However, the actual resolution that the convention approved was quite different from the one that Willard proposed, and the one that had been passed the previous year. It did not mention the word "lynching" at all. Instead, it declared that the WCTU was opposed to "all lawless acts" in the United States. But it emphasized that the "lawlessness" of lynching happened in response to "unspeakable outrages" that were "worse than death"--meaning, the rapes that black men were supposedly committing against white women.
This resolution is confusing because it relies on euphemisms. The document has been annotated to make it easier to understand.
Who wrote this resolution, and why did the WCTU pass it instead of the one that Willard suggested?
One clue on what happened comes to us from Susan Fessenden, the president of the Massachusetts WCTU and the sponsor of the anti-lynching resolution the previous year
. In March of 1895, Fessenden wrote the following letter to Florence Balgarnie, the ally of Ida B. Wells in the British Women's Temperance Association (BWTA). Balgarnie was attempting to piece together what had happened at the convention in 1894. She later reprinted this letter from Fessenden in an issue of Fraternity
Fessenden reported that Southern white women at the convention had objected to her anti-lynching resolution. Presumably, they drafted the one that replaced it. In its insistence that lynching happened in response to rapes, the resolution reflects the prevailing stance of Southern whites toward the lynching issue.
The 1894 WCTU Convention: The Aftermath
Ida B. Wells, who had come to Cleveland for the WCTU convention
, also had several other speaking engagements scheduled in the city that week. Since Frances Willard had chosen to continue to criticize Wells in her presidential address, Wells took the opportunity to respond. At a Cleveland African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, she gave the speech described in this piece.