Repeal groups became a mighty force in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They wanted to repeal National Prohibition. Here’s the story.
The Noble Experiment of National Prohibition (1920-1933) failed completely. It had promised a society with increased productivity, a low crime rate, greater public morality, and enhanced health. To the contrary, it caused serious problems. They included these.
- The growth of organized crime.
- Widespread gangsterism
- Death from tainted bootleg alcohol.
- Increased violence and murder
- Law enforcement corruption
- Reduced tax revenue.
- Political corruption
- Increasing disrespect for law.
- Rise of speakeasies
- Job loss
- Glorification of gangsters
- Popularization of KKK (It defended Prohibition.)
- Increase in illegal drug use.
- Stigmatization of alcoholism.
- Widespread hypocrisy
- Overworked criminal justice system.
Millions of Americans became disillusioned. Five years into Prohibition, journalist H. L. Mencken gave his view. “There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. Not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”
The strong support given to prohibition by many business leaders had done much to maintain support for Prohibition. But as time passed more and more business leaders became disillusioned. They called for Repeal.
Major Repeal Groups
This contributed to a proliferation of repeal groups. Their membership grew quickly. So did their impact. The better-known groups included these.
- The Association against the Prohibition Amendment.
- The Crusaders
- Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act
- Moderation League of New York. (Despite its name, this was a nation-wide Repeal organization.)
- Molly Pitcher Club
- Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition.
- United Repeal Council
- Voluntary Committee of Lawyers. See also VCL.
- Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform.
- Women’s Moderation Union
In addition, there were many local and state repeal groups. As in nation-wide organizations, local and state repeal organizations often drew their membership from specific affinity groups. They included women, lawyers, Republicans, organized labor, etc.
Women had been crucial in bringing about National Prohibition. They thought it would protect children and the family. Many women saw harm to the family and children caused by Prohibition. So they then became a mighty force demanding Repeal. And now they had the right to vote.
The repeal groups and their members were successful. The U.S. repealed National Prohibition on December 5, 1933.
Prohibition failed dismally. It caused serious problems. Yet nearly one in five Americans today supports making drinking illegal. Many millions more support neo-prohibition. They tend to defend the many relics of Prohibition that continue to exist.
Resources on Repeal Organizations.
Gross, M. Brief History of the Women’s Committee for Repeal of the 18th Amendment from 1920-1931. NY: Women’s Committee for the Repeal of the 18th Amendment, 1932.
Neumann, C.E. The end of gender solidarity. The history of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform, 1929-1933. J Women’s Hist, 1997, Vol. 9.
Root, G.C. Women and Repeal. The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. NY: Harper, 1934.