Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform
Founded: May 29, 1928 by Pauline Sabin
Once the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform was founded, their growth rate was phenomenal. The WONPR “was a group just waiting to be organized” (Rose 77). “In less than a year 100,000 members were enrolled and relatively autonomous state branches formed in thirteen states” (Kyvig 471). Membership reported at approximately 1.5 million prior to the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment (474).
Individuals that were, “outstanding in their respective communities as women of unimpeachable integrity, and known for their interest in public welfare and good citizenship” could establish new state-level WONPR chapters (Rose 81). This is because the anti-prohibition movement was viewed as scandalous, particularly for women. Having reputable women with outstanding political ties in charge was the only reasonable method to combat social scandal (87). WONPR was non-partisan, representing members both democratic and republican (81). The group was also secular and chose its favorite candidates based on their understanding of prohibition (Kyvig 469).
The WONPR’s motivation to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment centered on speakeasies. They wanted to get rid of such establishments, in addition to saloons (Rose 77). “They criticized prohibition for producing more rather than less drinking, endangering youth, corrupting public officials, and breeding contempt for the law and the Constitution” (Kyvig 468). The WONPR campaigned for their children’s sake. The WONPR operated with the assumption that, “people can not be made better by legislative enactment rather than though precept, education, reason and persuasion” (472). They believed that outlawing alcohol only encouraged irresponsible, capitalist criminals to flourish, and instead, government control would be much safer. It was suggested that the government could make money from alcohol taxes (if it were legal) rather than the bootleggers under Prohibition (473). The WONPR also believed that government money spent on enforcing prohibition could be better used elsewhere (473).
To join the group, all women signed a card with the beliefs of the WONPR. It read:
To get their message across, the women gave speeches, radio broadcasts, passed out literature, held meetings, and did door-to-door canvassing (481). The group formally disbanded after the 1932 election and the Repeal of the 18th Amendment.
Kyvig, David. "Women Against Prohibition." American Quarterly (Fall 1976): 465-482.
Rose, Kenneth. American Women and The Repeal of Prohibition. New York : New York University Press, 1996.
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