Prohibition was the eighteenth amendment. It prohibited the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages. People would have never thought of “excoriating” alcohol until the 19th century (Tyrrell 16). During this time widespread crime and dismay arose. Some beneficial things did come out of this period of chaos such as women were able to prove themselves as people in their temperance movements. During this time many things happened that led to Prohibition’s strongest point and to its fall. Prohibition proved to be a failure from the start, Prohibition was scarcely adhered to and also widely defied but out of this women had a chance to voice their opinions and prove themselves.
Article V deals with amendments. Either house or lawmakers can propose amendments. In order for an amendment to be passed the House of Representatives and the Senate must ratify by a three-quarters vote. On January 29, 1919, the Secretary of State announced that on January 16th thirty-six states had ratified the amendment and therefore it had become a part of the Constitution.
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Temperance movements were vital keys to the ratification of the eighteenth amendment. Temperance at first meant abstaining from distilled liquors, but later would be the complete avoidance of alcohol. Both men and women would participate in temperance across the United States. Women finally had a voice in these issues. Women temperance movements would include gathering around saloons, pharmacies, and other places that distributed alcohol that could be consumed. In these gatherings, women would sing prayers, recite psalms, and persuade people to avoid drinking alcohol.
Among the men of these temperance groups was a Connecticut preacher named Lymm Beecher. He was well known for his work with temperance movements. He was also known for his publishing, Six Sermons on the Nature, Occasions, Signs, Evils, and Remedy of intemperance. He was a pre-prohibition modern-day Reverend Jonathon Edwards by “appealing to the deepest emotions and beliefs of his readers” (Lucas 24). Ironically he moved to Boston and worked with Reverend Justin Edwards to unite temperance groups.
Among the women of the temperance era, Francis Elizabeth Willard was probably one of the most important temperance leaders. She was born September 23, 1839, in New York. She first got her aversion towards alcohol from her father because he was a “total abstainer” (Lucas 32). Her interests in temperance grew when she heard stories of the Women’s Crusades in Ohio. She joined a team of crusaders in Pittsburg and later became the president of the Chicago branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). In 1979 she became president of the WCTU in the United States.
Prohibition was started to prevent crime and alcoholism, but it actually promoted those things. During prohibition, the mafia arose. With the mafia came Al Capone, also known as scarface. The mafia was known for its ability to corrupt government officials into helping them produce and smuggle alcohol. Even as the I.R.S increased their “snoopiness” towards Capone’s finances was still able to continue his underground business (Coffey 281). The I.R.S. was able to make many startling discoveries as well; they found many officials with six to seven figure accounts off of a $65 monthly salary. Under the heavy I.R.S. investigations, gang-related murders grew.
The twenty-first amendment repeals the eighteenth amendment. The eighteenth amendment is the only amendment that has ever been repealed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt repealed the eighteenth Amendment with the twenty-first Amendment in 1933. This marked the end to a lengthy thirteen-year period of the great experiment, which was prohibition. When the Great Depression began people complained the prohibition took away jobs and money for the government. At this period in time, people had little money or hope and alcohol was a way out.
In conclusion in an effort to limit crime, alcoholism, prostitution, and poverty the United States government failed, but women had a chance to show their competency and their ability to voice their opinions. Prohibition did indeed lead to the birth and growth of organized crime. The great experiment that was prohibition did not accomplish its goals of solving the social problems of America or eliminating alcohol consumption. But, it will always be remembered for causing Americans to reflect on the effects of alcohol on society.
Coffey, Thomas M. Prohibition in America 1920-1933. New York: W.W. Norton &
Lucas, Eileen. The Eighteenth and Twenty-First Amendments. Berkeley Heights:
Enlsow Publishers, Inc, 1998.
Tyrrell, Ian R. Sobering Up. London: Greenwood Press, 1979.
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