Women’s Suffrage and the Liquor Interests

Women’s Suffrage and the Liquor Interests, 1915
Courtesy, New Jersey Historical Society


“Yearbook, Women’s Political Union,” 1916


“Well, boys, we saved the home.”
“The Literary Digest, 51 (October 30, 1915)


In the early 20th century, New Jersey’s liquor interests were opposed to women’s suffrage, a view shared by liquor interests across the nation. Distillers and retailers of liquor believed that women’s suffrage would bring about prohibition, owing to the many efforts since the late 19th century, by such groups as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in New Jersey and elsewhere, to gain women the vote. The national WCTU was the first large women’s organization in the country to endorse women’s suffrage. In New Jersey, Sarah Corson Downs led the New Jersey branch of the WCTU to greater membership and activities in favor of both temperance and suffrage. It was assumed that liquor interests had much to do with the defeat of the New Jersey women’s suffrage referendum of 1915. Ironically, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing prohibition was ratified by male legislators early in 1919 before women nationwide had the vote.