Saturday, March 12, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  March 13

Brunner Ave. Methodist Holds WCTU Silver Medal Contest, March 18, 1904

On Friday night, March 18, 1904 the Helen Stoddard Chapter of the WCTU held a silver medal contest at Brunner Ave. MECS in Houston.  The program featured a number of musical numbers such as Since Papa Doesn’t Drink, No Cigarette for Me, and The Temperance Flag.

The Houston women had chosen their name well.  Helen Stoddard (1850-1941) was one of the most significant figures in Progressive Era Texas.  

Stoddard was born in Wisconsin in 1850 and was educated at Ripon College and Genessee Wesleyan Seminary in New York.  She married in 1873, and the couple moved to Nebraska.  Stoddard was left a widow in 1878.  In 1880 she resigned her position of teaching mathematics at the Methodist Conference college in Nebraska and moved to Indian Gap where her parents now lived.  She taught first at Comanche College and then Fort Worth University.  

Anna Palmer, an evangelist for the WCTU influenced Stoddard to become active in temperance work.  At the WCTU State Convention in Tyler in 1891 the president resigned because of ill health, and Stoddard was elected as her replacement.

She resigned her teaching post and remained the Texas WCTU president for the 16 years.  Her accomplishments as president can hardly be exaggerated.  She revived the organization that had been demoralized by the defeat of a prohibition amendment by Texas voters (all men) in 1887.   She crisscrossed the state organizing, lecturing, and lobbying.  Among her lobbying successes were laws prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to children, receiving liquor by mail in a dry county, and restrictions on cocaine and gambling.  

She was instrumental in lobbying for the creation of what is known today as Texas Woman’s University. After the passage of the authorizing bill, she was appointed to the commission that chose the site for TWU—and was the only woman on the 13-person commission that chose Denton.  She served 6 years as secretary of the Board of Regents of the institution she had helped create. 
Stoddard was also active in national and international WCTU work as lecturer, author, and program director.  

In 1907 Stoddard resigned from her post because of ill health and moved to Southern California.   In 1912 she was the Prohibition Party’s nominee for the 11th Congressional District of California—the first woman ever to run for Congress from California.  While living in California, she taught high school and organized a WCTU chapter.  Upon the death of her son in 1935 she moved to Dallas with her daughter-in-law.  She died in Dallas, but her body was returned to California to be buried beside her son.  Here is the link to her page on Find A Grave.


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