The Progressive Era in the United States was a time of great change for American politics, culture, and social life. How did the fabric of society at the time lead to the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment? Students will better understand the relationship between social movements and politics by analyzing one of the most impactful constitutional amendments, and its end results.
Have students read Handout A: Amendment XVIII of the Constitution and Handout B: Was Prohibition a Success or a Failure? to develop a background on Prohibition. Then have them answer the comprehension questions below.
Next, have students fill out Handout F: Graphic Organizer on their own as they view Handouts C-F. After they complete the organizer, have them answer the questions below.
- What was the early history of the temperance movement?
- What vices did supporters of the temperance movement argue alcohol caused?
- What year did the Eighteenth Amendment go into effect? How was it repealed, and in what year?
- What vices did opponents of the temperance movement argue Prohibition caused?
- Which side of the Prohibition debate do you think made a better argument? Why?
- Do you think the federal government should be involved in legislating on moral questions and public health issues? What do you think are some benefits and drawbacks of it doing so?
- Some compare Prohibition’s ban on alcohol sales and production to current laws against the possession of marijuana. Do you think this is a valid comparison? Why or why not?
Answer Key: A Toast to the Constitution: The Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition
Why was the consumption of alcohol banned?
The Progressive Era
Part of the Civil War’s legacy was a shift in the role of the national government. The defeat of the South, Reconstruction, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment gave the national government growing power over the states and the people. The Fourteenth Amendment gave the national government power (though exactly how much power was still being debated) to ensure state laws did not violate the rights of the freedmen. Additional amendments during the Progressive Era (the 1890s - 1920s) continued this transfer of power to the national government. In the name of giving power to the people, the national government was given power to tax incomes; states lost their representation in Congress, the manufacture and sale of alcohol was banned, and women achieved the right to vote.
Women in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
In the late nineteenth century, American suffragettes continued the decades-long struggle for the equal right to vote. Although the movement split into disparate elements with differing strategies, the movement united again in 1890 to fight for a women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After continuing struggle, in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Meanwhile, women reformers engaged in a number of lesser-known movements to ban alcohol, provide better working conditions for women and children, and improve the lot of immigrants. Women also increasingly began to work outside the home in factories, department stores, and offices. Therefore, women began to enter public life politically and economically in a fundamentally new way to break with the past in which they were primarily confined to the domestic sphere of the home.
Gilded Age and Progressive Era
From 1876-1920, the United States went through a period of rapid technological, demographic, and political change. The Gilded Age and Progressive Era curriculum provides students an in-depth look at this formative period in United States history. Through primary-source-based activities and engaging narratives, students will be exposed to this fascinating period and analyze its numerous parallels to today.