Letitia Creighton Youmans: Teacher, temperance crusader and champion of women’s rights
Letitia Creighton was born in 1827 near Baltimore (now Creighton Heights) to John and Annie Creighton.
Letitia began her schooling at age four in a log house, and by age six travelled a mile and a half to Hulls Corners for classes. At sixteen, she boarded at the Cobourg Ladies Seminary, and later, the Burlington Ladies Academy in Hamilton. Two years after graduating, Letitia accepted a teaching position at the Picton Ladies Academy.
It was there that she met and married widower Arthur Youmans.
Letitia’s commitment to temperance and battling the evils of alcohol abuse, grew through her involvement in her local Methodist church.
In 1874 she travelled to Chautauqua, New York, for a meeting of Christian educators. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had been founded in the United States that year and temperance meetings were conducted as part of the conference. Youmans returned to Upper Canada inspired, founding the second WCTU Canadian branch in Picton.
The Picton WCTU succeeded in convincing Prince Edward County in 1875 to ban sales of alcohol.
In October 1875 she spoke to a large crowd in Port Hope’s YMCA Hall, a rousing return “home” for a now popular speaker. Her message softened to that of “home protection” for women and children.
Letitia’s campaigning in subsequent years, led her across Canada, parts of the US and the UK. A normally quiet person, she became Canada’s foremost temperance crusader, a fiery orator on stage.
In 1881 Letitia was invited to the White House to meet President Rutherford Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes.
In 1883 she met Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald – failing to persuade him to ban alcohol. No kidding!
In 1888, with Letitia as President of the Dominion WCTU, the members endorsed women’s suffrage. The WCTU was now the largest and most influential women’s group in Canada.
Letitia died July 16, 1896 in Toronto. She is buried in Picton.
Her legacy is as a champion for the betterment of women and children in Canada.
Nellie McClung was inspired by Letitia’s work, joining the WCTU in 1890. The seed for women’s votes had indeed been planted.