Women's Moderation Union

The Women's Moderation Union, founded and headed by M. Louise Gross, helped belie the Women's Christian Temperance Union's insistence that it spoke for American women. The president of the WCTU president had shouted in testimony before Congress that she spoke for all American women in an effort to enhance her political power and that of her lobbying organization. Gross decided that those women who sought the repeal of National Prohibition needed a vehicle through which their voice of opposition could be heard. She also wanted to help politicians realize that many women opposed Prohibition.

The Women's Moderation Union promoted individual responsibility and accountability for the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. It opposed the increasing intrusion of the federal and state governments into the private lives and liberties of American citizens. Members believed that illegal behaviors should be punished but that merely drinking an alcoholic beverage should not be illegal per se.

Although the libertarian orientation of the Women's Moderation Union did not motivate large numbers of women to becoming members of the group, Gross' organization was successful in mobilizing and giving visibility to many women who opposed National Prohibition.

The Women's Moderation Union, as did the WCTU and other groups, helped give respectability to women who participated in political action, especially to those who opposed National Prohibition. It could no longer be assumed that all women favored enforced abstinence from alcohol.

Many people, both men and women, had welcomed National Prohibition in the belief that it would improve life. However, with the passage of time most people came to realize that that Prohibition could not be adequately enforced. A large proportion of the population had come to oppose it and many were both contemptuous of it and took pride in violating and flaunting it. On the other hand, there was enormous profit to be made by those who illegally produced and sold alcohol. The large profits led to widespread corruption of law enforcement and elected officials. And Prohibition promoted organized crime, gangsterism and violence, most victims of which were entirely innocent.

Attempting to enforce Prohibition cost two-thirds of of the entire amount of money the federal government spent on law enforcement. That did not include the enormous costs faced by state and local governments.

Finally, 74% of American voters called for the repeal of the failed experiment in social engineering. Surprisingly, in spite of the abysmal and undeniable failure of Prohibition, many people and organizations today support neo-prohibition ideas and strongly defend the many vestiges of Prohibition that continue to remain.

Resources on the Women's Moderation Union:

  • Gross., M Louise. M. Louise Gross papers, ca. 1898-1939. Papers of M. Louise Gross in connection with the Molly Pitcher Club, the Women's Committee for Modification of the Volstead Act, the Women's Committee for Repeal of the 18th Amendment and the Women's Moderation Union. NY: New York Public Library.
  • Gross, M. Louise. Survey of Scandinavian Liquor Control Systems including the Bratt System in Sweden, Also England and Poland. Harrison, NY: Women's Moderation Union, 1930.
  • Gross, M. Louise. Speech Delivered by M. Louise Gross, Chairman of the Women's Moderation Union, before the Tenth Congress of the International League Against Prohibition, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 27th to 29th, 1929. Harrison, NY: Women's Moderation Union, 1929.
  • Kyvig, David E. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000.
  • Root, Grace C. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934.
  • Rose, Kenneth D. American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. NY: New York University Press, 1996.
  • Time. Torrid Talk. Time, February 24, 1930. Quotes from M. Louise Gross' testimony on Prohibition before the House Judiciary Committee as head of the Women's Moderation Union.

Filed Under: Prohibition

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