's Farm Home School, Corvallis Oregon

In the winter of 1873-1874, groups of women in Fredonia, New York and Hillsboro, Ohio were moved to non-violent protest against the dangers of alcohol. In three months, these protests had driven liquor out of approximately 250 communities. In the summer of 1874, many of these women decided to hold a national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was formed. Mrs. Annie Turner Wittenmyer was elected as the first national president, serving from 1874 to 1879. Miss Frances E. Willard, who was elected corresponding secretary when the organization was formed, was elected president in 1879. It was her mission to confront not only alcohol (and encourage abstinence), but several other issues facing women and their well-being of their families. By 1896, 25 of 39 departments of the WCTU were dealing with non-temperance issues, including the use of tobacco and other drugs, white slavery, child labor, and prostitution.

Local chapters of the WCTU were called unions. The first local unions in Oregon began when Mrs. Rebecca Clawson (the mother of Elizabeth A.P. White, who had been appointed Vice President for Oregon in 1880 by the National WCTU) organized a union in Portland on March 22nd, 1881, and another in Albany on April 7th, 1881. Mrs. H.K. Hines of Portland took over the organizational efforts and when a call went out for an Oregon WCTU Convention, ten unions responded. In attendance were local unions from Portland, East Portland, Corvallis, Dayton, Salem, Independence, Albany, Eugene, Roseburg, and The Dalles.

The Oregon WCTU Convention was held and the official Oregon WCTU was organized on June 15th, 1883 in Portland at the Taylor Street Methodist-Episcopal Church. Francis E. Willard and her secretary, Anna A. Gordon, attended the organization meeting. The state was divided into six districts and a vice president was elected for each. Mrs. H.K. Hines was elected to serve two years as the president of the state chapter. By the 1884 convention, Oregon boasted 32 unions. After the convention, however, the number of local unions increased quickly that by 1891 there were 83 unions in Oregon. The six districts were re-organized in alignment with the counties in the 1890s. Early work of the Oregon WCTU included a number of causes in addition to temperance, including the creation of libraries and reading rooms, the promotion of a boys training school, a Travelers Aid to help women and girls, and the women's suffrage movement.

The work of the Oregon WCTU continued into the twentieth century with increasing membership and success in many of the organization's missions. By 1910, Oregon had 90 unions with over 2,700 members. In 1912, the National WCTU convention was held in Portland, with Oregon represented by 3,029 active members.

When Oregon held its thirtieth annual convention in 1913 (in Corvallis), there were 175 unions in the state. In 1914, the number of local unions in Oregon increased to 253, apparently in a full-out effort to encourage voters to adopt the state-wide prohibition (Oregon voters, in addition to voters in Washington, Colorado, and Arizona adopted prohibition laws that year). By the fortieth annual convention in 1923, shortly after the enactment of nation-wide Prohibition, the state's membership had reached an all-time high of 3,407 members.