The Rapidian

Spirited local women and their push for temperance surrounding Prohibition years

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The Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council explores the roles spirited local women played in promoting temperance on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Women played a strong role in the push for temperance in the years surrounding the Prohibition era.

Women played a strong role in the push for temperance in the years surrounding the Prohibition era.

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Program supplements the exhibit "American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Women played a strong role in the temperance movement here and nationwide as alcohol was scene as a destructive force in families and marriages.

Discover the role local women played in supporting temperance in the years surrounding the Prohibition movement at a special program Tuesday, Nov. 17 titled “Spirited Women: Grand Rapids and the Push for Temperance.”

The program sponsored by the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council supplements the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s exhibit “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” that’s now open through Jan. 17.

GGRWHC speakers Ruth Van Stee and Julie Tabberer will take a look at the local scene during 13 years of speakeasies (illegal drinking spots) and bathtub gin. They’ll explore the role local women played during the massive social movements surrounding the Prohibition years of 1920-33.

Women were strong advocates of the temperance movement, as alcohol was seen as a destructive force in families and marriages.

After the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was established nationally in 1874, the Michigan chapter was founded in Grand Rapids. Summer headquarters for the national WCTU soon moved to Bay View north of Petoskey, and Michigan became a magnet for speakers, many of whom stopped in Grand Rapids. Indeed, some local women also became speakers and started traveling for the cause.

Once Prohibition was passed, Grand Rapids and the nation entered the Roaring Twenties of speakeasies and the “flapper” was born. Single young women moving to the city had money to spend, gin to drink, and the seeming freedoms of Jazz Age parties. But the 1920s also became a period of backlash to advances made by women during the earlier Progressive Era. Prohibition proved itself a disastrous legal experiment, but the social effects of the broader temperance movement were long-standing.

Join us for an enjoyable evening when their presentation starts at 6 p.m. at the Meijer Theatre in the Grand Rapids Public Museum, 272 Pearl St. NW. It is free with the $8 cost of general museum admission.

~By Sharon Hanks, GGRWHC Board Director

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