Md. Temperance Union Chief Keeps The Faith In Carroll

November 28, 1990|By Jane Lippy | Jane Lippy,Contributing writer

NEW WINDSOR - She carries with pride the temperance banner passed down from Susan B. Anthony and Carry Nation.

But New Windsor's Nancy Zabel, 63, who was re-elected in October as president of the Maryland Woman's Christian Temperance Union, carries it quietly, without fanfare and without brass bands.

Contrary to popular belief, Zabel said, 19th-century educator, reformer and suffragette Frances Willard did not lead women carrying hatchets into bars. She said those who followed Willard, a Temperance Union founder, invaded saloons to sing hymns and kneel in prayer.

She said the union's goals are to promote abstinence by providing facts about the effects of alcohol, to promote just laws and good citizenship and to build Christian temperance principles into children's characters and public sentiment for sobriety.

Zabel, a member of a Temperance Union group in Prince George's County, said she hopes to form a union -- at least five people -- in Carroll. She said 15 people have expressed interest so far.

"I'm winging it alone," said the soft-spoken Zabel.

Zabel, who joined the organization in 1965 at the invitation of a woman in the Liberty Grove union, in Montgomery County, presided over the Temperance Union's 115th annual Maryland convention at the New Windsor Service Center. Of the state organization's nearly 300 members in 11 unions, 55 women and six men attended the October convention. Nationwide, the Evanston, Ill.-based Temperance Union has 150,000 members.

The organization's 350,000 members worldwide sign a pledge card and pay $5 annual dues. Honorary membership for men is $1.25. Members promise, with God's help, to abstain from all liquors and to discourage their use.

"Alcohol is the biggest drug problem our nation faces," said Zabel, who has been the union's state president for 10 years.

Area groups -- three in Frederick County -- meet for study, worship, projects and programs, such as distributing educational materials through Signal Press, the union's publishing arm; promoting oratorical contests; supporting relief projects and protective legislation for women and children; and fighting prostitution, gambling and other crime.

Willard's "Declaration of Principles," a guide for members, challenges women to unite in building a home dedicated to biblical principles and the Golden Rule.

Parents who promise to teach total abstinence to their young children up to age 5 can enroll them in White Ribbon Recruits, named after the union emblem. Children 6 to 12 can join the Loyal Temperance Legion.

Delmas and Linda Wood of Westminster serve as resource persons for the Youth Temperance Council, for ages 12 to 30, which had a recent weekend retreat at Camp Hashawha.

As state president and national convention field worker, Zabel travels widely, speaking to church and community groups. As a delegate to the worldwide organization since 1971, Zabel has been to five international conventions. She plans to attend the 1992 convention in Goteborg, Sweden.

"We need to tell people to watch what children put in their minds," she said. "Our concern is how alcohol, gambling and pornography affect the home.

"I want to get literature into the hands of as many people as possible.

There has been a renewed interest in the last 10 years," she said.

At the Baltimore Annual United Methodist Conference in Westminster, the Greater Washington Christian Education Association and the Prevention Seminar on Substance Abuse in Montgomery County, Zabel distributed more than 8,000 pieces of literature.

The keynote speaker at the prevention seminar stressed that fetal alcohol syndrome is preventable, something the WCTU has emphasized, she said.

The organization lobbied legislators to order warning labels on liquor bottles. It also works to awaken churches from apathy, promote a smoke-free society, stop fetal research and mandate warning messages on media advertisements of alcoholic beverages.

Zabel, a Washington native and Western Maryland College graduate, taught music, French and English for six years at Sykesville Elementary and Mount Airy High schools. She then taught as a substitute in Westminster.

She lives in the Strawbridge Shrine Curator's House near New Windsor with her husband, the Rev. Walter Zabel, a retired administrator of pensions for the Baltimore Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and a former Methodist pastor in Carroll.

The Zabels have a son, William, 38, who lives in Lolo, Mont., and a daughter, Bonita Wilson, in Westminster.

When her son was 8 years old, Zabel related, a friend invited him to share a chewy rope of licorice.

"No, thanks," he said. "I don't want any candy with liquor in it."

"Children pick up on these things," Zabel said.

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