SUBMITTED PHOTO Belvidere Republican
One of the 1910 Dry Parade Floats. This motto was ‘Less Beer More Bread.’

By Mindy Long


Although our local bars are now operating under state restrictions, there was a time when Boone County was a completely dry county. Absolutely no alcohol allowed. This month’s Rad women article will focus on one of the prominent women who brought about that law, Miss Susie N. Davis, president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) for many years.

Susie was born Sept. 18, 1863, in Rockford Township. Her Canadian parents immigrated to America in 1846 and settled in Rockford where they added four daughters and five sons to their family. The children were educated in their early years in Rockford schools, but moved to Belvidere in the late 1800s where they be-came members of the Baptist Church.

In those days, early WCTU meetings were held in local homes or at local churches. The organization itself was non-denominational and accommodated many local women from all religions who wanted to do good works in the community. Needless to say, the Baptist Church women were heavily involved with the WCTU and Susie became a regular as a young woman.

Susie continued her education after high school, achieving a teaching certificate and teaching third grade in local schools. She was a popular teacher, focusing on speech and elocution for her pupils. She continued her work with the WCTU, becoming the recording secretary in the early 1900’s. Susie was also the driving force behind the 1910 Boone County dry parade, organizing floats, participants, and the parade route.

The National Prohibition Act would not take effect until 1920, but liquor and saloons were a sore spot in many communities in those days. In 1908, influenced by the Anti-Saloon League of Illinois, local townships and counties voted on becoming a dry state. The results were mixed and a so-called ‘dry belt’ was created across our state. In Dixon, for example, voters kicked out the saloons, while in nearby Sterling voters elected to keep their saloons. Both Winnebago and Boone Counties voted to become dry counties, with Boone forbidding any saloons for two years, until 1910.

Enter the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Deter-mined to keep liquor out of Belvidere and Boone County, a large parade was planned to sway voters in the 1910 election. Susie N. Davis was a key figure in the event. Ac-cording to historical ac-counts, Susie had a knack for recruiting children to march in the parade. With her teaching skills, Susie helped the children create poems and mottos, giving them speech lessons in order to sway voters. Catchy phrases like “More Bread, Less Beer;” “Boys or Booze-Which?” “Vote for Little Mary;” “Booze Ruins Biz” and “Hit the Saloon with a Yes Vote” were designed by Susie along with floats to emphasize the motto. For example, the “Boys or Booze” float held a number of forlorn school age boys pleading with voters to outlaw liquor. As you see in the photo, the “More Bread, Less Beer” float held a family sitting down to dinner, representing a wholesome ideal without alcohol.

The parade worked, and Boone County voters continued to outlaw alcohol in the 1910 election. National Prohibition took effect from 1920 to 1933, so Belvidere and Boone County were an abstaining dry county for 25 years. Due to the success of the 1910 dry parade, Susie eventually became President of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union, serving in that capacity for several years until her retirement in 1927. Of course, she faced a lot of criticism for her use of children in the parade and gave up teaching in 1914. Susie returned back to school, though, and quickly earned a beauty certificate from the International Institute of Beauty Culture, opening a beauty salon at 131 N. State St. in 1915.

After stepping down from the WCTU, Susie continued her good works as chair of the Prohibition Party in Boone County. She was instrumental in aiding the formation of the Boone County Dry Enforcement and Legislative Committee, a legal and law enforcement group who investigated reports of bootleg alcohol, slapping heavy fines and jail sentences on violators. Susie also worked regularly with the National Prohibition Party on campaigns to place Presidential and U.S. Senate candidates on election ballots. She also continued volunteer work with the WCTU, helping them open a ladies public lounge and rest-room in the upstairs suite of the Belvidere Bank building on Logan and State that was utilized by female students, workers, and shoppers who needed a public place to rest.

A passionate force in the fight against the evils of liquor, Susie Davis passed away in December 1944 at her cottage in Camp Epworth. Although the WCTU membership has fallen off these days, the organization continues its fight against alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse in 36 countries with at least one chapter in every U.S. state. Hopefully, if we follow Boone County Health Department’s recommendations, Boone County’s cur-rent restrictions will only last a couple of weeks instead of the 25 years faced by our ancestors.




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