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July 19, 2016

Throughout Prohibition: See How These Women Used Their Sexuality to Hide the Hooch During the 1920s

By the mid-1920s, as Prohibition had been in place for several years with no sign of repeal, federal officials began to realize that they had a growing problem brewing underground, so to speak. While police had been rounding up the many gangs of male rum runners and bootleggers—the men who smuggled or transported illegal liquor across the border, or even just from one place to another—they had reason to believe that there was another, even more clandestine source of the illegal liquor transport in the country. And these bootleggers would be much harder to track down and much more complicated to search: women. They were wives, sisters and mothers, after all. And no one, quite literally, wanted to touch them.

In hindsight, the Prohibition was a big mistake, a terrible misread of human nature. The quest for a forbidden brew actually increased national consumptions by folds, showing bluntly that this law wasn’t working nor realistic.

It only takes a few look at historical photographs to discover how misplaced this law was and how far folks would go to circumvent it.

A woman demonstrates the use of a Prohibition era book that conceals a liquor flask, 1927. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

Woman wearing a floppy overcoat (left) which conceals two tins of booze strapped to her thighs (right). (Underwood & Underwood/Corbis)

Estelle Zemon, left, and an unidentified woman model ways to conceal bottles of rum to get past customs officials during the U.S. alcohol prohibition, March 18, 1931. (AP Photo)

A woman arrested in Minneapolis on April 10, 1924. Her crime was “dispensing wet goods” from her bootlegger’s life preserver.

Estelle Zemon shows the vest and pant-apron used to conceal bottles of alcohol to deceive border guards during the U.S. alcohol prohibition on March 18, 1931. (AP Photo)

Flask in her boot. Woman putting flask in her Russian boot, Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress)

Latest thing in flasks. Mlle. Rhea, dainty dancer who is now in the city as part of the Keiths program inaugurates the garter flask fad in Washington D.C. (Library of Congress)

A flapper flouts the Volstead Act by carrying a whiskey flask in her garter, ca. 1920s. (Courtesy of John Binder Collection)

Woman seated at a soda fountain table pours alcohol into her cup from a cane. Note the large Coca-Cola advertisement on the wall, 2/13/1922. (Library of Congress)

A woman using a dummy book, bearing the title 'The Four Swallows,' as a hiding place for liquor during Prohibition, 1920s. (Getty Images)

And So It Ends. A woman on beer barrels in 1933. (Keystone-france/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images)

A woman shows off her new initialed garter flask, which had become the latest rage in 1926.


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