Women Prohibition agents could be uniquely valuable. That’s because many states had laws preventing male agents from frisking or otherwise searching female suspects. And even if they didn’t, convention prohibited it.
Women bootleggers would sometimes hide alcohol on themselves and taunt male agents. ”A painted-up doll was sitting in a corner. She had her arms folded and at our command she stood up. But then came the rub. She laughed at us. Then defiantly declared to bring suit against anyone who touched her, an unnamed Ohio ‘Dry Agent’ told the Hamilton Evening Journal in 1924.”1
Bootleggers would often hire women to ride with them when transporting alcohol. “‘No self-respecting federal agent likes to hold up an automobile containing women,’ according to The Boston Daily Globe.”2
Although useful in law enforcement, there were never many female Prohibition Bureau agents. A dozen were hired in 1922. They were Georgia Hopley and Dr. Katherine Herring in Washington, DC. Grace E. Millie and Daisy Simpson in California. Annie M. Crook (an unfortunate name for anyone in law enforcement) and Frances Dennison in Illinois. Harriet J. Stewart in Chicago. Mary E. McDonald, Hannah Brigham, and Minnie M. Estabrook in Massachusetts. Margaret J. Rossa in Montana and Jenne R. Nesbitt in Ohio.3 Others were added soon after.4
Two Pioneer Women Prohibition Agents
Women Prohibition agents played varying roles. After Georgia Hopley was appointed as an agent, she worked in local enforcement in Washington, DC. She was then asked to develop, implement, and lead the Prohibition Bureau’s publicity efforts.
Georgia Hopley became a one-person public affairs office. She traveled across the country speaking at churches, schools, conventions, and other groups. Agent Hopley wrote newspaper articles, gave interviews, and discussed prohibition enforcement problems with political and business leaders. Her job was to strengthen public support for the enforcement of Prohibition. She worked on that with determination and persistence.5
Much better known was Prohibition Agent Daisy Simpson. She was assigned to the San Francisco office. Yet she also worked in other cities across the country. They included Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York.
Early on, Daisy Simpson received much visibility in the press. Known as the “Lady Hooch Hunter,” she often used disguises. She was reported have a hundred different ones. Often, using a disguise, she would spend a few nights in a speakeasy, hotel or restaurant. Then she would arrest those who served her any alcohol.
In her use of disguises she was similar to the well-known Izzy Einstein & Moe Smith. Like them, she was ingenious. She would pretend to become ill outside speakeasies. Then she would arrest bartenders who would bring whiskey to help her.
Daisy Simpson was responsible for the seizure of 8,000 gallons of wine in a single raid. But most of her arrests were of low-level offenders for petty crimes. She arrested a bellboy who brought her medicinal whiskey after she’d complained about stomach pains. She arrested a man who had a single jug that “smelled like moonshine.”
Several judges chastised her about the trivial offenses for which she would arrest people. Judges also had to dismiss many cases because of her illegal entrapments. More important, the Prohibition Bureau was more interested in nabbing major moonshiners and bootleggers.
Daisy Simpson had been a delinquent in her youth. She had spent much of her time in dingy bars, hanging around criminals, and doing illegal drugs. She then reformed and joined the morals squad with the San Francisco Police during World War I.
Simpson left the Prohibition Bureau because she became seriously ill and confined to bed. She relapsed and again began using illegal drugs. In Texas she was arrested for receiving drugs through the mail. She became deeply depressed. It was over her failed marriage and her destroyed reputation. Having managed to smuggle a gun into jail, she shot herself in the stomach. She failed to kill herself but the wound became infected.
After a long, painful recovery, she borrowed money to bail herself out of jail. She pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. Simpson then returned to California and back into obscurity.
Both Georgia Hopley and Daisy Simpson served the Prohibition Bureau. But both did so in different ways. And both came from very different backgrounds. Hopley’s father was a newspaper publisher and her brother was a senator. On the other hand, Simpson’s family appears to have been of very modest accomplishment and means.
After their service with the Prohibition Bureau they followed very different paths. Georgia Hopley continued with civic activities. Daisy Simpson sank into anonymity.
A baseball team needs players with very different skills. And the Prohibition Bureau needed agents with very different skills. It found those in both Georgia Hopley and and Daisy Simpson.
You might find these interesting.
Resources on Women Prohibition Agents
- Death Ends Career of Georgia Hopley. Toledo Blade, July 1, 1944, p. 2.
- Graham, L. Women Prohibition Agents are Demanded by Governor’s Wife. The Spokesman-Rev, May 12, 1923, p. 20.
- Mrs Hannah Brigham Recently Appointed Prohibition Agent. Cambridge Trib, Feb 4, 1922, p. 1.
1 Minnick, F. Women’s History Month. Huff Post.
2 Minnick, ibid.
3 Women Dry Agents Named. NY Times, May 7, 1922.
4 More Women Prohibition Agents Appointed. Eve News (Harrisburg, PA), Oct 6, 1922.
6 Kratz, J. On Exhibit: “Lady Hooch Hunter.” National Archives, April 7, 2015. Genthon, M. Prohibition Part Two: Women on the Frontline – Daisy Simpson. Connecting Women, Sept 7, 2015. Tragic Ending to Woman Dry Agent’s Career: Daisy Simpson, Held on Drug Charges, Is Dying of Own Wound. Lewiston Evening J, March 22, 1926, p. 7. (Despite story, Simpson survived.) Funderburg, J. Bootleggers and Beer Barons of the Prohibition Era, pp. 291-294.