It was during the early part of National Prohibition. The year was 1922. Libertarian M. Louise Gross formed the Molly Pitcher Club.
The name of the group was from a Revolutionary War folk heroine. She helped and supported soldiers in their fight. The name was appropriate. The group limited membership to women. And it helped men fight Prohibition. It was an auxiliary of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA). The Club supported the AAPA’s fight against Prohibition.
Molly Pitcher Club: Goals
The Molly Pitcher Club decried the ‘tendency on the part of our National Government to interfere with the personal habits of the American people except those habits which may be designated as criminal.’1
The group aspired to become national. This is seen in its wish to have a group meet with President Harding. A major temperance newspaper sarcastically reported on the failed effort of the group.
An organization of women calling itself the ‘Molly Pitcher Club’ is violently opposed to prohibition and was recently quoted as hissing a letter from the President of the United States in which he explained why he could not grant an audience to their organization. The reasons he gave were reasonable and valid as well as practical and patriotic.
If this is the attitude and spirit of the organization would it not be better to expand its name and call it the ‘Molly Pitcher Beer Club’ and not dishonor the name of a patriotic sister of honorable memory?2
In Congressional testimony, a group led by the President of the Pennsylvania Molly Pitcher Club explained that ‘the Molly Pitcher Club stands for the enforcement of law.’ It argued that making the law less severe would increase compliance. That would make it easier to enforce. In addition, ‘The Molly Pitcher Club advocates the sale of alcoholic beverages under strict Government control.’3 This was to eliminate the problems of the saloon.
A large group from the Club urged New York State governor Al Smith to repeal the state’s Mullin-Gage Prohibition law. Then the state could not enforce Prohibition. Fortunately for the Club, Al Smith did not support Prohibition. The law in question had paralyzed the courts with a flood of liquor cases. It was repealed that year.4
The group’s membership and influence was largely in New York and Pennsylvania. It never achieved national status. The Club made rational arguments for personal liberty. For Constitutional rights. And for limited government. These were less persuasive to most women than emotional appeals to religious, traditional ideas of morality, and family values. Those were the arguments used by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and other temperance groups.
Molly Pitcher Club: Decline & Reorganization
The Molly Pitcher Club stagnated. But it was later reorganized as the Women’s Committee for Modification of the Volstead Act. And then again as the Women’s Committee for Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. M. Louise Gross guided the group through its changes.
The group enhanced its success by cooperating with other anti-Prohibition organizations. These included the American Federation of Labor, the Moderation League of New York, and the Constitutional Liberty League of Massachusetts.
Annual Report of the Molly Pitcher Club of Pennsylvania, October, 1924. Philadelphia: The Molly Pitcher Club of Pennsylvania, 1924.
Kyvig, D. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State U. Press, 2000.
Mrs. G.T. Maxwell gives luncheon for Molly Pitcher Club. New York Times, August 25, 1922, 5:2.
Proposed Modification of the Prohibition Law to Permit the Manufacture, Sale and Use of 2.75 Per Cent Beverages. Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives. Washington: GPO, 1924.
Root, G.C. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Repeal. NY: Harper, 1934.
Rose, K.D. American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition, NY: New York U. Press, 1966.
1. Rose, K.D. American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. NY: New York U Press, 1966, pp. 67-68.
2. The Molly Pitcher Club. The National Advocate, 1923, 58(2), p. 9.
3. Proposed Modification of the Prohibition Law to Permit the Manufacture, Sale and Use of 2.75 Per Cent Beverages. Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives. Washington: GPO, 1924, pp. 222-225.
4. Gately, I. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 380.