“Heard Dr. Whiting on the women’s temperance movement.”

Lavinia Goodell, April 26, 1874

Lavinia Goodell and her parents were members of the Congregational Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and she had a cordial relationship with the church’s pastors. While she became close friends with Rev. T.P. Sawin, who was the same age as Lavinia and arrived in 1876, she was also very fond of Sawin’s predecessor, Dr. Lyman Whiting.

Dr. Lyman Whiting

In addition to his church obligations, Dr. Whiting and his wife actively supported Janesville’s temperance crusade. In late April 1874, Lavinia’s diary entry notes that she had gone to hear Dr. Whiting speak about temperance.

The following day’s Janesville Gazette had a lengthy article about Dr. Whiting’s talk. The headline proclaimed, “A brilliant sermon full of faith – the ladies to be triumphant.” The Gazette said, “Women have come to do the great moral work that men have failed to do, and that woman is the final force to carry out what men have begun.” The Gazette went on:

The Doctor said no subject had gone through more conflicts than the liquor question, and that none had been more largely legislated upon. . . . The Doctor fully maintained that the whole work was clothed in the panoply of prayer, and even though the tide might, at times, weaken, yet it would never die out, for the ladies are determined to continue the work as long as life shall last; and when they shall have passed the threshold to the other world, their daughters have been educated to take up the work where their mothers left off, and pursue the rum moloch until the last saloon is closed.

This very able sermon could not have been given at a more auspicious time – just when the subject is being talked at, thought of, and agitated more than at any other time in the history of Janesville, and when the I.T.U. and friends of temperance – and especially the Sons of Temperance (which order admits ladies into its sacred precincts) are putting forth their best efforts in the great reform, and in which we are glad to announce, have been successful far beyond the anticipations of its friends, in point of numbers.

Let the good work go on.

Although Dr. Whiting’s lecture was well-received and Lavinia deemed it “real good,” it is interesting to note that the final line in her diary entry read, “but I was made miserable afterwards by revelations of Ktimidity and hypocracy among those I thot better of.” Lavinia did not elaborate on the specific reason for her statement, but it is likely that her frustration arose out of the fact that many Janesville women were afraid of speaking out in favor of women’s rights lest they be deemed “unwomanly.” (Read more about that here.) Lavinia battled that hesitancy her entire life.

Sources consulted: Lavinia Goodell’s diary; Janesville Gazette (April 27, 1874).

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