Moral Reform, Temperance and Women's Rights

This strong moral tone pervaded many of the activities of Ann Arbor's concerned citizens. In 1911 Agnes Inglis, a social worker with the YWCA, shocked the LadiesWomen at the YWCA Union and the city with her report on moral conditions prevailing in the city, especially the rapid spread of "vile" diseases. In response to her indictment, twelve women's organizations, led by the YWCA, formed the Social Purity Club. The club called for suppression of "objectionable places and public characters," enforcement of laws prohibiting sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors, enforcement of curfew laws, organization of the schools as neighborhood social centers, and the introduction of sex hygiene classes in the schools.

Men were also caught up in the crusade for better social and moral conditions. The Men and Religion Forward Movement reached its peak about 1911-1912. This wholly male organization stressed "male Christianity." Twenty members headed a six-month investigation into life in Ann Arbor in 1911. They condemned the water company and its disregard for public safety, violations of antitrust codes by druggists and grocers, child labor, auto accidents, and saloons which pandered to students.

A broad spectrum of businessmen, churches, and women's groups agitated vigorously for prohibition. In 1909, Washtenaw County voted against the establishment of prohibition in the county, 6,212 to 5,328. But after an emotional campaign Ann Arbor voted solidly in November 1916 for the bone-dry, statewide amendment to prohibit "forever...the manufacture, sale, keeping for sale, giving away, catering or furnishing of any vinous, malt, brewed, fermented, spiritous or intoxicating liquors..." The state and city went dry on May 1, 1918, well before the inauguration of national prohibition. "John Barleycorn 'passed away' more easily and quietly than was generally expected," reported the Times News.

flier, National American Woman Suffrage Assoc. The emergence of women from the confines of the home and from the restrictions of traditional roles accelerated, culminating in the drive for suffrage. Women had been active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Ann Arbor since 1874 and organized the Ann Arbor Women's Federation Club in 1906 to educate themselves on contemporary issues. As they became involved with social issues, women insisted on their right to vote. The Ann Arbor Political Equality Club was organized in 1894 and began a long, determined battle to gain the ballot.

In November 1912 a statewide referendum on female suffrage was presented to male voters. The men of Ann Arbor narrowly approved the amendment. Statewide, men were not so inclined and the amendment was defeated. Six months later, a second attempt also failed and Ann Arbor males reversed their earlier decision and voted decisively against the amendment. One local woman spoke for most of her co-workers: "I have been working for suffrage for thirty-nine years and I shall keep on working for it just as long as I live." On November 5, 1918, voters approved a state amendment granting women the right to vote.