From "Teaching the Children" to "Just Say No": The WCTU and Scientific Temperance Instruction

Scientific Temperance Instruction (STI)—the concept of incorporating education about the negative effects of alcohol into public school curricula—introduced a new phase in temperance work. Educating young people had been part of the WCTU’s mission from the beginning, when the first Plan of Work in 1874 prioritized “teaching the children … the ethics, chemistry, and hygiene of total abstinence.” Sunday School lessons and Loyal Temperance Legion activities offered temperance education to limited audiences and focused on the moral and spiritual issues of temperance. Scientific Temperance Instruction, on the other hand, was intended to reach all children in public schools, as a state-mandated program of health education emphasizing the physiological consequences of alcohol consumption.

This exhibit features a small sampling from the wide range of research materials in the Willard Memorial Library and Archives—documents, publications, photographs, and artifacts—that tell the story of Scientific Temperance Instruction and the WCTU women who spearheaded the movement, from its introduction in the 1870s to its implementation, changes over time, and continuing influence on health education.