With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The Surprisingly Complex Link Between Prohibition and Women’s Rights

On Jan. 16, 1919, Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the 18th Amendment, banning “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” Though Congress would spend the next year figuring out the technicalities before the guidelines for policing and enforcing the new reality went into effort, the era of Prohibition had begun.

A hundred years later, experts agree that the effects of this extreme 13-year effort to police morality can still be seen today. While it may have failed in its aims — and was repealed Dec. 5, 1933, via the 21st Amendment — Prohibition lives on in many ways, from cocktail culture to speedboat technology. But one of its greatest legacies is how, a century before the MeToo movement, it succeeded in making issues that women cared about part of the national conversation.

The social movement behind Prohibition had been brewing since the mid-19th century, and gender dynamics had always been part of it.

“Men would go to the tavern, drink away mortgage money, drink so much they couldn’t go to work the next day, beat their wives, abuse their children. That’s what launched the beginning of the temperance movement,” Daniel Okrent, former Time Inc. editor-at-large and author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, recently told TIME.

Read entire article at Time