WCTU bannerThis hand-painted silk banner was created by the Spencerville Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, probably in the early 20th century. It is one of two banners donated in 1978 by the Spencerville WCTU; this one reads “MONTGOMERY COUNTY, WE SHALL WIN.”  An elaborate WCTU logo is in the center, with three sprays of leaves around the edges. Beaded fringe adorns the bottom edge, and it is hung from a metal rod with a silk, tasseled cord for display.

The National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – it is officially “Woman’s,” not “Women’s” – was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1874. Although temperance (abstinence from alcohol and drugs) was the WCTU’s main concern, it also agitated for women’s suffrage, labor reform, and many other issues related to the rights of women and children.  (And still does; the WCTU is an active organization.)  Local “unions”  were formed all over the country. Spencerville is a small community along Spencerville Road (naturally enough), between Sandy Spring and Burtonsville; their branch of the WCTU was most likely formed in the late 1870s. According to a brief history of the group written in the 1970s, “a Hall was built in Spencerville by and for the WCTU before anyone living can remember. It was torn down approximately forty years ago [probably during the 1930s] and the meetings carried on in the churches.” The first two Presidents, Mrs. Mary Jane Duvall and Miss Lillie B. Stabler, each served in the position for several decades, although later in the 20th century the position changed to an elected one, with short terms. Membership “reached the peak of 121” during the 1950s, and the group was still active in serving the needy in the 1970s, but this particular branch of the WCTU seems to be gone.

I’m not sure of the banner’s specific purpose; it was probably created for a parade or protest, possibly a local one (although our county’s proximity to D.C. means it’s relatively easy for local groups to carry their message to national events) since it seems to be addressed to residents of the county. It could also have been intended as inspirational decoration for the Spencerville WCTU Hall. I hope someday to track down the minutes of the group, or find reference to their participation in various events in the local newspaper.  I wish the banner said “WE SHALL WIN . . . IN 1907” or some other convenient hint, but that would make my job too easy.

p.s. For more information on the community of Spencerville, the Sandy Spring Museum’s website has a great summary and a little map.