The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1873 with an aim of promoting abstinence from alcohol, and its membership peaked in 1931, late in the Prohibition Era, with a total of 372,355 members.

But in 1947, when the women of a California chapter of the WCTU tried to make a statement by invading bars in Pasadena, the organization was already on its way to becoming a historical novelty. LIFE magazine opened its story on the bar invasion with the comment “These marching grandmothers will seem strange to many younger Americans. But to older people, who can recall the violent days of hatchet-wielding, saloon-smashing Carry Nation, they will seem like nothing more than a wisp out of the past.”

Here’s how LIFE, in its issue of May 19, 1947, described what happened when this era of WCTU women decided to infiltrate the Pasadena bar scene:

They urged barkeepers to seek “more honorable” jobs. They pointed out possible law violations to proprietors. They pleaded with customers to sign no-drink pledges. At one bar they found a mother with her daughter, embraced the mother and prayed for her. Later the mother joined them in singing Onward Christian Soldiers.

While the women of the WCTU found some success that day, the photographs by LIFE staff photographer Peter Stackpole capture reactions from the bar denizens that range from annoyance to indifference. The LIFE story concluded by recounting a scene from a story by American humorist Finley Peter Dunne, in which one character praises a man who drinks moderately, and another responds “What’s his name? What novel is he in?”

Today the WCTU still carries on, though it’s national membership has dwindled to around 5,000. Alcoholics Anonymous, meanwhile, counts a membership of around 2 million.

Women’s Christian Temperance Union members singing “Dry, Clean California,” 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A scene from a meeting of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in southern California, 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in California, 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Women’s Christian Temperance Union members brought their message of alcohol abstinence to bars in Pasadena, Calif., 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union displayed a wrecked car to advocate against the dangers of drinking, 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Women’s Christian Temperance Union members brought their message of alcohol abstinence to bars in Pasadena, Calif., 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Women’s Christian Temperance Union members brought their message of alcohol abstinence to bars in Pasadena, Calif., 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Women’s Christian Temperance Union members invaded a bar in Pasadena, Calif., while customers remain indifferent, 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Women’s Christian Temperance Union member tried to get a bar partron to sign non-drinking pledge, Pasadena, Calif., 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A bar patron downed his drink while Women’s Christian Temperance Union members looked for converts at a bar in Pasadena, Calif., 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union brought their message of alcohol abstinence to bars in Pasadena, Calif., 1947.

Peter Stackpole/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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