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Panel IV: Our Pasts Create Our Present: Stories and Histories in the Making


A People’s History of Alcohol Prohibition in Colorado: Labor, Class, Gender, and Moral Reform 1917-1933

Before the 1920s, Colorado was a rough-and-tumble saloon and brewery state that had strictly gendered norms around the creation and consumption of alcohol. Dubbed the “liquor Oasis” of the USA, masculine identities dominated in public social spaces, and women and minorities were largely prohibited from participating in the public imbibing. Progressives in the state, eager to create a morally pure society reflecting their own Protestant values, drove Colorado to pass one of the earliest statewide prohibitions of alcohol in 1916. Ironically enough, through the prohibition of alcohol, Colorado saw the evolution of increasing social rights for marginalized groups. Disregard of the law created new social spaces for drinking and propelled the public social-mixing of genders and classes, thus creating a decade of increased social rights and cultural revolution. 

Link to full thesis

Alcohol prohibition in Colorado shifted the ways in which Coloradans socially partook in the consumption of alcohol. From sexist, anti-labor, and anti-immigration origins, the illegal status of alcohol ironically created a more socially integrated black-market economy that allowed for people of all races, classes, and genders to partake the nuances that came with it.

Theodore Richthofen

History / German

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