In Washington there was a great slamming of heavy doors upon newshawks' noses last week as fourscore representatives of the 34 organizations composing the U. S. Drys, Consolidated, met secretly to devise ways & means of checking the Wet groundswell throughout the land. To reporters it was explained that many Prohibitors, particularly women, were "very timid" and hesitated to speak their minds before the Press.
First the Drys met as members of the National Temperance Council. Then overnight they shuffled offices and titles and became the National Conference of Organizations Supporting the 18th Amendment. Present were all the prime professional ProhibitorsFrancis Scott McBride (Anti-Saloon League), Clarence True Wilson (Methodist Episcopal Board of Temperance, Prohibition & Public Morals), Mrs. Ella Alexander Boole (Women's Christian Temperance Union), Ernest Hurst Cherrington (World League Against Alcoholism), Oliver Stewart (Flying Squadron Foundation), Daniel Alfred Poling (World Christian Endeavor), Clinton Howard (National United Committee on Law Enforcement), Arthur James Barton (Southern Baptists), William Sheafe Chase (International Reform Bureau). Most conspicuous absentee: Bishop James Cannon Jr. (Methodist Episcopal Church, South).
In executive session the Prohibitors voted against any sort of Prohibition referendum as "unauthorized, unconstitutional and unprecedented." They endorsed all the Wickersham Commission's enforcement bills, appointed a "combined board of Unified Strategy" under gentle, white-haired Mrs. Boole to plan their 1932 fight. They quizzed and cheered Prohibition Director Woodcock. Noticeable was a new but vain demand by lay Prohibitors to be included in the Dry leadership on equal terms with clergymen.
What put these Dry sessions on the front pages of the public prints was not their routine doings but the sudden appearance of Mrs. Mabel Elizabeth Walker Willebrandt, onetime (1921-29) U. S. Assistant Attorney General in charge of Prohibition. She had come to defend her new occupation as counsel for Fruit Industries, Inc. (TIME, Oct. 20). Because of her connection with this firm selling a grape juice concentrate easily convertible into wine, Drys have eyed Mrs. Willebrandt as a backslider in their Cause. After first refusing to hear her, the Temperance Council finally cracked open its doors to her, closed it again, listened for two hours while she used all her legal and oratorical talents explaining, declaiming, answering questions about her new job. "What about those big wine kegs?" one delegate was overheard to ask. "They're grape juice kegs," snapped back Fruit Industries' smart lawyer. "The company uses them in lieu of smaller containers still unavailable."
Afterward Dry leaders came trooping out, satisfied that Mrs. Willebrandt was still one of them, though they squelched every news attempt to find out just what she had said. Their efforts to keep her self-defense secret were futile, however, because the week before she had stated her case in a letter to her friend Mrs. Mary R. Haslup, president of the Maryland W. C. T. U., who had given it to the Press. Excerpts: