M. Louise Gross founded and headed the Women’s Moderation Union (WMU). This helped belie the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union‘s (WCTU) insistence that it spoke for American women.
The president of the WCTU had shouted before Congress that she spoke for all American women. That was in an effort to enhance her political power.
Gross decided that those women who sought Repeal of National Prohibition (1920-1933) needed to voice their views. She also wanted to help politicians realize that many women opposed Prohibition.
The WMU promoted individual responsibility and accountability for moderate drinking. It opposed the increasing intrusion of government into the private lives and liberties. Members believed that illegal behaviors should be punished. But they thought merely drinking alcohol shouldn’t be illegal.
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21st Amendment (brought about Repeal)
But the libertarian views of the WMU didn’t motivate large numbers of to join the group. Yet Gross’ organization gave visibility to many women who opposed Prohibition.
The WMU, as did the WCTU and other groups, helped give voice to women who participated in political action. This was very important to those who opposed Prohibition. People could no longer assume that all women favored Prohibition.
Many people, both men and women, had welcomed Prohibition. They thought it would improve life. But over time most people came to realize that that it was impossible to enforce it well.
A large proportion of the population had come to oppose it. And many were both hated 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 illegal alcohol. The large profits led to widespread corruption of law enforcement and elected officials. And Prohibition promoted organized crime, gangsterism, and violence.
Repeal Sentiment Grew
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.
So Prohibition didn’t simply fail. It caused many very serious problems. So people voted three to one in favor of Repeal.
Surprisingly, many people today support neo-prohibition ideas. They also strongly defend the many remains of Prohibition that continue.
M. Louise Gross also held leadership positions in other Repeal groups. They included the Molly Pitcher Club, the Women’s Committee for Repeal of the 18th Amendment, and the Women’s Committee for Modification of the Volstead Act,
Resources on the Women’s Moderation Union
- Gross., 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.
- Kyvig, D. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State U Press, 2013.
- Root, G. Women and Repeal. NY: Harper, 1934.
- Rose, K. Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. NY: New York U Press, 1996.
- Time. Torrid Talk. Time, Feb 24, 1930. Quotes from M. Louise Gross’ testimony on Prohibition before the House Judiciary Committee as head of the Women’s Moderation Union.