After reading this book, I think it's possible we would never have had Prohibition, and possibly not women's suffrage (at least not in 1920), if the Sons of Temperance, in an 1852 meeting in Albany, NY, had allowed Susan B. Anthony to address the meeting. They did not.
"The sisters," said the group's chairman, were there not to speak but "to listen and learn." (Last Call, p. 15)As a direct result of that and other rejections by male temperance supporters, Susan B. Anthony joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and spent 50 years building the suffrage movement. And sixty years later, when the Anti-Saloon League was building its campaign to ban alcohol, they supported the suffragists because they knew that women with the vote would vote to ban booze.
And then there are the "wets" and the "drys" - you'll recognize them. The "drys" were mainly white, mainly from rural states, and mainly evangelical Protestants. Their political strategist, Wayne Wheeler, developed a technique for winning close elections by calling out his faithful single-issue voters to vote for the candidate most likely to support their cause - is this familiar? Is the Tea Party not doing something just like that right now? For that matter, do these people look like Tea Party supporters, or what?
The "wets" were mainly from the big cities, ethnically and economically diverse, with a lot of immigrants (and Catholics and Jews, both of whom use sacramental wine), but also a lot of very rich men. The men who eventually organized Repeal had names like DuPont and Rockefeller. Why did the very rich want booze back? Not because they couldn't get it - anybody could get booze during Prohibition. They wanted to get rid of the income tax. The income tax replaced the excise tax on booze as the federal government's main source of funding when Prohibition came in.
It's a great story, superbly told. I'm glad I read it and I may read it again. I grew up in the Napa Valley, and the story of the Napa Valley during Prohibition is not what you might think. But if I keep writing, I'll just end up retelling the book - and Mr. Okrent tells it much better than I can. Go read it.