loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

loading media...


GRHC - July 27th, 2011

Michigan followed Maine's idea for prohibition in 1853, but, it was found impossible to do enforce this ideal in Grand Rapids. By 1870, Grand Rapids housed 58 saloons and five breweries. Women's organizations for prohibition, were an understated part of keeping alcohol out of Michigan. Under the leadership of Abigail Hastings of Lansing, she formed the Michigan Women's Christian Temperance Union to fight for the ban of alcohol.    



Today, the effort to ban alcohol from 1918 to 1933 under National Prohibition conjures images of gangsters and speak-easies, all the result of a naive plan foisted on the public by narrow-minded figures controlling the federal government. However, these popular images ignore the long history of women-led prohibition efforts in many places, including Grand Rapids. Michigan followed Maine’s example in 1853 by banning alcohol. Yet, enforcing the law proved impossible and by 1870, Grand Rapids held 58 saloons and five breweries. 

The belief in the corrupting influence of alcohol led to grassroots efforts by Grand Rapids women to combat it, and led to the 1872 creation of the Women’s Prohibition Society.  Members of the society gathered in front of city saloons and hotels, praying for the salvation of owners and customers that they would give up the sin of selling and consuming alcohol.  They joined women under the leadership of Lansing’s Abigail Hastings, to form the Michigan Women’s Christian Temperance Union, part of the larger national group. 

Though Michigan abandoned prohibition in 1876, the local level efforts by women’s organizations would continue, and would rely on support from the city’s churches to continue the fight to ban alcohol. It finally resulted in the passage of Michigan’s prohibition of alcohol by an overwhelming margin in November 1916, two years before the 18th Amendment.

Full Details

KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, Prohibition, alcohol, Abigail Hastings, Michigan Women's Christian Temperance Union, bans, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringJuly 27th, 2011

Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC