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The White Ribbon - Temperate Women on Public Scenes
Halmstad University, School of Humanities (HUM), Contexts and Cultural Boundaries (KK).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9314-8749
2012 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The White Ribbon – Temperate Women on Public Scenes

I would like to present my dissertation on the female temperance organization the White Ribbon, founded in Sweden in the year 1900. The organisation was part of the international World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The aim of the White Ribbon was to create a temperate society and the activity was nationwide. The organisation ran temperance restaurants, and established different kinds of philanthropic institutions such as orphanages, rest homes, and rescue homes for prostitutes and female alcoholics. They also launched vocational training and educational courses for women. They had their own publishing firm, which issued a journal and pamphlets.

I have studied the White Ribbon as a social movement, and therefore I use a social movement theory to analyse their work. This theoretical approach has made it possible to analyse the underlying ideology as well as the organisation’s practical activities. Thus, I have been able to focus on the social and political activities in relation to the process of democratisation in Sweden. The study shows that the White Ribbon’s aim was not only to create a temperate society. In fact, it may be argued that the primary ambition was an equal and democratic society, which was founded on women’s political rights and their participation.

Generally speaking, female Christian associations and their charitable activities have been considered conservative, promoting a traditional female ideal that consigned women to the private sphere. My study shows differently. The White Ribboners opposed the prevailing views on women, arguing that they had both a right and an obligation to act in society and politics. Their philanthropic institutes did not originate from a female Christian mission but from socio- political ambitions. Moreover, they should also be seen as businesses in a branch of new and necessary social services; the White Ribboners were in fact entrepreneurs and business owners. The organisation’s members were presented as role models for how women could and should participate in society. The journal paid attention and tributes to businesswomen, female politicians and writers, etcetera. This way the White Ribbon praised and promoted icons that contradicted the prevailing view on women. In short, they introduced a new and different female ideal.

As part of the temperance movement, the White Ribboners did not only have access to the political field, but were also recognised as political agents. Like their male equivalents, the White Ribboners were political lobbyists active in political parties. Quite a few of them were members of the Liberal party and had positions in local councils. Like many other studies, mine shows that women were active agents on the public and political scene. Despite this, female politicians are rarely mentioned in the history of politics; newly published school textbooks still reproduce the view that men, and not women, were agents in society, claiming that the public and political scenes were male domains. Unfortunately, after decades of gender research the history shelves in Swedish bookstores are still dominated by the history of men. This raises several questions worth discussing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. 9- p.
Keyword [en]
the White Ribbon, The World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, women in politics, women's movement, temperance movement, people's education, gender history
Keyword [sv]
Vita Bandet, kvinnorörelsen, nykterhetsrörelsen, folkbildning, kvinnor i politik, genushistoria
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-19186OAI: diva2:542661
9th European Social Science History Conference, Glasgow, Scotland 11-14 April 2012.
Available from: 2012-08-30 Created: 2012-08-02 Last updated: 2015-10-05Bibliographically approved

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Bengtsson, Åsa
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