The Roaring 20s: Women & Prohibition
1920’s things getting better for women- workplace, social
scene, sports…
But for some women alcohol, poverty, and child welfare
became a special concern
The Roaring 20s: women, reform and social justice
many women joined the
Women’s Christian
Temperance Union
they and other
women’s groups
worked to
– reform the social
– provide allowances for
– secure the vote
– and fight the “demon
Women’s Christian Temperance
Union (W.C.T.U.)
there was a feeling amongst women’s groups
that alcohol was the root cause of many
societal problems:
wife abuse (physical and mental)
child neglect
The Roaring 20s: women and Prohibition
WCTU worked tirelessly to ban
the sale of liquor in Canada
During the war, ingredients
used by distillers and brewers
were needed to produce food
for the troops
finally the movement was
successful and prohibition
became a reality
The Roaring 20s: Prohibition
between 1915 and 1917, every province except
Quebec outlawed the production, sale and
consumption of alcohol
 in 1918, Prime Minister Borden incorporated
Prohibition into Canada’s war effort
in the U.S.A. Prohibition was federal law from 1920 to 1933
in Canada, however, the so-called “noble experiment” would
sputter out more rapidly
Quebec never enforced
Prohibition and most provincial
governments gave up on total
Prohibition by the early to mid1920s
is tyranny”
Henri Bourassa
Prohibition laws were hard to enforce
many people were prepared to break them, either because they
liked to drink or because they could get rich selling alcohol illegally
the ingredients and technology for brewing and distilling were easy
to come by
alcohol was still however available legally through medicinal
prescriptions (and some exploited this option to the full)
Rum Runners and Bootleggers transported illegal alcohol
people drank illegally at Speakeasies
some produced their own alcohol
at home (Moonshine or “gut rot”)
• Organized
flourished in this
• corruption was
The Roaring 20s: the realities of Prohibition
gangsters like Al Capone prospered
and violence was a fact of life
The Roaring 20s: legalizing liquor
faced with these problems, some
suggested legalizing liquor once more
 legalizing alcohol would
force bootleggers and organized crime
out of the business
 government would be able to regulate
liquor sales and make money from
liquor taxes
 bars and licensed beverage rooms
would replace the illegal stills, “blind
pigs” and “speakeasies”
Prohibition was unpopular with the voters and was ultimately
it did however make Canadians aware of alcohol abuse
it also reduced alcohol consumption by about 80% and
consumption never again reached such high levels
the wave of crime it inspired created tensions between
Canada and the United States
Samuel Bronfman
one of the most remarkable Canadian risk-takers
of the Prohibition era was a man named Samuel
 his family established a successful Prairie hotel
business and capitalized on its success to found
the Canada Pure Drug Company in
Saskatchewan (in 1919)
Canadian laws allowed Bronfman’s company to import
unlimited amounts of liquor from Europe for “medicinal
 this liquor was then distributed to company warehouses along
the Canadian side of the border
 from there, liquor was quietly smuggled into the United States
 Bronfman profited from this
underground economy and
would build a business empire
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