Petaluma and the WCTU

Have you ever wondered who was responsible for installing the drinking fountain at the corner of Western Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard North?

Well in case you have, it was members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) who hired local stone mason, E.W.M. Evans, to erect the granite fountain in 1891.

In 1879, Petaluma was one of the first communities in California to establish its own chapter of the WCTU, just five years after the national WCTU was founded in Evanston, Illinois. It is no wonder, given that Petaluma had nearly 50 saloons serving a population of 3,000 in 1880.

The Petaluma chapter of the WCTU followed the formation of the Petaluma Temperance Union, which was open to all and founded in 1877. Its initial membership consisted of approximately 300 people.

WCTU members chose abstinence from alcohol and defined temperance as moderation in all things healthful and total abstinence from all things harmful. The objective of the WCTU was to secure legal prohibition.

Not long ago I discovered that the Petaluma Museum has a WCTU minute books that cover the years 1911 to 1920 which they were kind enough to allow the Library to photocopy. The photocopied book has been cataloged and one of our dedicated volunteers, Moria Gardner, is indexing it.

The minute book along with this photo, also found within the Petaluma Museum archives, has much to tell us about Petaluma’s history and role women have played in it.

Thanks to Moria’s indexing, women who may have once been invisible to researchers are becoming visible and the story of our past made more complete.



About Katherine J. Rinehart

Katherine J. Rinehart received a MA in History from Sonoma State University in 1994. For the past 19 years, Ms. Rinehart has worked in various positions within the fields of Cultural Resource Management and Historic Preservation and is currently employed by the Sonoma County Library where she has worked in the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Department since 2002. Katherine is the author of Petaluma: A History in Architecture, a contributor to Celebrating Petaluma published by the Petaluma Sesquicentennial Committee and the Petaluma Visitors Program. Ms. Rinehart is an occasional contributor to the Press Democrat and is proud to be a Petaluma Good Egg.
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