|Tag(s):||Wisconsin Prohibition, Wisconsin Temperance|
|Course:||“Intro to Digital History,” University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee|
|Rating:||2.5 (2 votes)|
Wisconsin is known for its drinking culture. According to the U.S. Census Bureau as of 2011, there were ninety breweries in the state with three times more bars than grocery stores. No matter what season Wisconsonites find a reason to drink. In the fall during Packer season, fans will have a cold one no matter what the temperature is outside. In the spring, Miller Park is flooded with Brewer fans tailgating with hotdogs and cocktails. There is no doubt that over indulging is a part of Wisconsin culture, but there was a time in the state's history when government regulations threatened to end the good times.
So where does this cultural love of food and drink stem from? As of the year 2000, Wisconsin was composed of 43.8% German descent. Germany has one of the highest beer consumption rates in the world along with the oldest breweries. Along with all that beer consumption comes spatzle, potato pancakes, and wurst It is not surprising with their migration to Wisconsin in approximately 1850, the Germans also brought their virbant culture of food and drink.
Not everyone in Wisconsin has a German background. Wisconsin is also home to a population of New Englanders. It's not hard to see why the puritan New Englanders would clash with the beer loving German's on the subject of alcohol. Prohibition in America lasted from 1919 through 1933. Across the country Americans took sides on whether alcohol consumption should be regulated by the government, and in Wisconsin it was no different. Conservative people were in favor of temperance and a no tolerance policy. This side believed alcohol to be the root of all evil. More liberal populations were on the other side and against prohibition. Even before prohibition hit the country, there was a woman in Wisconsin fighting against alcohol. In the article, "A Bottle Smashing Crusader of Wisconsin", Mary Hartwell tells the story of when she took action for temperance, a cause she strongly believed in.
The article was published in the Milwaukee Journal in 1927, and by Mary's account her booze raid took place some seventy years prior. In the town of Baraboo, WI is where it all started. Mary, along with several other women in Baraboo, believed alcohol brought nothing but crime and shame to men and women who drank it. They were strong supporters of temperance and were in support of the laws holding bar keepers accountable for drunkards. One May morning, Mary and thirty nine other women gathered hatchets and axes. They had hatched a plan to make it known they weren't going to stand for a wet town of Baraboo. Half the women had planned to distract the local bar owners while the others went in the back to the cellars. Armed with only their determination and hatchets they went from vendor to vendor smashing as many bottles and kegs as they could. They didn't rest until every drop was destroyed! The proud women went home satisfied with a job well done. No one stood in their way, and Mary can even recall one man shouting, "Mark my words boys the day will come when women will vote".
The saloon owners tried for warrants for damage reparations, but no officer in Baraboo would enforce them. Eventually the women were tried in Sauk where they were fined $500. The stubborn ladies refused and so were jalied. Fellow temperance supporters got a writ of habeas corpus and the women were released and tried in front of a judge. After six weeks of deliberation, the judge sided with the temperance women of Baraboo.
Mary Hartwell is a true inspiration. She took action for a cause and showed no fear in the face of men during a time when a woman's voice held no power. After her liquor raid, Mary furthered her cause and began to help mothers of missing teenage daughters in Milwaukee. She dedicated her life to helping the welfare of others, and showed bravery in the toughest of times.
When you think of Wisconsin and its good time reputation remember there were two sides fighting over the right to enjoy alcohol. Both parties had their reasons for their beliefs, but there are few stories that stay with us like the story of Mary Hartwell's temperance crusade.