Woman of the Century/Jessie A. Ackermann

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ACKERMANN, Miss Jessie A., president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Australasia, born in Boston, Mass., 4th July, 1860. As befits a Fourth-of-July child, she has the ring of American independence. She is a descendant of the Pilgrim Fathers on her mother's side, and is of German extraction on her father's. Her inherited virtues and talents have been developed by liberal educational advantages. She was instructed in law, and spent much time in the study of elocution. She took a private course of study in theology, while drawing and painting and instruction in household matters were not neglected. She had the advantage of extensive travel through her native land and spent much time in the Southern States, immediately after the close of her schooldays. At twelve years of age she was taken to a Good Templars' Lodge, where she received her first temperance teaching, and gave her first temperance talk. She began public work as grand lecturer and organizer for that society in 1881, and continued until, in 1888, the wider scope and higher spiritual tone of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, with its special opportunities for work among women, won her heart, and she began to serve in its ranks. She succeeded amid extraordinary difficulties in organizing unions at Sitka and Juneau, in Alaska. She also traveled and organized in British Columbia with success. She gladly responded to the call to go round the world, and receiving her appointment at the National Convention held in New York, in October, 1888, she sailed from San Francisco for the Sandwich Islands on 29th January, 1889. She reached Honolulu on 6th February, and was cordially welcomed at the residence of the W. C. T. U. president. The Japanese Consul-General, a cultivated Christian gentleman, president of a temperance society of 1,400 members, was much interested in her work and acted as interpreter at the meetings she held among the Japanese residents, the other foreigners and the native Hawaiians. She spent some time in the Islands. The history of her mission in New Zealand and the Australian colonies was recorded in the "Union Signal" by her letters during 1889. Successful and enthusiastic missions were held in the North and South Islands of New Zealand and in the Island of Tasmania. She visited Melbourne on the way for Adelaide. She remained two months in South Australia, traveled over the greater part of the colony, organized twenty-four local unions, called a convention in Adelaide, formed a Colonial Union, and left a membership of 1,126. Workers responded to her call in every place, and money was forthcoming for all needs. Finding the work in Victoria well organized under the care of Mrs. Love, of America, she stayed only a few days, in which she spoke in the crowded meetings of the Victorian Alliance, which is very influential in Melbourne. Her stay in New South Wales was very brief, for she found that outside help was not at that time welcomed in that oldest and most conservative colony, although a good work was doing by the several local unions. She was most cordially welcomed to Queensland, but stayed only long enough to attend their annual convention, as the way to China and Japan seemed open before her. A sense of duty rather than inclination took Miss Ackermann to China, but from the time she landed in Hong Kong she was well received everywhere. As there seemed no opportunity to organize in Hong Kong, she decided to proceed to Siam, by way of Swatow. Her visit to Bankok was prolonged through an attack of malarial fever, which greatly reduced her strength. While in that city, she obtained an JESSIE A. ACKERMANN.jpgJESSIE A. ACKERMANN. audience with His Royal Highness, Prince Diss, who is at the head of the department of education in Siam. She was also presented to His Majesty, the King of Siam, who received her graciously. She returned again to Hong Kong, on the way to Canton, which she reached by river. The northern ports of China being closed, Miss Ackermann proceeded to Japan, going to Yokohama. There she did much work and formed a union. She next visited Tokio. A very successful mission was held at Numadza, where a union of forty members was formed. Meetings were held in Nagoya, and also under the auspices of the temperance society in Kioto, where Miss Ackermann addressed the Congregational Conference, then in session. There she also spoke in the theater to six hundred Buddhist students, on "What Christianity has done for the World." She addressed nine hundred students in the Doshisha school. Osaka was visited at the invitation of the Young Men's Christian Association. Returning to Shanghai, she enjoyed the privilege of attending and making an address before the General Missionary Conference of China. The last was held thirteen years earlier. At that time a woman was called upon to bring her work before the conference, at which the chairman vacated the chair, and many left the meeting in sore grief and indignation. On this occasion, however, all women delegates present, including missionaries' wives, were made voting members of the conference with all the privileges of the floor, amid storms of applause. Miss Ackermann was able to form a National Woman's Christian Temperance Union for China. Successful missions were conducted in Cooktown, Townsville, Mount Morgan, Rockhampton and Brisbane, and she again went into New South Wales. The work was very hard. In the first month she traveled seven-hundred miles, held forty-two meetings, and made more than one-hundred calls in search of leaders for the work. The results were gratifying, being twenty new unions, a reorganized Colonial Union, and fifteen Colonial superintendents. The Good Templars were her faithful friends in that colony, and she spoke in the annual meetings of the Grand Lodge, where about three-hundred delegates were present. She called a convention in Melbourne for May, 1891, which was attended by forty-nine delegates. Miss Ackermann was elected president. A constitution was adopted providing for a triennial convention, the next to be held in Sydney in 1894, and Miss Ackermann was elected president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Australasia for the ensuing term of three years. Since October, 1888, she has traveled more than forty-thousand miles, spoken through interpreters in seventeen different languages, formed more than one-hundred unions, taken five thousand pledges, and received over four thousand women into the union. The suppression of the opium traffic and of gambling, and the religious education of the young are questions to which she is devoting much thought. Since the Australasian convention she has traveled and organized in Victoria and South Australia. Miss Ackermann writes modestly of her platform ability, but she is really a speaker of no mean order. Her audiences are held by her addresses and fascinated by her lectures.