Madison County, KY native Frances Estill Beauchamp (1857-1923) spearheaded the late nineteenth century antiliquor crusade in Kentucky and was a leading figure in the temperance movement nationwide.
Beauchamp was a devout Presbyterian and embraced the temperance lifestyle at an early age. She became active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1886, when a local chapter was formed in Lexington, where she had moved with her husband in 1880. She took charge of the Lexington union as president and helped to form chapters across Kentucky.
In 1894 Beauchamp was elected assistant recording secretary of the national WCTU, an office she held for ten years, but returned to the Kentucky chapter in 1895, where she served as president from that year until her death in 1923. She served ten years as chairman of the state Prohibition Party at a time when women were denied the vote. Largely through Beauchamp’s efforts, a prohibition amendment to the Kentucky constitution was adopted in 1919.
Beauchamp sums up her political position on Prohibition succinctly in this 1911 editorial from ‘The American Advance,’ published in Chicago by the Prohibition National Committee:
“We stand first, last and all the time for Prohibition with a Party back of it.
We mean death to the distillery and the brewery, and on the way to that end we will lend a hand to put out of commission all their retail agents, provided we are not expected to halt or turn aside from our great purpose to free this Nation from the liquor traffic by National Political Prohibition.
“The history of the Prohibition evolution cannot be written without a recognition of woman’s organized work, and that largely as represented and executed by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
“Mary A. Livermore was wont to say before the women organized: ‘The temperance question can never be settled until women take hold of it.’
“That this was an expression of the attitude of the subconscious public mind was demonstrated in the reception accorded to, and the result of, the crusade. As we look back upon that movement we see it resembles more nearly the day of Pentecost than any other event in history.
“For those women were ‘all filled with the Holy Ghost . . . and began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ Such a marvelous demonstration was essential to ‘the arrest of thought,’ and after its occurrence the world could never again be just the same for women.
“God had shown that woman had her civic duties and could discharge them even in a government where up to that time she had been more thoroughly divorced from political life than in any other Christian government. Of course agitation could not be conducted for any great length of time at that high tension. But the object lesson had aroused Christian women so it was at once followed by systematically organized work.
“The maternal instinct being the dominant keynote in woman’s nature, and that key having never been put out of tune with the divine purpose, as the corresponding keynote of paternal instinct at times seems to have been either silenced, broken or destroyed, she naturally thought first of the protection of childhood.
“To do this two things were essential: The child must be fortified with knowledge of the nature and destructive power of alcohol. Second, the pitfalls of seductive temptation must be removed from the pathway of the ignorant innocent victim.
“These two lines of work meant total abstinence for the individual and total prohibition for the State. She is to be forgiven if she did not see the logical conclusion from the beginning. The more readily should this forgiveness be accorded because she has so willingly accepted each successive step in the evolution as it has been demonstrated to her.
“To-day every woman in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union endorses temperance work in the Sunday-school, Juvenile Temperance organization, Scientific Temperance Instruction in the public school, the organization of the young people for the Prohibition fight. Every woman also looks longingly forward to the day when State and National Prohibition laws shall be enacted and enforced by officials in sympathy with these laws.”
Sources: The American Advance, Prohibition National Committee, Chicago, April 1, 1911