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Domesticating Drink

, 264 pages

14 b&w illus.

June 2001



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Domesticating Drink

Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

The period of prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, marks the fault line between the cultures of Victorian and modern America. In Domesticating Drink, Murdock argues that the debates surrounding alcohol also marked a divide along gender lines. For much of early American history, men generally did the drinking, and women and children were frequently the victims of alcohol-associated violence and abuse. As a result, women stood at the fore of the temperance and prohibition movements and, as Murdock explains, effectively used the fight against drunkenness as a route toward political empowerment and participation. At the same time, respectable women drank at home, in a pattern of moderation at odds with contemporaneous male alcohol abuse.

During the 1920s, with federal prohibition a reality, many women began to assert their hard-won sense of freedom by becoming social drinkers in places other than the home. Murdock's study of how this development took place broadens our understanding of the social and cultural history of alcohol and the various issues that surround it. As alcohol continues to spark debate about behaviors, attitudes, and gender roles, Domesticating Drink provides valuable historical context and important lessons for understanding and responding to the evolving use, and abuse, of drink.

Catherine Gilbert Murdock is a lecturer in the Growth and Structure of Cities Program at Bryn Mawr College.

"Murdock's contributions to the social history of alcohol are many... Perhaps most significantly, she reveals the crucial role that respectable female drinkers played in both achieving and dismantling the Eighteenth Amendment."

"Murdock writes the history of prohibition and repeal, and also of American drinking habits, as women's history. She argues that women's drinking had a positive effect: it domesticated the male use of alcohol."

"Murdock deftly interweaves the histories of temperance, drinking customs and women's rights. Her insightful and fluently-written synthesis will enlighten the general reader and compel the attention of specialists in a variety of disciplines."

"By using the changing perceptions of alcohol and gender as the focus, Murdock deftly illustrates the social and political events that impacted American culture."