History Happenings: the links between prohibition and obtaining the vote of women


But some Iowa women continued to drink – and make – alcohol into the 1920s.

People are shown drinking beer on an outing in 1915, before Prohibition moved illegal consumption indoors and underground. (Culver pictures)

Women – liberal and conservative – were a driving force in the national debate on alcohol consumption that led to Prohibition, the US attempt a hundred years ago to ban alcohol consumption.

The temperance movement was increasingly linked to the suffragette movement as the country found a way to deal with alcohol policy and its problematic gender norms in American society.

The 18th Amendment was ratified at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, essentially banning the manufacture, transport and sale of intoxicating liquors. The perceived victory for the women, however, was more complicated than it first appeared. Especially at Cedar Rapids.

Prohibition has helped women and minorities start businesses and earn money in the underground economy. Kitchen burners began to cook mash while basements became distilleries.

Husband and wife facilities were known as blind pigs. Some blind pigs have turned into moonshine seals and “the house is talking”. Some have generated income under the counters of legitimate soft drink lounges.

This was the case with Mary Dvorak who, along with her husband, John, was caught in Cedar Rapid’s first large Prohibition bust on March 22, 1920.

The Dvoraks were arrested in their soft drink lounge at 1317 S. Third St. SE. Eleven people were charged in the citywide raids, including Julia and Thomas Herasimuck.

The raids yielded seven stills, approximately 100 gallons of “white mule” barrels of mashed raisins, 80 gallons of alcohol, several gallons of near-pure alcohol, and a large quantity of canned raisins, as well as hops. , apricots and bitters.

Drink at home

“Drinking at home… should not and will not be stopped for several generations,” Linn County Sheriff HJ Manchester told a Gazette reporter in 1929. “I don’t think the intent of the law is prohibition is to deprive these people. “

This explains why prohibition-era alcohol-related arrests in Cedar Rapids peaked at 784 in 1922 and 216 in Linn County in 1924.

To some extent, people made their own alcohol at home or got it legally – by going to their doctors, pharmacists and dentists who could prescribe rye whiskey, scotch and gin for anxiety. , depression and pain.

Birth of the cocktail

The alcohol was strong and women didn’t want to be associated with being good at drinking it, so they used new cocktail recipes from women’s magazines to find the drinks that would be part of their routines and identity.

They learned how to make martinis, Manhattan, Gin Rickeys, and Old Fashioneds. They also learned the etiquette of throwing a new type of party called a cocktail party.

With a new penchant for alcohol, an evolving taste for different drinks, and acceptance in underground bars, women had entered a social zone that was once reserved for men.

Wet and dry

Newspapers and magazines that violated the no-go line were considered immoral by abstainers.

“There is no doubt that there was a conspiracy on the part of the electronic press to overturn Prohibition,” Reverend WL Ewing of St. Paul’s ME Church told The Gazette in 1929.

Despite the growing acceptance of alcohol throughout the 1920s, alcohol-related arrests continued throughout the 13 years of Prohibition.

Maggie and Matt Pashakornis dived for the basement when cops raided their home at 1335 D Ave. at Cedar Rapids in 1922. They were taken with a copper pail and 25 gallons of apple puree and alcohol. It was their second offense.

Anna Easker was arrested at her home, 1410 Third St. South in Cedar Rapids, in October 1924. Police found 400 gallons of wine, 30 bottles of beer, and a small bottle of liquor. Client Alfred Thomas denounced Easker after selling a pint of his hooch to a federal agent.

Smaller amounts were no less illegal.

Enelma Shomler was arrested at her Cedar Rapids home at 527-1 / 2 First Avenue in 1929 for possession of three jars of alcohol. The cops also found a highball glass and a funnel.

Final shot

The 21st Amendment ending the ban was ratified on December 5, 1933, essentially legitimizing women drinking in public – a result that was not discussed when the temperance movement began.

Joining an absolutist agenda was an interesting way to do this, especially since so many Prohibition supporters, men and women, were more than okay with an occasional social drink or two.

Joe Coffey, freelance writer and content marketer at Cedar Rapids, writes this monthly column for The History Center. Comments: [email protected]

Narcissa Bemis of Independence was a founding member and three-term president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association and Iowa delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in 1892. She was also involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union . (Iowa Women’s Suffrage Collection, Iowa State Historical Society, Des Moines)

Cars have always been vehicles for amplifying political messages, like that circa 1930 front bumper message calling for an end to Prohibition. (EG Schempf)

“Women and Temperance,” written by Frances E. Willard in 1884, sought to give women identities beyond those of wives and mothers. (EG Schempf)

Enamel growlers like this were used to transport beer from taverns to homes and yards. The so-called “bucket trade” was criticized in the years leading up to Prohibition. (EG Schempf)

Prescription alcohol was a way for women to drink during Prohibition. Two pharmacies handled most of the alcohol prescribed at Cedar Rapids, one of which distributed 2,827 bottles in 1926. (Public domain)

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