Bernice Bouwens Wins the WCTU Silver Medal in 1930 - February 27, 2019

The W.C.T.U. Silver Medal Contest was in charge of Miss Nella Ver Hage of the junior high school. The contestants this year were Elmer Hartgerink, Dwight Wyngarden, Leon Faber, Bernice Bouwens, and June Kieft. The judges were Rev. J. Vander Beck, Mrs. J. Martin and Mrs. Nina Daugherty, all of Holland, who awarded first honors to Bernice Bouwens. She was awarded a silver medal and will compete for the gold medal in the district contest to be held in Coopersville. 


Source: “Large Gathering At P.T. Meeting.” The Zeeland Record, 20 Nov. 1930, p. 1.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) was founded in Ohio in late 1873 to promote the prohibition (prevention) of alcohol sales, women’s suffrage and establish protective legal rights of women and children.  The Michigan Christian Temperance Union formed and joined in early 1874.  Several local Unions were established including one in Grand Rapids and Holland. 


One way for the W.C.T.U. to further their cause was to promote the education of children. The organization would hold a variety of local and state contests in speech, art and music where awards were given out. The W.C.T.U. felt that by having students perform speeches, draw posters and play music they would be better prepared for their future.


On November 18, 1930, Bernice Bouwens was awarded a Silver Declamatory for reciting a speech (most likely) about prohibition. This small (about 1 inch long) sterling silver pin has a shield with the word “Declamatory” etched on it hanging from a bar pin with “W.C.T.U.” etched on it.  Etched on the reverse side is “11-18-30 B.B.”. Laurel Bratt donated this pin along with another item of her mother’s (Bernice Bouwens Strikwerda) late last year.


The W.C.T.U. still exists today as one of the longest lasting (146 years) all female volunteer organizations.  They still fight for the same issues today that caused the organization to form so long ago. To prevent and educate about substance abuse, establish legal protection for women and children, prison reform, better education for children and so much more. The contests are still part of their program to educate the youth about these topics. These contests include drawing, posters, essays and speeches. 


Information for this article was provided by:

BHL: Michigan Woman's Christian Temperance Union records at

National Woman's Christian Temperance Union at

The Zeeland Record (1893-2006) at


Submitted by Wendy Combs - February 2019