Women’s Moderation Union (Promoted Repeal of National Prohibition)

M. Louise Gross founded and headed the Women’s Moderation Union. This helped belie the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union‘s (WCTU) insistence that it spoke for American women.

Women's Moderation Union
M. Louise Gross

The president of the WCTU had shouted in testimony 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 an effective way to voice their views. She also wanted to help politicians realize that many women opposed Prohibition.

The Women’s Moderation Union promoted individual responsibility and accountability for moderate alcohol consumption. It opposed the increasing intrusion of government into the private lives and liberties of Americans. Members believed that illegal behaviors should be punished but that merely drinking an alcoholic beverage should not be illegal per se.

Libertarian

However, the libertarian views of the Women’s Moderation Union didn’t motivate large numbers of women to join the group. Yet Gross’ organization gave visibility to many women who opposed Prohibition.

The Women’s Moderation Union, as did the WCTU and other groups, helped give respectability 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 enforced abstinence from alcohol.

Many people, both men and women, had welcomed Prohibition. They thought it would improve life. However, over time most people came to realize that that it was impossible to adequately enforce it.

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. And most were entirely innocent.

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. Finally, Americans 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.

Note: M. Louise Gross also held leadership positions in other Repeal groups. They included the Molly Pitcher Club 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.
  • ______. Survey of Scandinavian Liquor Control Systems including the Bratt System in Sweden, Also England and Poland. Harrison, NY: Women’s Moderation Union, 1930.
  • ______. Speech Delivered by M. Louise Gross, Chairman of the Women’s Moderation Union, before the Tenth Congress of the International League Against Prohibition,  Copenhagen, Denmark, June 27th to 29th, 1929. Harrison, NY: Women’s Moderation Union, 1929.
  • Kyvig, D. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State U Press, 2013.
  • Root, G. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. NY: Harper, 1934.
  • Rose, K. American 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.