Women's Groups 2013 - Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Western Australia

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Western Australia

Purpose of the group

The WCTU started as a social reform group concerned with campaigning for the prohibition and/or individual abstinence from alcohol. Group members believed the dangers of alcohol could not be tackled in isolation so a wide range of reforms were pursued.

Enfranchisement of women was one of the group’s main objectives because the vote was seen as a vital tool in the fight against alcohol’s effect on the lives of women. The WCTU advocated for equal pay and, during the 1930s Depression, a relief committee was formed to provide financial aid to unemployed women.

The WCTU was an original member of the National Council of Women and had links to many other women’s organisations. The union was one of many women’s groups in Perth concerned with what was considered to be an increase in immorality during World War II, believed to be linked to alcohol.

The group’s motto is ‘for God, home and humanity’ and its badge is a white ribbon bow—the white represents purity and peace while the bow symbolises the bond between members around the world.

Time period

The WCTU was established in the United States as early as the 1870s and the first Australian branch was formed in Sydney in 1882. The WA branch was established in York in 1891 with a Perth branch forming in September 1892. Worldwide, the organisation continues to operate and, in WA, is now known as BREATHE (Believe, Renew, Equip, Advocate, Teach, Heal, Embrace).

Key achievements

For more than 100 years, WCTU members have written countless letters and petitions to raise awareness and promote the group’s values. Some of the many achievements include:

  • In 1894, members collected signatures for a petition to present to parliament, seeking the vote for women. When the signatures were pasted on to a roll of cloth, it measured a mile (1.6km).
  • A tearoom was opened in Perth by the WCTU in 1898 and accommodation and support was offered to young women who wanted to stop working in local brothels.
  • A ‘sailor’s rest’ was opened in Fremantle in 1900 because it was considered important for sailors to be kept away from harmful shore leave activities. A restaurant—the Leisure Hour Club—opened about same time and was the only restaurant in Perth where alcohol was not permitted yet the venue still made a small profit.

Key people and positions in the group

  • Emily Hensman was inaugural president.
  • Other presidents included Mrs Ferguson, Mrs Gover, Miss Forsyth, Mrs Medcalf, Mrs Driver, Mrs Althorp, Mrs Hart, Mrs Curtis, Mrs Burnett, Mrs Muir McCulloch, Mrs Nightingale, Mrs Vallance, Mrs Wilkins, Mrs Humphrys, Mrs Hlland, Mrs Wilkins, Mrs Eddy, Mrs Magill, Mrs Palmers, Mrs Lawrence, Mrs Edwards and Mrs Adams.


  • Reekie, Gail. 1985. War, Sexuality and Feminism: Perth’s Women’s Organisations 1938–1945 in Historical Studies vol. 21, no. 85, 1985, pp. 576–591.
  • Henderson, Joyce R. 1992. The strength of white ribbon: A year-by-year record of the centennial history of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Western Australia (Inc.): ten decades of service for ‘God, home and humanity’.
  • http://www.wctu.com.au/pages/history.html.
  • http://www.breathe.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3.

Article Index
Women's Groups 2013
Abortion Law Repeal Association/Association for the Legal Right to Abortion (ALRA)
American Women's Club of Perth (AWC)
Association of Civilian Widows of WA Inc
Australian College of Midwives WA Branch (ACM)
Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA)
Beta Sigma Phi
Business and Professional Women Western Australia (BPW)
Catholic Women’s League of Western Australia (Inc)
Chrysalis House Women's Refuge
Cine-Matrix: Women in Film and Television WA
Cockburn Women’s Peace Camp
Combined Equal Pay Committee/WA Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity
Community Midwifery WA
Country Women’s Association (CWA)
Domestic Violence Action Group (Geraldton)
Emily’s List
Equal Opportunity Law Reform Coalition
Fremantle Women’s Health Centre (FWHC)
Girl Guides WA
Graduate Women Western Australia (GWWA)/Australian Federation of University Women (AFUW) Western Australia
Grapevine/Perth Wimmin’s Collective
Gretel Club of Perth (Inc)
Harvest Guild
Incest Survivors Association (Inc.)
Inner Wheel Australia
Inside Out Project
Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre
Kalgoorlie Auxiliary of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Karrakatta Club
Labor Women’s Association
Lespar Library
Living Child Inc.—Safe Village Births
Lutheran Women WA
Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre
Mining Mums
Modern Women's Club
Mothers’ Union Australia
Movement for the Ordination of Women
Muslim Women’s Support Centre of WA (Inc)
National Council of Women of Western Australia (previously known as West Australian National Council of Women and Western Australian National Council of Women)
National Council of Jewish Women of Australia—WA section (NCJWA)
Nintirri Centre
Older Women’s Network (OWN WA)
Penguin Club
Perth Ionian Club
Polyhymnia Reading Group
Rape Crisis Line
Rural Remote Regional Women’s Network (RRR)
Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC)
Sibyl/University of Western Australia Student Guild Women’s Collective
Society of Women Writers WA
Soroptimist International of Western Australia
Starick Services Inc
Status of Women Committee WA—Australian Labor Party
Tradeswomen on the Move
UN Women Australia (formerly UNIFEM Australia)—Perth Chapter Young UN Women Perth Chapter
Union of Australian Women—WA Branch
V.I.E.W. Western Australia
West Australian Women’s Society of Fine Arts and Crafts
War Widows’ Guild
Warrawee Women’s Refuge
Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL)
West Australian Housewives’ Association (Inc)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Women in Media
Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE)
Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Western Australia
Women in Education Coalition
Women in Mining WA (WIMWA)
Women in Sailing (WIS)
Women in Sport Committee of the Western Australian Sports Council
Women in Technology WA (Inc) (WiTWA)
Women Lawyers of Western Australia (Inc) (WLWA)
Women with Disabilities WA Inc (WWDWA)
Women’s Action Alliance (WAA)
Women’s Advisory Council (WAC)
Women’s Broadcasting Cooperative
Women’s Committee of State School Teachers’ Union WA Executive
Women's Committee of the Waterside Workers Federation
Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services (WA)/Women’s Refuge Group of WA (WRG)
Women’s Health and Family Services/Women’s Health Care House/Perth Women’s Centre/Women’s Health Service
Women’s Information Service (WIS)
Women’s Interest Network
Women in Engineering WA (WIE WA)
Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO)
Women’s Liberation
Women’s Service Guilds
Women’s Studies Group
Yanay Yanma
YWCA of Perth
Zonta International
Additional Groups
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