Prohibited But Popular
As support for temperance swelled, conversely, so did women's public consumption of alcohol. As more women entered the traditionally male workplace-a result of the war-they also began to spend their leisure time drinking outside the home. As all-male saloons declined, dance halls and cabarets took their place. For young, unmarried women, consuming alcohol illicitly in speakeasies was fun and fashionable. For middle- and upper-class married women, alcohol became a part of home life, as their husbands now lacked public spaces for drinking.
Because alcohol was scarce, costly, and had a twinkle of glamour, it
became a marker of hospitality and modernity and a staple of entertaining
at home. Accordingly, the 1920s saw the rise of the cocktail party, at
which women used added ingredients to make liquor go farther and to hide
the rough taste of alcohol illegally distilled under Prohibition.
Prohibition occupied the American consciousness throughout the 1920s,
as the contents of one's glass at any social event became a political
statement. By the end of the decade, women were once again using their
moral authority politically, but now to repeal Prohibition. Prohibition
did not stop drinking, was impossible to enforce, and invited disregard of
the law, they argued. Furthermore, it actually encouraged alcohol abuse
among the young. Most vocal was the Women's Organization for National
Prohibition Reform (WONPR), formed in 1929. The WONPR supported Franklin
Roosevelt for president in 1932 based on his promise to repeal
Prohibition. The group disbanded in 1933 after the passage of the
Twenty-First Amendment successfully did so.
Click Image to Get a Closer Look
Photograph of a truckload of liquor arriving in New York City following the repeal of Prohibition
New York Evening Journal
In this December 5, 1933 New York Evening Journal "ready for press" photograph, a crowd gathers as a truckload of liquor arrives in New York City following the repeal of Prohibition.
<< previous section | next section >>