Social Tensions 1917-33

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  • A Changing Society & Warren Harding
    • Women's Suffrage
      • In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. 
      • Fifteen states had already given women the right to vote in state elections. 
      • Before 1920, there had been a long standing campaign for this, and both Republican and Democratic Parties had already given their support by 1916.
      • Alice Paul organised suffrage parades in Washington, with the aim of maximising publicity and disruption.
      • Paul and 96 other suffragists were arrested after picketing the White House and disrupting traffic. They went on hunger strike in prison, but similiarly to the British suffragettes, they were forcefed. 
      • With widespread appreciation of the work women had undertaken during the war, Wilson himself had come around to agree with women's suffrage.
      • So the Amendment went back to the states for their agreement. In August 1920, Tennessee cast the final yes for the necessary majority.
    • Strengths of Warren Harding's Presidency
      • Harding may have been a more effective president than his reputation suggests.
      • He made some very good appointments, these including Andrew Mellon as the Treasury Secretary and Herbert Hoover as Secretary of Commerce.
      • He had promised to reduce federal expenditure, which had risen from $5000m in 1913 to $5000m by 1920. He managed to cut it to $373m in 1922, which gave Mellon the opportunity to reduce taxes.
    • Weaknesses of Warren Harding's Presidency
      • He also appointed some very dubious characters, who later went to prison for corruption.
      • It must be remembered, however, that Harding was elected to do little: to reduce the role of the federal government and return the USA to "normalcy".
  • Prohibition
    • The Eighteenth Amendment
      • The eighteenth amendment banned the sale, transportation and manufacture of intoxicating liquor.
      • The seperate Volstead Act defined intoxicating as anything containing +0.5% of alcohol.
      • The Amendment was supported by womens groups, big businesses and religious groups.
        • Womens groups saw alcohol as a means by which men oppressed them.
        • Big businesses believed that alcohol led to danger and inefficiency in the workplace.
        • Many religious groups believed alcohol to be sinful and the work of the devil. 
      • The Impact of War: The war had led to a very anti-German feeling in America, leading many to not want to buy liquor from German brewers in the USA. Grain was also needed for food, so many people felt it patriotic not to drink alcohol which used grain in the manufacture of it. Nevertheless, the Lever Act of 1917 banned the use of grain in alcoholic drinks.
      • The Disorganisation of the Opposition: The opposition weren't very well organised to battle prohibition, though there were one or two parades as an attempt, they were ultimately ineffective to stop the measure from taking place.
    • Crime and Gangsterism
      • No doubt Prohibition led to a massive increase in organised crime.
      • Mobsters controlled territories by force and established monopolies in the manufacture and sale of alcohol.
      • Gangsters could also control politicians with ease.
      • Al Capone saw himself as embodying the spirit of free competition and enterprise in the USA. He insisted…


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