This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is of a group of women marching for social justice in the Danish Parliament. That made me think of two tightly intertwined movements in the US – suffrage and temperance. The members of both groups felt they were working toward a better world for all, and in the latter part of the 19th century, the two movements tended to attract many of the same women. They wished to have many of the same rights as men, and felt that alcohol caused men to make bad decisions. If alcohol were controlled, the poor judgment of men would be diverted to good decisions and they would see that women were worthy of rights. It’s over simplified, but yes, these were the threads of propaganda at the time.
Huh? That’s me and my friends doing a temperance march in a local history parade. We took 2nd place I think. So, back to the sepia images, ahem.
This is a fairly well known image that some claim is an actual temperance poster. Alas, it was made in the early 1900s, but the clothing is from the late 1800s, so it was probably made as a joke or advertisement by a bar or liquor distributor. Since the women are….rather plain looking, it wouldn’t be such a loss if a drunkard couldn’t kiss them, right?
Here we have a suffrage parade from 1912. Suffrage really meant more than the right to vote for women. In the beginning of the suffrage movement, women were considered the property of their husbands, had no legal rights, could not own property except under special circumstances, and couldn’t even retain custody of their children in the instance of a divorce. PLUS if the husband died, his parents had more rights over any children than the mother did! Women were not happy about it. I wouldn’t be either.
In California in the early 1900s, several suffrage and temperance bills were put before the populace for a vote. It is widely speculated that the liquor lobby was responsible for both types of bills being defeated. Interestingly, also in California, the Black Rights (rights of Negroes) workers often supported suffrage and temperance, and vice versa, because they all felt they were being oppressed. Some of the early articles about suffrage in California were published in a black-owned newspaper in San Francisco.
Well known women involved in both movements were Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Nation and Amelia Bloomer. While Anthony and Bloomer primarily worked on suffrage, Nation was known for going into bars and saloons with a hatchet and destroying the bar and its inventory. I bet she was happy in 1919 when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution passed! Oh, no she wasn’t, because she died in 1911, never having realized her dream of a complete ban on alcohol in the US.
While both Prohibition and Suffrage were passed in the US in the early 20th century, I for one am thankful Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Suffrage was the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and passed in 1920. Thankfully there hasn’t been word of a repeal.