IN LATE OCTOBER of 1931, some 18,000 laborers, fraternal organization members, and veterans took to the streets of Newark, New Jersey. Their cause, stated simply on the signs they carried, was clear: “We want beer.” It’d been 11 years since Prohibition had begun—and since the protestors or their fellow Americans had enjoyed a (legal) drink at their neighborhood saloons.
Flag-waving men with their starched-collared shirts and irreverent signboards became the iconic image of the anti-Prohibition movement. Yet the people who led this march—and indeed much of the movement to repeal the 18th Amendment—were not men in ties and long coats. They were some of the very same women who had supported Prohibition in the first place—and who had won the right to vote the same year it was enacted.
…In 1929, New Yorker Pauline Morton Sabin, the daughter of a railroad executive, decided she had had enough. Like many wealthy, white mothers, she had initially supported Prohibition because she thought it would be good for her sons. But the opposite proved to be true: Unregulated speakeasies freely serving alcohol to young people. To combat the problem, Sabin formed the bipartisan Women’s Organization on National Prohibition Reform.
“She, and by extension her organization, argued that Prohibition was a failure and actually ended up worsening the situation of youth and children, who she thought were now more likely to be exposed to alcohol and crime,” says Alison Staudinger, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (Democracy and Justice Studies). “It was essentially ‘home protection redux’—except this time in opposition to federal Prohibition.”
Source: National Geographic.