Speakeasies, rum runners, and backwoods fundamentalists railing about the ills of strong drink are just one small part of the global story of prohibition. The full story of prohibition—one you’ve probably never been told—is perhaps one of the most broad-based and successful transnational social movements of the modern era. The call for temperance motivated and aligned activists within progressive, social justice, labor rights, women’s rights, and indigenous rights movements advocating for communal self-protection against the corrupt and predatory “liquor machine” that had become rich off the misery and addictions of the poor around the world.
From the slums of South Asia, to the beerhalls of Central Europe, to the Native American reservations of the United States, discover 20 key figures from history that you didn’t know were prohibitionists.
Full name: Caroline Amelia Gloyd Nation
Lived: 25 November 1846-9 June 1911
Nationality: United States
Occupation: temperance activist, saloon smasher
Carrie Nation rocketed to international fame in 1900 after smashing a number of illegal saloons across the “dry” state of Kansas—first with bricks and rocks, and later with her iconic hatchet. Quickly becoming the avatar of prohibitionism, her activism has often been chalked up to insanity or to evangelical fanaticism, though neither were true. Carrie Nation was quite clear that her smashings did not target the liquor or the drinker, but the “man who sells” liquor and profits from the misery of others, as well as the state that engenders corruption by tacitly allowing such a predatory and duplicitous system.