"Have you heard the tramping of the New Crusade?"
Rollins, Cristin Eleanor
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For over 125 years the WomanÕs Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) has been waging acrusade against alcohol and sin in the United States. As a wildly popular organization during thereformist reign of the late-1800s and early-1900s, the WCTU was instrumental in achievingthalcohol criminalization with the 18 Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. Today, however,the WCTU is an organization struggling against failing membership numbers and financialinsecurity. In this two-year qualitative study, I use means of participant observation, interviews,surveys, focus groups with members, and analysis of organizational literature to examine theWCTU of today. The contemporary WCTU, as a routinized social movement organization,displays qualities of persistence without performance, qualifying it for classification underMeyer and ZuckerÕs category of Permanently Failing Organizations (1989). While theirtheoretical model is helpful to a certain extent, this research shows it best explains organizationswhich persist without goal achievement where other organizations succeed, focusing on theorganizationÕs failure to contend, but yet persist, in an otherwise rational arena. Someorganizations, however, continue to persist without goal achievement because the goalsthemselves have been abandoned or adjusted by other rational organizations to fit within theappetites of the current culture. In these persistent organizations, rationale schemes rely onanachronistic belief systems that are not readily supported in the society in which they reside.The goals, along with the organization, seem to be dying out, and yet the organization staysafloat. This allows for a new analytical category, The Permanently Dying Organization. As acase study that illustrates this new organizational type, the WCTU relies on elements of memberage, religiosity, an organizational focus on alcohol, and the cultural-historical elements of ritualto sustain the organization. Through this frame of the Permanently Dying Organization, Iexamine the contemporary WCTU and endeavor to address its viability for the future.