October 1, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Social history

Prohibition was not strictly the result of moral conviction sweeping the nation that drinking was wrong. Many elites and industrialist promoted prohibition because they wanted to target ethnic neighborhoods, groups whose community center tended to be the saloon. Prohibition want to sober up the poor working class who were their employees, to enhance their ability and work ethic.
Prohibition was not aimed at the upper class at all this was demonstrated in the unequal enforcement of the eighteenth amendment (Lerner 105). The attitudes of many is summed up by this quote from Dry Manhattan. Lerner writes of a Journalist interviewing a meatpacking magnate who “discussed the benefits of prohibition for the working class while holding a cocktail in his hand” (Lerner, pg 113).
Not all prohibitionist were so hypocritical woman who were very much involved were doing so because they were the moral guardians of our country woman such as Beauchamp, who was a leading prohibitionist active in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She was the recording secretary of the National WCTU, and then became the President in 1895 until her death in 1923(Keepler, 63). Beauchamp not only educated and advocated for prohibition but also initiated the WCTU to improve prisons and creation of a separate prison for under age offenders (Keepler, 63). Beauchamp not only held position in a woman’s group for prohibition but also was elected to position in the Prohibition Party state wide and nationally(Keepler, 63).
Prohibition also targeted African Americans who viewed it as a chance to eliminate corruption due to alcohol and “give new power to the black voters”(Lerner 35). Corruption prevailed though in the different form of illegal alcohol. While corruption ensued, the speakeasy and jazz craze captivated both Blacks and Whites, bringing them together. In the already hidden speakeasies, Blacks and Whites could easily intermingle(Lerner 207).

Kleeber, John. “Kentucky Encyclopedia.” The University Press of Kentucky. 1992.
Lerner, Michael. “Dry Manhattan.” Harvard university Press. 2007
Prohibition in Kentucky Published: August 5, 1907Copyright © The New York Times

2 responses to prohibition

  1. Thanks for moving this post from your Activity stream to the Research journal area! It is helpful to think about how the WCTU served as a training ground for Kentucky women activists – as they state on their website ( ” For more than 135 years the WCTU has trained women to think on their feet, speak in public, and run an organization.” Women such as Laura Clay, Katherine Pettit and Carrie Nation – all heavily influenced by and trained to organize at the grassroots level by the WCTU’s regular and highly disciplined meetings. Interestingly, there is some evidence here in the Kentucky that the WCTU partnered with the Ku Klux Klan in many of their local meetings during the 1920s and ’30s. It would be great if you did some work on finding out more about this for your individual project!

    • WTCU and the Klan dont necessarily seem like two groups that would align? Outwardly the KKK may have painted themselves as morally strong individuals, could this be why they partnered? If so, did the WTCU have any objections to the blatant racial drive behind the Klu Klux Klan?

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