Murder, Violence and Women’s Rights Part II

If you thought you held the key to end violence against women, would you use it?

Prior to 1920 there was no national law forbidding a husband to beat his wife.

Denver Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1927. Denver Library Archives.

Yet, women didn’t simply wait until law-makers got around to changing this, they took to the streets and demanded change be made. These women marched and protested the over consumption of alcohol in the United States and for many this meant complete abstinence from the drink. The theory being that if men did not drink, they would not beat their wives. Starting in Europe and the east coast in the early 1800s the movement hit big in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was not only women that rallied behind the ideas of not drinking many men, churches and other belief groups signed abstinence pledges promising to never touch the drink again.

In this movement women found a way to actually pressure husbands into behaving. Not going out to drink meant the money might make it home to the family, to buy food, heating, and perhaps other supplies. Not going out could mean a reduction of domestic violence from a husband (sometimes a wife). Not drinking meant, to some beliefs, a closer relationship to God and more money to the church. To many women this was the key to a happier life, and many were not willing to simply throw it away.

This began the rise of legislature across the United States that would ban the sale of alcohol in certain places and eventually create full prohibition from 1919-1933 and the eighteenth amendment. Which gave birth to more organized crime, economic declines in entertainment and restaurants (who couldn’t make a profit without liquor sales) and other sneaky ways of getting alcohol. Prohibition banned the sale and distribution of alcohol, but not the consumption, meaning people began to brew on their own creating moonshine and bootlegging. Even attendance at some church and synagogues increased for people to be able to get a bit of wine for sacraments and communion, as they were allowed to serve wine for such things.

Seizure of a still near Greeley, Colorado. Denver Library Archives.
Seizure of a still near Greeley, Colorado. Denver Library Archives.

With all things come consequences, about 1000 people a year would die in this time period from tainted alcohol and even though the laws were meant to decrease alcohol consumption it is believed by many that in actuality it increased.



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