MinneCulture In-Depth – A Brief History of Women in Bars: A Minnesota Story in Three Rounds

MinneCulture In-Depth – A Brief History of Women in Bars: A Minnesota Story in Three Rounds

One hundred years ago, two major constitutional amendments went into effect. The 18th marked the start of Prohibition and the 19th granted many women the right to vote. It wasn’t a coincidence that these laws went into effect adjacent to one another. The movements were linked in some surprising ways.

In this new documentary, “A Brief History of Women in Bars: A Minnesota Story in Three Rounds,” Fulbright Fellow, historian, and podcaster Katie Thornton looks at how the state’s temperance movement set the stage for its women’s suffrage movement. But she also looks at how temperance leaders—and, by proxy, many early suffragists—failed to engage many women who weren’t wealthy, White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. And the Minnesota women who didn’t fit that bill empowered themselves in other ways—sometimes through the economic and social opportunities presented by the alcohol industry.

Listen here:


“A Brief History of Women in Bars” was researched, written, narrated, and produced by Katie Thornton. Co-narration by Daniel Bergin. Sound design by Katie Thornton, with mix assistance and editorial guidance from Ryan Dawes.

Special thanks to Misti Harper, Sabine Meyer, Andy Sturdevant, and Doug Hoverson. Sabine’s book is called “We Are What We Drink: The Temperance Battle in Minnesota.” Andy’s new book with Bill Lindeke is “Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities.” Doug’s book is called “The Drink That Made Wisconsin Famous: Beer and Brewing in the Badger State.” Nettie Hayes’s oral history came from the Minnesota Historical Society archives. The tempermance song was written by Ms. E. A. Parkhurst. The saloon music was by Scott Joplin via the Free Music Archive. Background music by Architect and Confectionary from Blue Dot Sessions. More work from Katie Thornton is available at itskatiethornton.com or on Instagram at itskatiethornton. This documentary was made mostly from home during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Support for MinneCulture on KFAI comes from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. This documentary was made with the support of a 2020 Minnesota Historical Society Legacy Research Fellowship.

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