Pauline Sabin Haiku

Pauline Sabin was the founder of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. Born into both money and politics (her father was Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Navy), thrice married (once divorced, once widowed), owner of an interior design business, mother of two sons… So why, exactly, did such a woman decide that her mission was to take Prohibition down?

Like many women, she was initially in favor of Prohibition. (Some even thought that women’s suffrage was a means to the end of banning booze, not an end unto itself.) As mentioned, she had two sons and was not in favor of them growing up to be drunkards. But it didn’t take a particularly observant person to see that as the 20s wore on, Prohibition was working shittily. The masses were still boozing it up and she, in turn, wised up. Her boys weren’t going to avoid alcohol as the grew up, but they sure as hell were going to learn contempt for the law.

Meanwhile, the same politicians calling for stricter punishments for those who manufactured, distributed, and imbibed alcohol had no hesitation enjoying their cocktails and champagne. Laws were for the peasants, don’t you know. Sabin was in a great position to see this firsthand and do something about it.

The WONPR was thus formed and it rapidly gained popularity (1.5 million in the first two years) for a couple of reasons. First, having a fashionable society lady at the head gave it respectability and a social cachet. Second, its enemy, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was a victim of its own success. It no longer had a grand goal to work towards and its prior grand goal worked stupidly in reality.

The WONPR used its influence to push ‘wet’ candidates into office and it was good at that. Once FDR brought the legal party times back, there was no longer a reason for its existence, so Sabin moved onto other things. (Like trying and failing to work against the New Deal, and then becoming a director at the Red Cross during World War II.) She died in 1955.

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