Attendance at the King Edward Technical College
centenary celebrations last month had an unexpected
historical significance for 74-year-old former pupil Joan
McDonald (nee Potter).
When she saw Annette Paterson (nee Forrester), a member of
her old school hockey team, instead of peering at her name
tag, she was more interested in the white ribbon bow badge
Mrs Paterson was wearing.
The badge is worn by members of the New Zealand Women's
Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1885, the oldest
combined women's organisation in New Zealand and a
significant force in the suffrage movement.
Mrs McDonald said she had been looking for a badge for 50
years since that of her grandmother, Elizabeth Potter, had
The late Mrs Potter had been a stalwart of the WCTU about 75
years ago. She helped run a seamen's refuge in Port Chalmers,
where sailors would be given "cups of tea and scones and the
ladies organised books to keep them away from the demon
Mrs McDonald was thrilled to discover Mrs Paterson was the
national president and soon made arrangements to join the
"nearly defunct" organisation.
Mrs Paterson, who lives in Auckland and has been involved in
the union since 1993, said she preferred not to talk about
membership numbers, but there were still groups in several
parts of the country raising concerns about alcohol abuse. A
particular focus recently had been on raising awareness of
fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Mrs McDonald is one of only two members in Dunedin, and the
other is no longer active in the organisation.
A teetotaller as required under the WCTU rules, Mrs McDonald
does not see herself as a one-woman crusader against all
However, she said she was "going to be an absolute pain" if
she saw pregnant women drinking.
She was also keen to remind young women about the role the
WCTU had played in gaining women the vote. Proudly wearing
her new badge, she would be telling them to vote in this
year's election and encouraging them to "talk about what
still needs to be done about the booze culture, so rife in
our young women".
She was "overwhelmed" that she had found the badge after so
many years of searching.
"I know I have got to do something with it."
White ribbon bow
The worldwide badge of the Women's Christian Temperance
A symbol of purity of purposeIn the original pledge, badge
holders promised to:
1. Uphold the law of purity, as equally binding upon
men and women.
2. Be modest in language, behaviour and dress.
3. Avoid all conversation, reading, art and amusements
which may put impure thoughts into my mind.
4. Guard the purity of others, especially of the
5. Strive after the special blessing promised to the
pure in heart.
Source: A Challenge Not a Truce, A history
of the New Zealand WCTU 1885-1985, by Jeanne Wood