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We Are What We Drink

We Are What We Drink: The Temperance Battle in Minnesota

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 304
  • Book Info
    We Are What We Drink
    Book Description:

    Sabine N. Meyer eschews the generalities of other temperance histories to provide a close-grained story about the connections between alcohol consumption and identity in the upper Midwest. Meyer examines the ever-shifting ways that ethnicity, gender, class, religion, and place interacted with each other during the long temperance battle in Minnesota. Her deconstruction of Irish and German ethnic positioning with respect to temperance activism provides a rare interethnic history of the movement. At the same time, she shows how women engaged in temperance work as a way to form public identities and reforges the largely neglected, yet vital link between female temperance and suffrage activism. Relatedly, Meyer reflects on the continuities and changes between how the movement functioned to construct identity in the heartland versus the movement's more often studied roles in the East. She also gives a nuanced portrait of the culture clash between a comparatively reform-minded Minneapolis and dynamic anti-temperance forces in whiskey-soaked St. Paul--forces supported by government, community, and business institutions heavily invested in keeping the city wet.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09740-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    On September 26, 1908, Eva Jones, one of Minnesota’s best-known female temperance workers, opened her diary and began to write down a list of “59 Objectives” for the temperance work she was about to start in the state’s capital, St. Paul. She knew that in order to “[stir] sentiment for prohibition of saloons and of all drink manufacture and traffic” effectively, she would have to become acquainted with every inch of the city. Therefore, as a first step, she divided St. Paul into small districts with definite boundaries, through which she would labor district after district by means of house-to-house...

  6. 1. “Westward the Jug of Empire”: The Emergence of a Temperance Movement in Minnesota (1819–1865)
    (pp. 17-52)

    Writing about his visit to St. Paul in 1882, Mark Twain muses upon the significance of whiskey for the settlement of the United States: “How solemn and beautiful is the thought that the earliest pioneer of civilization, the van-leader of civilization, is never the steamboat, never the railroad, never the newspaper, never the Sabbath-school, never the missionary—but always whisky! … Westward the Jug of Empire takes its way” (see figure 1.1).¹ Minnesota country was no exception to this pattern. It was flooded with whiskey by the traders, who not only consumed it themselves but who also used it to...

  7. 2. Organizing into Blocs: The Fight for or against Personal Liberty (1866–1887)
    (pp. 53-93)

    In the decades after the Civil War, Minnesota underwent tremendous demographic, social, and economic changes. Between 1870 and 1890 its population tripled due to the influx of major waves of Scandinavians, Irish, and Germans. The Twin Cities rapidly grew from about 33,100 residents in 1870 to about 298,000 twenty years later. Minnesota, like the rest of the Midwest, industrialized significantly and became part of a burgeoning international market. The presence of an unprecedented number of immigrants, the rapid growth of the state’s urban areas, as well as the sharpening of class differences in the course of industrialization led to repeated...

  8. 3. “Talking against a Stonewall”: The High License Consensus (1888–1897)
    (pp. 94-123)

    The decade after the passage of the High License Law was characterized by an almost complete standstill of temperance reform in Minnesota due to the existence of a High License consensus. The moderate reformers, the leaders of the Republican Party, and even many of the law’s opponents argued in favor of maintaining it—all, of course, for different reasons. Except for occasional laws regulating the specifics of the liquor sale, stringent temperance reform in the form of County Option Laws and prohibition did not have the slightest chance. The agreement on the effectiveness of High License was so strong that...

  9. 4. “Putting on the Lid”: The Anti-Saloon League and Its Impact on the Dry Movement (1898–1915)
    (pp. 124-165)

    The turn of the century witnessed a nationwide expansion of temperance activism. The tenets of Progressivism combined with the work of the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) boosted the passage of County Option Laws all over the country, including Minnesota. The activism of the state’s ASL and its intense collaboration with the Prohibition Party and other reformers led to liquor law enforcement campaigns and slowly increased the general sentiment in favor of County Option. Due to severe resistance to County Option, particularly by the politically powerful liquor interests, but also by German Americans, workers, and other opponents of reform, it took until...

  10. 5. Equating Temperance with Patriotism: The Great War and the Liquor Question (1916–1919)
    (pp. 166-197)

    This war also taught to a great extent, probably more than anything else, the need of the restriction of the liquor traffic and the elimination of alcohol from our State and Country.

    Governor Joseph A. Burnquist’s statement neatly summarizes the developments between the passage of the County Option Law in 1915 and the beginning of prohibition in the United States on July 1, 1919.¹ International developments were greatly responsible for the rapid passage and ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment. The American entry into World War I and the ensuing war hysteria directly played into the hands of the country’s drys,...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 198-204)

    The battle about temperance reform in Minnesota has revealed that the temperance movement influenced and was influenced by a large number of complexly interwoven and constantly interacting identity discourses, among them ethnic identity, gender, class, civic and religious identity. While being connected to (inter)national historical, social, political, and economic developments, this movement was an intensely local experience, negotiated by social actors on the ground. Greater (inter)national developments and particular local circumstances thus coalesced in a movement that greatly impacted the daily lives of a great variety of actors—men and women, young people, laborers and members of the middle and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-236)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-256)
  14. Index
    (pp. 257-270)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-272)