All About History

THE WOMEN WHO MADE PROHIBITION

When America went dry in 1920, the newspapers were filled with images of the men in high office who had ordered Prohibition into being and the male enforcement officers who were smashing booze into history. But behind this masculine façade lay a reality few could deny. Prohibition, one of the biggest social changes in the Western world in decades, was down to women.

Through social pressure, protests and relentless campaigning, female prohibitionists had turned the religious push for temperance that grew steadily in 19th century American communities into the dominant political issue of the early 20th century. It didn’t matter that they couldn’t vote. The populist politician William Jennings Bryan acknowledged that ‘’women are largely responsible for national Prohibition, which was secured without equal suffrage’’.

With no official political voice for women, the final push for a booze ban came from men. It was Wayne Wheeler, the famously ambitious leader of the Anti-Saloon League, who helped draft the Act covering the legislation required to implement the 18th Amendment, which banned the ‘’manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors’’. That Act carried the name of Andrew Volstead, the Republican politician who sponsored it. Both men had grown up in a world where female prohibition campaigners had influenced education, scientific thought and media debate. They, like millions of other men of voting age, had

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