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Phebe A. Hathaway (1822-1886)

Phebe A. Hathaway was born on April 14, 1822 in New York and was a longtime resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Miss Hathaway, who never married, was a teacher in Portsmouth and an active member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU Rhode Island chapter was created on January 20, 1875, at the Providence Central Baptist Church, where Phebe Hathaway was elected as a vice president. In May of that year, the first annual meeting of the WCTU of Rhode Island was held in the chapel of the Beneficent Church of Providence and Phebe Hathaway was elected president, an office she held for two years.

WCTU members pledged abstinence from all liquors, wines, beers, and ciders. They also agreed to actively discourage others from selling or consuming alcohol. Their objectives were to build support for the temperance movement and to eliminate alcohol and all of the social problems that they believed were caused by its consumption.

The WCTU gained popularity in Rhode Island through the end of the decade and by 1880 the state had fifteen local chapters. The WCTU continued to fight for a ban on alcohol until the ratification of the 18th Amendment and passage of a national prohibition law in 1919.

Miss Hathaway did not live to see the dried fruits of her labor. She died on December 20, 1886 and was buried in Providence at the North Burial Ground. Read More...

Lisa Boutin, Student at Rhode Island College