Season 1, Episode 1: A Nation of Drunkards
Original Air Date—2 October 2011
The 19th century was a period of growth both for alcoholic beverages and the temperance movement. Washingtonian societies – made up of men who had taken a pledge to forgo all alcoholic beverage – sprang up across the country. Women were often excluded from these groups and so formed their own. The women’s crusade of 1873 was essentially a general strike by women who brought business to a halt. Their protest spread to 911 communities in 37 territories. However no laws had been changed and within a few years, saloons were back in business. In 1879, Frances E. Willard became the head of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which she would lead for 19 years.It became a huge social welfare organization with 45 departments dealing with many issues other than temperance. Carrie Nation and her home defenders army started closing saloons in Kansas but it too failed to change laws. By the turn of the 20th century, there were some 300,000 saloons in America. Saloons were not only social centers but places where you could look for jobs or learn to speak English. The Anti-Saloon league was the most successful pressure group in America and the most effective in making alcohol a wedge issue. The brewers fought back but the temperance movement continued to grow, leading to the passing of the 19th Amendment.