Whiskey, Women and Tax: The Unexpected and Interlocking History of the 16th, 18th and 19th Amendments

Posted: 7 Dec 2020

See all articles by Tracey M. Roberts

Tracey M. Roberts

Samford University, Cumberland School of Law

Date Written: November 18, 2020


Before they became the most famous pair of advocates in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were temperance activists. Advocating for the prohibition of alcohol in a world in which women lacked both political and property rights, they sought to curb other social ills: family poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, and violent crime. Through the early 20th Century, however, the U.S. relied heavily on excise taxes, particularly those on liquor, to fund government operations. The passage and ratification of the 16th Amendment, authorizing a federal income tax, was needed before the 18th Amendment, prohibiting alcohol, could be passed. In turn, the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, was ratified, in part, on the strength of the time-honored argument that women should not face taxation without representation. Old enemies die hard, however. The ratification of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment prohibiting denial of the ballot on the basis of sex required that suffrage activists counter the (then illegal) liquid advocacy of well-known whiskey distillers and brewers. This article recounts the complex and interlocking history of women’s suffrage, prohibition, and the federal income tax.

Keywords: Federal Income Tax, Women's Suffrage, Prohibition, U.S. Constitution, 16th Amendment, 18th Amendment, 19th Amendment

JEL Classification: K11, K34, N31, N32, P14

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Tracey, Whiskey, Women and Tax: The Unexpected and Interlocking History of the 16th, 18th and 19th Amendments (November 18, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3732866

Tracey Roberts (Contact Author)

Samford University, Cumberland School of Law ( email )

800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States
(303) 818-8589 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.samford.edu/cumberlandlaw/directory/Roberts-Tracey

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