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First Forum: Patriotism, Prohibition, and Women’s Suffrage

Katie Miller
June 2 2019

 This year on August 20th, we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the transitory 18th Amendment prohibiting “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States. Next year on August 18th we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the enduring 19th Amendment that established nationwide women’s suffrage. Efforts to achieve both of these goals began in the mid-19th century primarily at the initiative of American women.

Four “First Forums” during June 2019 at First Central Congregational UCC will aim to provide participants with a better understanding of the historical context of the 18th and 19th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and some of their causes and consequences.  Led by UNO professor and First Central member Bruce Garver, they will take place on June 2, 9, 16, and 23, at 9:15 am in the Third Floor Parlor.  Childcare will be available.

Implementation of both prohibition and women’s suffrage occurred almost simultaneously with the support of both women and men stimulated in part by the patriotic fervor with which a majority of Americans responded to German aggression by helping the Allies defeat the German Empire. Most historians now contend that the mutual work of women and men in achieving Allied victory largely explains the timing of the adoption of women’s suffrage in the United States, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Poland, and several other Western countries even though women’s strenuous efforts to achieve women’s rights had long preceded 1914. Moreover, since 1920 in America and abroad, the struggle to maintain and enlarge women’s rights has been never-ending.

By contrast, the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to enforce national Prohibition from 1919 to 1933 in the United States is among the several instances in which the American experience has been truly exceptional in the context of world history. After fourteen years of imperfectly implementing national Prohibition and eighty-six years of trying to limit the abuse of alcohol and drugs, Americans still struggle to overcome one of the world’s highest rates of alcohol and drug addiction. The inability of Americans to ratify the “equal rights amendment” (ERA) by 1982 has arguably demonstrated, as do several more recent events, that the full equality of women under law throughout United States is far from being achieved.