A picture of women fighting to end prohibition in the 1930s

Women in Prohibition

As we know, women in the United States have had to, and still have to, hurdle over countless obstacles before them to break through layer upon layer of glass ceilings.

Before the dreaded 18th Amendment’s passing in 1919, women were still very much unable to do little things like vote or own their own bank account. And, it was especially frowned upon for them to go to a bar or saloon unattended.

It was so bad that in 1907, there were laws in place that made it a criminal act for women to be in spaces designated for drinking alcohol.

However, it wouldn’t be overly dramatic to state that prohibition brought the societal standards of America to a screeching halt. Alcohol had played a significant role in the American way of life. From survival during the cold winters in the Colonial Era, to the expansion of the Western Frontier, to antiseptic and preservatives during the Colonial and Civil Wars, to being an industrial and social cornerstone of American society, alcohol was king.

And, with the stroke of a pen, the supporters of the Temperance Movement tried to bury alcohol’s illustrious history and our right to enjoy it.

And there was another social norm that was about to be shattered.

When bars closed during prohibition, women were already making organized social pushes towards independence. The Women’s Suffrage Movement was at its apex, fighting the good fight to end antiquated embargoes against their human rights.

As the dust from prohibition settled, speakeasies popped up and bathtub gin began to flow faster than authorities could shut them down.

The thing about alcohol at this time was that no one could be picky about who was knocking on the back-alley door. And, thirsty drinkers couldn’t be choosey about who was supplying their booze.

In what was originally a male-dominated industry, women began to capitalize.

Women found making alcohol as another way for them to establish income. And, in a prohibition world where people were willing to spend money and not ask questions, it was money with significantly less prejudice behind it.

This was the first major step that women took into the liquor industry.

Not only that, but women patrons at bars become a necessity. It was more of a “no questions asked” environment in these speakeasies since, technically, no one was supposed to be there. So, women were able to go out to these bars and were less likely to be bothered. It was a place for them to be more free, cut loose, and shed the social conventions that plagued them in day-to-day life.

Women who did find resistance had no problem turning their homes into “home speaks” where they were free to do what they wished without prying eyes.

This freedom and breakaway from previously held social convention carried on well after prohibition, and women were rightfully unwilling to allow the regressing of the social progress they had made during the prohibition years.

Post-prohibition bars were a place for all to enjoy a drink, so long as you had the coin for your drink and tipped well.

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