Tinker Swiss hosts Temperance Movement event

Museum opened new Temperance exhibit June 11 in Tinker Barn

Thespian Leslie Goddard to portray Frances Willard, founder of the WCTU, July 19

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum recently opened a new exhibit, Wet or Dry? Rockford & the Temperance Movement, in the Tinker Barn & Visitor Center.

The exhibit explores the activities of Rockford’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and their role in limiting the availability of alcohol.

The exhibit, researched and installed by volunteer Alida Horton, will remain on display through Dec. 30. Visitors can view the display Tuesday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

The availability and drinking of alcohol in the late 1800s was a controversial topic. While clean water was scarce in urban areas and milk expensive, alcohol was cheap and readily available. At the same time, however, the abuse of alcohol resulted in a host of social problems. By the 1840s, women across the nation were founding local temperance societies intent on setting limits to the use of alcohol and saving families from the evils of alcoholism.

In 1874, as the movement grew, the national organization the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was established. In Rockford, the WCTU inserted itself in local politics. Several women of the Tinker family were active in the WCTU. In 1908, the group succeeded in getting a local option law passed that closed all of Rockford’s saloons. The debate raged in Rockford for decades.

As part of the exhibit, Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum will host historian and thespian Leslie Goddard at 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 19. Goddard will portray Frances Willard, founder of the WCTU, in a dynamic first-person performance that brings the issues of the Temperance Movement to life. This free presentation will be in the Museum’s Tinker Barn & Visitor Center.

Tinker Swiss Cottage, built in 1865, was the home of Rockford businessman and Mayor Robert H. Tinker. The Museum is just south of Davis Park off South Main Street at 411 Kent St. For more information, call the museum at 964-2424 or visit www.tinkercottage.com.

From the June 28-July 4, 2006, issue

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